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Bubble Jet Set Requires Careful Handling

A review of
Bubble Jet Set 2000

from C. Jenkins Necktie Co.

Bubble Jet Set 2000
Bubble Jet Set 2000

I see Bubble Jet Set everywhere I see printing photos on fabric mentioned. So I thought I’d see how it worked.

I asked my friend Lorraine, who had tried it. She said that she didn’t get very good results using her printer. But she got good results using her daughter’s printer.

So I decided to try my printer, too. I have a Lexmark Z51. And to collect more data, I had my friend Marilyn run a test on her Hewlett Packard DeskJet 820 cxi. I was surprised at the results.

Treating The Fabric

I began my testing by cutting a yard of Springmaid Southern Belle, a very white, fine weave fabric. I used one quarter of the 32-ounce bottle of Bubble Jet Set to saturate my fabric, as directed. Then I hung the fabric in the basement to dry overnight.

The next day I cut pieces of freezer paper to iron onto my fabric treated with Bubble Jet Set. I cut eight 8-1/2 by 11-inch “pages” from half the fabric for my test.

I took two pages to Marilyn and asked her to print color photos on one page and black-and-white photos on the other. Both printed pretty well. The colors were good. The black-and-white photos were crisp.

Next, I spent lots of time on the Internet selecting six photos to test my Lexmark Z51. I chose two shots of people: Trent Lott with a light background and an model with a dark background.

I chose two photos with red: a football player in a red jersey and a field of red tulips.

I chose one photo with a blue background: a snorkeller with a shark. And I chose a bouquet of yellow and purple flowers with green leaves. Finally, I chose one black and white photo.

Print, Then Wash

I printed one page of my six color photos for the test. And I printed the black and white photo on another page.

Then it was time to wash all the pages of photos, both mine and Marilyn’s. The instructions on the bottle say to “machine wash on delicate cycle with a mild detergent. For best results wash with Bubble Jet Rinse.”

I didn’t want to put just four pages of fabric in the washing machine, so I washed them by hand. I used Orvis, a gentle product sold in quilt shops for washing quilt fabric. I washed the fabric thoroughly for a few minutes, then rinsed well.

Marilyn’s HP Deskjet photos came out fine. The color was good, with no noticeable degradation.

But all the Lexmark photos were washed out. The red in the football jersey and the tulips turned to a medium salmon color, and the red-headed model was a brunette.

The blue was unchanged, and the other colors were pretty good, but not as clear and bright as they had been.

Back To The Drawing Board

Now I had a challenge — I had to figure out how to wash the Lexmark photos without fading them.

I printed my last two prepared pages with the same six photos. I cut each photo in half so I could test three different options. I kept one half of one set unwashed to use as a control print to accurately gauge any changes in the colors.

I washed one set in a regular laundry detergent with no perfumes or dyes. The next set I washed in Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (which is just sodium carbonate). I chose this product because it is used in setting dyes when using MX fiber reactive dyes for fabric.

The final set of photos I heat set using an iron, then washed in the regular laundry detergent.

Better Results

To my surprise, all three of these tests came out better than the Orvis wash.

The washing soda test photos came out slightly bluer. The color change is so slight that I don’t think it would have been noticeable if I hadn’t spent time in a photography darkroom in a previous life.

The regular detergent samples, including the ones that had been heat set, had lost some of the red, turning the flowers and jersey a little more orange. But the heat set samples produced the best skin tones.

Questions And Answers

To check my findings, I called the phone number on the Bubble Jet Set bottle. I’m glad I did. I spoke to Jerome, “the answer guy,” who had good answers to all my questions.

Question: I used about a quarter of a 32-ounce bottle for one yard of fabric. Does that seem about right?

Jerome’s answer: You should get forty to fifty 8 1/2 by 11-inch pages from one 32-ounce bottle. Most people cut their fabric into sheets before they use Bubble Jet Set.

My comments: I got 16 pages from one yard of fabric. That would give me 64 pages per bottle, so maybe I wasn’t using quite enough Bubble Jet Set. But I still wouldn’t cut my fabric into pages first — it is easier to hang a one-yard piece on the clothesline.

