If you often work with fabrics and digital printing, it's possible that you've encountered it before: the "waving" or "smiling" fabric. You'll find kind of a wave or arc in your printed design, which is visible in horizontal lines the most. Fine, delicate fabrics and thin fabrics with a twill binding are the most sensitive to this. But where does it come from? This wave or arc shape can have two causes: on the one hand it's possible that the bow shape or wave appears during printing. On the other hand this can happen during the finishing process.
When we print a fabric with your deisng, it goes through severals steps of the process. Once the fabric is printed, it goes to the steamer. In this machine, the fabric will be steamed on a high temperature, to fixate the inks. The fibers will open at the high temperature and the inks will run in the fibers. When the fabric is cooled down again, 90% of the inks are in the fiber and 10% are still on the fabric. To remove the remaining inks, the fabric has to be washed. The fabrics are washed with a special detergent, which will absorb the inks in the water. After the washing process, the wet fabric will go to the finishing process. Here the fabric will be stretched on a large machine and dried. Because of the fact that the fabric is wet, the fibers are very moveable. If there's some more tension at one certain point, the design will bend to this point. After the fabric has been dried, this will be the end result.
These thin, delicate fabric (with the twill binding) are very nice and smooth and feel comfortable to the skin. This makes them very suitable for a wide varity of applications, like ties, scarves, pouches, etc. But exactly these characteristics makes the fabrics very movable when they're printed. Altough the fabric is placed straight on the printer with care, it's not always possible to print directly straight due to the continuous movement of the printing process. This can also result in a bow or wave shape.
The bow and wave shape is a part of the production process. Within the textile industry, this arc or wave formation is therefore accepted, provided that it's within 4-5%, as seen across the whole width of the fabric. It can vary per fabric and even per batch how much this deviation will be.
How to work with a "waving" fabric
Because of the fact that a wave or arc in your design can be very inconvenient when the dimensions are carefully calculated, we always recommend to create some tolerance in your design. Any deviation can be catched and fabric loss can be avoided by printing a little more than you would need. In that way, you always will have enough fabric to take out the patterns you need. Tight, horizontal lines at the edges will show a wave or arc in the fabric the most, so you can choose to avoid this. If you're going to produce scarves, you can choose to print a wider edge.
If you receive the fabrics and it contains a small arc or wave, you can make the fabric wet again, pull it right and iron it according to the washing instructions. That way the fiber will be moveable again and you can recreate the fabric.