I've worked with many of the brands of prepared inkjet fabric sheets over the last years and my first choice is the Jacquard brand. The hand of the fabric is much softer than any of the other brands I have tried. And the color is excellant using my HP Photosmart D7260 dye ink printer. Even better is the pricing! 10 sheets for around $16 which is the least expensive of any brand I've seen on the market. My second choice is the EQ Printables.
To learn more you can find my article, Ready, Click, Print! A Comparison of Prepared Inkjet Fabric Sheets, in the August/September 2012 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine: Digital Edition
If you have a pigment ink printer, you do not need prepared fabric sheets since the ink sits on top of the fabric, kind of like "glued" to top of the fabric. Pigment inks are considered more color fast, but are vulnerable to abrasion.
Jennifer's article is on page 78.
Should you use Fabric Softener in the rinse?
Chemically, yes, for dye based inkjet prints. Fabric softener will help the dye ink "bond" with the fabric due to the cationic composition of the softener. Use about 4 Tablespoons of softener per cup of water. Fabric printed with pigment inks do not need
a fabric softener rinse.
Note: Prepared for dying, PFD, fabric is not the same thing as prepared inkjet fabric sheets like Jacquard, EQ printables, Printed Treasures, etc.
NOTE OF CAUTION: In the new packaging design shown to the right, Jacquard changed the printing instructions.
Step 4 used to say:
"Let dry for 24 hours. Rinse with cool water. This step is necessary to remove excess ink from the image prior to application to the finished piece."
Now Step 4 says:
"The image will not withstand standard washing methods - it needs to be treated for water resistance. We recommend spraying it with Scotchgard or similar product. Use multiple applications of light coats, as a heavy single application could remove the ink. This treatment should not affect the feel of the fabric. Testing for appropriate coverage is recommended. Rinse gently with cool water."
After seeing the new instructions, I tried the scotchgard and found the dye bled a lot if sprayed right after printing, plus the treatment made the fabric more stiff.
Jacquard says "this treatment should not affect the feel of the fabric", but that was not my experience. I did let one sample dry 24 hours before using the scotchgard and got only a little bleeding of the dye.
Even when I tried a 3rd sheet and really tried to apply light coats, the fabric was still stiff compared to no treatment, and there was just enough bleed to make the details less distinct.
The bleeding of inks could be a good thing if you are looking for that type of effect.
Overall, I do not recommend using the scotchgard unless you are making an item like a purse that could easily get dirty or if you don't care whether the fabric is stiff. And if you do decide to treat the fabric, then definitely wait at least 24 hours.
Keep in mind that printing on fabric using dye inks, no matter which of the brands of prepared fabric are used, should not be washed like everyday garments. Think typical quilt care with hand or delicate machine washing.
When I called Jacquard to ask about the change in instructions, they said they had had complaints. If a T-shirt is made similar to what is shown on the packaging and washed normally, then I can see why.