Whether you own a retail establishment and want to get your name out there or you have a cause near and dear to your heart, one excellent way of sharing your message is by ordering promotional t-shirts. You can outfit yourself, staff and friends in these shirts, sell them to customers or give them away and gain free advertising each time someone decides topair one of these shirts with a pair of jeans. However, not every t-shirt promotion is met with success. These five simple tips will assure your program is a worthwhile investment. Continue reading “5 Tips When Creating a Promotional Shirt”
A t-shirt is a t-shirt, right? Actually, no. Anyone who wears t-shirts regularly knows that some t-shirts are just more comfortable than others. While some of what makes a t-shirt comfortable is the way it fits or the way it is cut, much of how good it feels is determined by the weight and make-up of the shirt itself. Understanding a bit more about the different weights that are available and what the weights mean will make it easier for you to choose a shirt that fits your needs perfectly.
With shirts, there is a numerical weight attached to them. The most common weights range between 5.1 and 6.1 ounces. The weight refers to what one-yard of the fabric weighs—not the shirt itself—so the weight/feel is standard across all sizes of shirts. That is because logically an extra-large shirt will weigh more than a small would.
It used to be that when you were comparing quality of t-shirts, heavier was better. In certain applications, this is still true. A heavy shirt is excellent for use on a job site where a thicker shirt is less likely to tear or rip. However, for everyday use—especially in a high-fashion screen printed shirt—many people prefer the feel of a lightweight, thin shirt. These are becoming increasingly popular. One of the lightweight shirts making a big splash is the Perfect Weight Tee by District Made.
A thinner shirt often feels better on the skin and is made from a higher-quality blend of materials. As a general rule, the thinner shirts are less likely to shrink than the thick ones are. It is very important to understand this when purchasing shirts. If you are buying a heavy-duty shirt for use on a work site, it may be best to buy up a size to account for shrinkage.
When purchasing shirts, a lot of the decision all boils down to personal preference. Spend some time looking over the weights and shirts available here at Outletshirts.com. If you have any questions about the weight or other purchasing issues, feel free to call or contact us and let one of our t-shirt experts help you make the right decision. After all, there are not many articles of clothing that are as comfortable and durable as a good t-shirt, so it only makes sense to choose one that you will enjoy wearing for years to come.
Screen printing is a technique that applies ink to a garment through a woven mesh that has a stencil of a logo or design on it, whereas embroidery applies a design with thread. Screen printing is typically lower in cost than embroidery. Screen printed shirts can commonly be found in gift shops, with a design printed on the front or back or both sides of the garment.
Screen printed designs can be applied to a shirt or other garment in either a full color image such as replicating a photo or by spot colors where the design is made up of just a few discrete colors. The full color process is quite expensive and typically reserved for special applications. Common applications for company employees, special events, charities, family reunions and so on are done with spot colors.
Steps in the process:
- 1. Provide a copy of the logo or design(s) and specify the location(s) to be printed.
- 2. Determine the number of colors of ink in the design(s) and pick the colors of ink
- 3. Choose the garments(apparel), color of garments and the total quantity.
- 4. Create the artwork and proof
- 5. Create the screens – also known as the “Set-up” process
- 6. Obtain the apparel
- 7. Select the ink color(s) or if needed mix them
- 8. Install the screens onto the printing machine
- 9. Do the printing
- 10. Dry the garment
- 11. Fold, pack, and ship the order
- 1. Supply your logo or design. You may want to have one design applied to the front or the back of a T-shirt. Or you may want different designs to be applied to different locations on the shirt. If you simply want text such as “Hansen Family Reunion July 2013” for example, we can generate that for you. For more complex designs you will need to supply the completed artwork in a jpg or pdf format and eventually in a vector format such as an .eps or Illustrator output or .pdf vector file. If you do not have a logo and cannot create one yourself, you may want to contact a graphic artist to design one for you. A graphic artist will be familiar with all the file formats needed.
- 2. Determine the colors of ink to be used on your design. The more colors of ink you use the higher the printing cost. Also if you print light colored ink such as white or light pink on a dark garment, that is more costly than printing a dark color like black on a light colored shirt. Typically each design will be treated like a nearly separate order since most of the steps will need to be repeated. As an example if you want a print on the front and the back, we will first print all of the fronts and then print all of the backs.