Question: I let it drip dry and caught the drippings in a clean plastic container. Should I throw away the drippings, or can I add them back into the bottle to be used again?

Jerome’s answer: You can pour any remaining Bubble Jet Set back into the bottle to use again.

Heat Set?

Question: It doesn’t say anywhere how the product will react to heat. Can I (and should I) heat set the photos I printed?

Jerome’s answer: No. Finish processing as stated. Let it air dry.

Question: I hung the fabric after the cold water wash. Could I have put it in the clothes dryer?

Jerome’s answer: Not until after all the processing is complete. If you need to dry it in a hurry, use a blow dryer. After all the processing is complete, it should be like any other fabric in your quilt.

My comments: I put my photos on the ironing board and put the fan blowing directly on them to dry.

Question: When I give my quilt as a gift, do I need to include special washing instructions to protect the Bubble-Jet-Set-treated fabric?

Jerome’s answer: Once all the initial processing is done, the fabric can be treated just like any other piece of fabric. Regular washing and drying is OK.

More Bubble Jet Set Tips

In addition to answering my questions, Jerome also had these other tips for using Bubble Jet Set 2000:

  • If you are going to wash out the Bubble Jet Set by hand, wash it for at least four minutes, working it around real well. If you don’t, it will bleed.

  • You may have to use a milder detergent, like dishwashing liquid. Or you could use Bubble Jet Rinse. It attracts waxes and chemicals in fabrics, but not inks and dyes. Your photos will look better doing your final rinse using this product than with other detergents.

And I have one final tip for you. If you use Bubble Jet Set and find you have a question, watch out for that e-mail address on the bottle. It appears to be NECKTIES@IL.NET (they print it in all lower case, however), but it’s not! It’s NECKTIES@I1.NET (letter “I” followed by numeral “1″, not letter “L”).

Because the address on the bottle is so unclear, I sent them e-mail that never arrived — don’t you make the same mistake!

This was a fun set of tests! And now I have all these photos on fabric. Would anyone like a faded photo of Trent Lott?

Where To Buy: Bubble Jet Set 2000

Learn more about Bubble Jet Set at ConnectingThreads.com…
click their logo!


You can also buy Bubble Jet Set at Nancy’s Notions

Readers’ Comments:

September 9, 2001
Penny writes:

I’d heard of this product, but had in my mind that it was some “set” of chemicals and/or fabrics and/or paper. I thought there was something terribly complicated to this whole process.

I’ve been wanting to make some quilts with photos but thought I’d have to spend a small fortune and several weeks
just to get started. But thanks to your review, I now know exactly what to do

Thank you so much!

September 9, 2001
A Quilter’s Review reader writes:

Bubble Jet Set is not easy to use, as it is very toxic. I find it very hard on me and have found that Downy fabric softener concentrate is just as good to set the dye ink in inkjet printers.

September 10, 2001
Judy M. writes:

After reading your review on Bubble Jet Set, I am convinced that using photo transfer paper on good-quality material is easier and more fool proof.

I just finished making for my dancing instructor (who is retiring in December) a memory quilt with pictures of all the different places we danced and trips the troupe took.

Using photo transfer paper, I had only one bad transfer, and that was my own fault — I did not iron it on long enough. And I didn’t have to wait as long to find my disaster.

September 12, 2001
A Quilter’s Review reader writes:

I read the article on printing photos using Bubble Jet Set 2000. My question is whether I should pre-wash my fabric before soaking it in Bubble Jet Set.

September 12, 2001
Sharon replies:

The directions do not say “Pre-wash your fabric” on the Bubble Jet Set label, so I didn’t. It has been my experience that it would be printed in the directions if it were necessary to remove any sizing before use.

When dying or painting fabric, pre-washing is required because you are trying to change the color of the threads that make up the fabric. But applying printer ink or copier transfers to the surface of the fabric usually works better if the fabric is used from the bolt without any pre-processing.

