The Countdown to Maker Faire Bay Area is On!


Ask CRAFT: Baby-Safe Designs on Fabric

Craft & Design Fun & Games


If you have a question for Ask CRAFT, shoot me an email at, or drop us a note on Twitter! We’d love to answer your crafty questions on any topic: technique, projects, crafty culture, or anything else! Each week the answers are here; include your name, where you’re from, and your website or blog if you have one!

Ryan Bell writes in:

I am looking for a baby-safe photo transfer system (something to transfer/print photos onto fabric with) to make soft fabric blocks with. I want to make soft fabric cubes with high-contrast black and white images of family members on them so that my baby has something to play with but also develops a familiarity with our family. I have used Bubble Jet Set in the past but it has not been tested for baby safety and is not recommended to be used for things baby may put in her mouth. I can’t seem to find a product that is safe for baby to chew on and was wondering if one even exists.

While I had just as much trouble as you finding an iron-on inkjet transfer paper that explicitly states it’s baby-safe, there are other options. Let’s start by listing some materials that you should be able to find in non-toxic and baby-friendly variations:

  • silkscreen ink
  • fabric paint
  • fabric
  • yarn
  • fabric glue
  • embroidery floss

So, while not as easy as printing out and ironing on, there are many techniques that could lead you in the right direction. If you don’t have access to a silkscreen setup, try our freezer paper stencil tutorial to make the image. You can cut it out by hand with a small utility or craft blade, or use the Cricut for a more exact replica of your image. Check out Instructables user Fylke’s image processing tutorial for turning a photo into a two-color separation suitable for silkscreen or freezer paper stencil. You can then use your kid-safe silkscreen ink, fabric paint, or even bleach to execute the design. If you’re going with ink or paint, it’s best to heat-set it with an iron to really join it with the fabric and prevent any of it from entering your baby’s system. If you’re going with bleach, wash the patterned fabric a few times to make sure none remains.

Then there are the more labor-intensive processes, like fabric applique. Again, you’ll cut out your shapes, but in a contrasting fabric, and then sew the shapes to the background fabric by hand or machine, or even use fabric glue. You could also embroider the photographs on the block sides using our video tutorial for turing a photo into an embroidery pattern. You might also try checking with Spoonflower, the on-demand custom fabric printing website, to see if their fabrics are baby-friendly.

I know you were looking for a magic product to come and solve your crafty design problem, but I hope that these other methods will yield some great stimulating toys for your baby. Please write in to share your results! If you’ve got suggestions for Ryan, post them up in the comments!

The above image is Etsy seller woodponddesigns’ Black Red and White Pattern Jumble Ball soft baby toy with jingle bells.


Ask CRAFT: Sourcing Freezer Paper and Other Supplies

From the pages of CRAFT, Volume 02:


Freezer Paper Stencil by Leah Kramer. Preview the article in the digital edition, and grab the back issue in the Maker Shed.

12 thoughts on “Ask CRAFT: Baby-Safe Designs on Fabric

  1. Leslie says:

    why not print the images on fabric and then use clear vinyl that you can get at any fabric store to line the front of it with? Then you can get the images any way you like, but they are protected from baby’s mouth with the vinyl.

  2. shannon says: also prints (screen printing I think) your designs on fabric for a reasonable rate. I looked everywhere for 2 years to find a design for my son’s room that I liked and will probably end up having them print one for me… of course if I ever get the time to send it off ;)

  3. Deirdre says:

    Leslie — Vinyl is unfortunately toxic, too.

  4. WoodPondDesigns says:

    Thanks a bunch for listing the picture of my Jumble Ball. I love the idea of adding a family photo to fabric. Adding photos would be a great project, and now I am inspired to try some of these ideas.

  5. Kara says:

    Inkjet printer ink isn’t toxic and you can use it to print directly onto fabric, which doesn’t need any sort of covering if it’s properly heat set. I’ve had better luck with the photo-quality inks for permanency, although the images do fade with lots of washing. If you really want to coat a fabric with something nontoxic, there’s always linseed oil, which is edible and used to be used to make waterproof fabrics – that’s where the term oilcloth comes from. It takes forever to dry tho.

  6. esme says:

    can you tell me what screen print paint is non toxic please

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

View more articles by Becky Stern
Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).