Friday, December 3, 2010

Destruction in the third degree

You know how sometimes things happen, not as a direct result of your personal actions, but because of advice or a trick you have taught someone?
It's like 'don't try this at home', only it's not to do with fire or explosions. But then, I guess anything to do with computers can only mean a recipe for disaster in some circumstances.

During the course of TAFE this year, my class was supposed to design their own fashion labels. As in, the brand name that gets either printed or embroidered onto the tags that are cut off fairly soon post-purchase by the consumer because they itch. Since the only classmates who had embroidery machines embroidered their tags, the rest of us required slightly more imaginative methods with which to emblazon our names upon our goods.  Some took screenprinting as an answer, some had their labels outsourced.
I am too stingy for either, and found an alternative method which became the purpose of this post.

A few weeks prior to my initial experiments, I made a printed T-shirt for a friend. The method I used to do this was with a special type of overpriced paper - feed it through the printer, iron it onto the surface, peel the paper off, leave the print. That is the theory. I still had a truckload of the stuff, having only printed on one T-shirt, and promptly decided that by drawing onto this paper, I could create my printed labels.

While applying the print to a few tags, I had a classmate ask me what method I was using to obtain the effect. I explained it to her, just as I have to you. She thought it would also be a good idea with which to apply her own labels to designs.

This is where it begins.

The story really began when, a couple of days ago, she walked into the classroom and asked how to use the paper. My explanation ran like this:

me: "You have to print the design in a mirror-image, or it will be backwards when you apply it"

classmate: "How do you get the program to write in mirror?"

"What program are you using?"

"Oh, um, Microsoft Word?"

"Okay. There's no straight way to type directly in mirror on word. But do you know how to screen capture?"

From there I proceeded to giver her a list of instructions on how to print the labels. She exited the room, and did not enter again for a while.

When she re-entered, she appeared slightly frazzled, and was looking for the tweezers we keep in the classroom (Rethreading overlockers is not fun without them). Once they were pointed out, she left the room hurriedly, mentioning something about a paper jam.

It wasn't until I ventured down to the photocopier that the destruction wreaked had become apparent.

You see, the one set of instructions that I hadn't given her - because the instructions were printed on the packet - was that the paper was intended only for inkjet printers. This is because the paper is coated with a type of glue that adheres the print to the surface, and should not be heated before running through the printer, less the glue should leave the page and get through the printer, and inkjet printers do not heat the paper before printing.

So, imagine the scene when the teacher and classmate are scurrying between the printer and photocopier, because when the printer jammed, they had tried feeding the transfer paper through the photocopier. Both printing devices were not inket as required, but laser-operated.

As a result, I found myself telling the teacher as best I could that the tweezers were useless as they did not have enough surface area or pinch-power to remove the scraps of transfer paper scattered along with smeared glue through the photocopier rollers.  I tried to no avail, using my fingers to pull tiny pieces of mild embarrassment and frustration from the jam, while listening to the teacher mutter behind me,

"I think we'll have to call the mechanic."

So there it is. Destruction in the third degree. Another good reason to know the difference between an inkjet and laser printer, and to read the instructions. Seriously.

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