September 19, 2001
A Quilter’s Review reader writes:

I am in the process of making a memory quilt for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. While trying to decide which method of photo transfer to use, I tried Bubble Jet Set along with various photo transfer papers.

I used an HP 822 Bubble Jet printer and I tried two tests. After preparing the fabric per instructions, I printed three photos on one page using the normal photo setting.

Then, on a second page I printed the same photos using the printer’s Transparency setting. Upon first viewing the printed photos, the ones from the Transparency setting were much too dark.

Then I cut each set of photos in half and washed one half in the washing machine. The photos printed with the normal photo setting faded significantly. The photos printed with the Transparency setting faded to look like the original unwashed version of the photos printed with the regular photo setting.

The one thing I really like about photos done with Bubble Jet Set is that the fabric remains soft. All of the photo transfer paper that I have used leaves the fabric feeling like plastic.

October 21, 2001
Barbara D. writes:

I only sell Bubble Jet Set in my store. I found that transfer papers leave a residue the size of the paper that was ironed on, regardless of how large the actual picture was. That residue yellows and cracks with age.

As I always say, “You don’t hose down an oil painting, so why would you throw a memory quilt into the wash?” Most are hung vertically, you can just vacuum them with an upholstery attachment. Why do quilters always think things have to be machine washable?

I love Bubble Jet Set and won’t use or sell anything else!

October 22, 2001
Heather F. writes:

Bubble Jet Set 2000 was painless to use and the results from my HP DeskJet 722C were terrific! I have only one gripe about using this method rather than photo transfers (no reflection on Bubble Jet Set 2000) — bright light or sunlight fades inkjet pictures, where good quality transfers are lightfast (based on my own experiences).

If they could only get printer ink to be lightfast, I’d never use a transfer again, as the soft, natural-looking results from printing directly on the fabric are far superior in my opinion than the thicker, plastic-like results of using the transfer method.

October 22, 2001
Jeanne H. writes:

I have made hundreds and hundreds of photo transfers — several quilts’ worth. After several years, I am finding that the photos are cracking and are no longer nice if the quilts are used — not washed much, just used. For instance my son carries his folded to the inside, but uses it in his truck.

So I was just about to try Bubble Jet Set when you reviewed it. My question is, has anyone tried this product on a quilt or t-shirt that one actually uses? Or are all these successes just for wallhangings?

October 23, 2001
Carol R. writes:

I have used Bubble Jet Set and have had nothing but fabulous results. In test washing with regular laundry soap I had no visible fading of the picture. I have also tried hand washing with the same results. Also, the fabric stays soft, not stiff as when using transfers.

October 29, 2001
Jane K. writes:

I used Bubble Jet Set 2000 for my mother-in-laws’s 90th birthday memory quilt with great results. I cut my fabric 8 1/2″ x 11″ before soaking it in the solution. Then I ironed it onto freezer paper also cut this size.

I have a Hewlett-Packard Deskjet 882c. The pictures turned out great. I just had to watch that the fabric was well fused to the freezer paper so that the fabric wouldn’t peel off on the printer’s roller. If it does, you’ve got big trouble!

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6 Responses to Bubble Jet Set Requires Careful Handling

  1. I am making a family quilt, my pictures are old however, witht he BJ they look fine, I just noticed one of the pictures is all smeared, non of the others are and they were no near water, I’m not sure if I washed the fabric after putting on the BJ, I think I dried the BJ and thought you need it in the fabric to copy the pictures. Should have I “washed” the BJ after it was dry? Thank you so much for your response. Yvonne

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  3. I cannot find Bubble Jet Set in stores and don’t want to pay the exorbitant shipping/handling. Where can I find it in North East Ohio?

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  5. Christine Hammock

    I am making my grandson a memory quilt of his activities of his senior year in high school. I used some photo transfer paper with a HP printer of one activity and plan to make some more. The other squares are machine embroidry. The picture is fine, but I got to wondering if it would fade if it was washed. So I tested a sample and the color all washed out except the black. Is there any way I can treat the photo transfer pictures after the square is printed so that they are color fast?

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