I’ve just returned from teaching at the All Things Silhouette Conference. One of the ladies asked in the Facebook group for the conference for us to share 1 thing we learned. Believe it or not, the top thing I learned was from a vendor. He showed us a super-cool way to create a distressed foil finish on fabric using multiple colors of textile foil. It may not be a new idea, but it sure was to me. I was fascinated because, well, I love shiny things.
Why is it frugal? Because it uses scraps or pieces you wouldn’t be able to use on a solid foil design. He also shared a great time-saving tip for working with foil, and, as we know, time is money. I just had to share all this new info right away.
What is textile foil?
Textile foil is a product you use with a clear adhesive HTV to add a beautiful shiny element to projects. The clear adhesive works just like a regular HTV — you cut it on your Silhouette in reverse (mirrored). Then you press that briefly onto your project first with a flash press (more on that below).
The foil you don’t cut on your machine. You cut a strip off the roll with your scissors, lay it over the adhesive and press. The adhesive sucks the foil in.
Here’s a sample of a sweatshirt I made with regular dark gray HTV and a turquoise foil:
Foil is a product that you can use on cotton, uncoated polyester and cotton/poly blends. It holds up to machine washing as a delicate — cold water, no chlorine bleach. Just like with any HTV, you wait 48 hours before washing it the first time. You can tumble dry on low, but I prefer to hang to dry. I think it just lasts longer.
What makes it so unique?
In the past, if you wanted something shiny on a project you had to use rhinestones or metallic HTV. The stones are rough and more expensive. The metallic foil is stiff. That means you don’t always want those on something like a baby onesie or a couch pillow.
The awesome thing about the new foil products is that they are smooth and pliable when you touch them — they have what’s called a “soft hand.”
It’s nice also that you can get more colors cheaper. You can use the same roll of clear adhesive for as many colors as you like. The foil rolls are usually 12″ x 25.’ Yes — 25 feet — for around $7-10. The 12″ wide clear adhesive is sold typically by the foot for around $2.
If you’ve never used textile foil before, you can do just steps 1, 3, 4 and 6. That will give you a solid finish, like on my photo above.
The distressed foil technique
Leave it to frugal crafters to come up with new techniques for foil! You need at least 2 pieces/color of foil —
- 1 that’s “used.” This is where you can use the scraps.
- 1 that’s nice and new. This solid piece needs to be large enough to cover the whole design on it’s own. But you’ll be able to use the leftovers on your next project (yep — it’s addictive).
I do recommend you practice on an old t-shirt first, just to get the hang of it before you use your more expensive item. The nice thing is it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Step 1: Cut and weed the clear adhesive
Create your design. I recommend not using anything tiny or with small letters. Because the final look is distressed, it’s harder to distinguish those. You’re looking for something that doesn’t have pieces that layer on top of one another. You can combine foil for some parts of your project and regular HTV for others if you like. However, you can’t layer the foil on top of the regular.
Mirror your design and cut just like you would with a solid HTV like Siser EasyWeed. Weed out the parts around the design.
Step 2: Crinkle the scrap foil
This part is great, because it feels like I’m being a rebel. LOL! Normally when you use foil you don’t want any creases or voids (areas without foil because of scratches). That’s because those areas won’t adhere to the clear adhesive. I have trouble keeping my foil nice and neat. But in this technique, imperfect is precisely what you want! In fact, having areas with distressed-looking voids is preferable. Yes, this is counter-intuitive, but I promise it works. And you can use up pieces you normally wouldn’t be able to use again. I had a TON of gold pieces leftover from a project that didn’t pan out.
Grab your scraps or cut pieces of your foils off the roll with your scissors. If you have a piece leftover from another project where it didn’t all stick down so it’s not solid, that’s perfect. Take these pieces and ball them up in your hand. Give them a lot of crinkles. Then flatten them out (ish).
The pieces for this part don’t have to individually cover the whole design, but as a group they do. If any of the adhesive is sticking out, it will attach to your cover sheet. Layering the foil scraps is fine. Keep in mind that they get smaller when you crinkle them. I’m using an antique gold, but have flipped one piece over so you can see the scratches better.
Step 3: Cut a large piece of solid foil
Cut a new piece of foil from your roll that will cover the entire piece of clear adhesive. Keep this one smooth and pretty. Mine’s not exactly pristine but it will be fine.
Step 4: Press the adhesive and remove the carrier
Now it’s time to apply the clear adhesive. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the temperature you need to use. For the clear adhesive from Siser that I’m using, it’s the same as the regular EasyWeed — 305°.
Pre-press your fabric for 3-5 seconds. This removes any moisture and wrinkles.
It’s really easy to get this clear adhesive upside down accidentally. Make sure it’s sticky side down, shiny side up. Since you’ll be pressing again you don’t want to overheat this clear adhesive. You use a flash press. That means to press only for 1-2 seconds — just long enough to allow you to remove the carrier sheet. The adhesive is usually a warm peel, so you can remove the carrier right away.
You can’t see it, because I have a piece of paper under the onesie, but under the paper is a pressing pillow. This is important when pressing an item like this because of the snaps and seams. The pillow equalizes the thickness so the HTV adheres well. I made my own set from 1″ high density upholstery foam and ironing board fabric. You can also use a rolled up kitchen towel.
Step 5: Press the crinkled foil
Check the temperature you need to use for your foil. It’s often lower than for regular HTV. Mine says 275° – 305°.
Lay your pieces of crinkled foil over the clear adhesive.
This time you can do a flash press again. Here’s the most important part! Foil is a cold-peel product, which means you let it get cool to the touch before you remove the foil sheet. The adhesive, as it cools, pulls that foil in.
Now for the great time-saving tip. You can use something to speed up the cooling time. Several companies sell a cooling block that’s made especially for that purpose. But we’re being frugal, remember?
One thing you can do is rub a tshirt, clean rag or book over it. That speeds it up some. The vendor at our conference used a metal water bottle filled with ice water to roll over the foil. Brilliant!
Once the foil is cool to the touch, peel it off. The beautiful thing is that the whole idea is that it’s not supposed to stick everywhere. So it’s pretty much Cindy idiot-proof. What’s happening is that because of the wrinkles, there are areas where the foil isn’t touching the fabric. Here’s the only tricky part. Make sure you get all the pieces of the clear plastic portion of the foil off.
HINT: If there are some stray bits of foil sticking to the project outside of the clear adhesive, don’t worry. Once you’re done just rub with a clean t-shirt and they will flake right off.
Step 6: Press the smooth foil
Now you’re ready to apply the solid piece. I’m using silver. This piece is going to cover all the remaining areas of the clear adhesive where the other foils haven’t covered. That’s why it needs to be large enough to cover the entire design. It will fill in all the gaps and the result is that your shape is completely covered with foil, but in a random, distressed way.
This is the one you apply for the full time. Make sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the full time. My Magic Foil needs 10-15 seconds. Again — it’s cold peel so be sure to wait until the surface is cool or speed it up with one of the tricks.
Because I’m going for a distressed look, I press again for a few seconds. This makes the foil on the whole project more textured and a bit less shiny.
Don’t toss your scraps as long as there’s any foil left on them at all. You can use them again!
It’s hard to get a good photo of how cool this looks, but here are some attempts.
This one is a combo of gold and that turquoise I showed you earlier.
- You can do this on paper as well as fabric. I use the clear adhesive because I don’t have a laser printer at home, but theoretically you should be able to do it with the toner. I’ve also tried it with adhesive vinyl, but got mixed results.
- Use this technique with together with solid foil pieces and you can come up with some amazing combinations!
- You’ll never get the same look twice. Experiment with varying levels of crinkle and foil coverage.
- Why not add more colors? As long as in the end you’ve got foil covering all the adhesive, it works. You can use multiple colors of in the crinkled or smooth parts.
This isn’t super complicated, but it sure looks cool. And it uses up materials you would otherwise toss in the trash, so it’s definitely frugal. Have you found other ways to use up foil scraps? I’ll share some more in future posts, so keep reading!
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