- 3. Choose the color, style, sizes and quantities of the apparel. If you want to have a design printed on different colored shirts, say 36 black shirts and 36 yellow shirts and you wish to use different colors of ink for these two applications, it will be necessary to change the ink color when switching from black shirts to yellow shirts.
- 4. The “set-up” process involves doing several things all involving turning your logo/design into to screens.
- a. We first have to insure that the digital files we have are vector files. These files allow the design to be scaled to the appropriate size without losing resolution. This also also allows for multiple colors to be printed.
- b. We will create a “proof” which shows your design superimposed onto the garment. This is emailed to you for approval.
- c. We will then “separate” your design into its various “ink” colors. If your design has 3 ink colors we will create 3 separate stencils, one for each color. We will then print these separately on a transparent film in the exact size needed for the final printing.
- d. In the next step we create the screens. This involves applying a light sensitive photo emulsion to a screen. The screen is a wood or metal frame with a woven material such as polyester stretched tight over the top of the frame. Prior to the advent of polyester, silk was a common material for the screens. This is where you get the term silk screening from. The clear film with the stencil of the design is perfectly aligned onto the screen and temporarily attached to the screen. All of the work associated with preparing the screens must be done in a dark room, much the same as if you were developing film.
- e. The screen with the light sensitive coating attached stencil is placed on a light table. A special light source is used to expose all of the light sensitive emulsion except for those portions covered by the stencil.
- f. Next the screen is spray washed to remove all the unexposed emulsion. The portion of the screen covered by the stencil will be unexposed and will wash out, leaving the image of the stencil open and now able to allow ink to pass through. Have a look at this video to see the process:
- g. If multiple colors are called for, then a separate screen is similarly created for each color. The following image is an example of a single color print on the back and a two-color print on the front of a shirt.
- 5. The next step is to mix up or obtain the correct ink required for each screen. This can be either a standard color like white or black or one of a number of common pre-mixed ink colors. The color can also be a special color shade picked from a Pantone chart, which is a large pallet of industry standard colors. These are much like the color cards you find at your local home store when selecting wall paint. The Pantone colors are identified with a PMS#, which specifies the formula we use to mix up the proper ink color.
- 6. The next step is to set-up the automatic printing machine. This involves installing each screen into a clamp and then adjusting the X-Y and rotational registration of the screen very precisely using registration marks that were printed onto the film we generated in step # 4c. Each separate color of ink calls for its specific screen to be installed into a separate station and registered in exactly the same fashion. If your print called for 3 different colors of ink, for example a tree trunk with brown ink, the leaves with green ink and text below calling for black ink there are 3 screens and stations. Each has to be aligned precisely so that when the green leaves are printed onto the brown branches, they appear to be attached properly.
- 7. Start the presses! The printing can now begin. Most modern machines are automatic. After the screens are in position, the operator will apply a generous portion of ink onto each screen, being careful to apply the correct color onto each screen. The operator will then install one garment at a time, typically a T-shirt, onto a “platen” which is a flat plate that holds the shirt secure while the ink is applied. Typically a special “sticky” spray is first sprayed onto the platen to help hold the garment in place. The placement of the garment onto the platen is not as critical as the screen alignment process is but is important to insure that the placement of the print is in the correct location; not too high or low, not rotated on the shirt, and so on. When the press starts up it will rotate the platen to the first station and stop. The machine will move the screen down and contact the shirt. A large squeegee, which is part of the machine, then moves across the screen, dragging ink with it and thus forcing the ink down through the open pores of the screen and onto the shirt. When this is finished, the machine lifts the screen up and off of the shirt and then the platen is rotated to the second station. The process is repeated at the second station with the second screen being rotated down and into contact with the shirt and the second color of ink is squeegeed onto the shirt. As the first station is applying the first color of ink, the operator will install a second shirt onto a second platen so that there will be a continuous flow of shirts and each station is active at all times. The video below shows a multi-head automatic press cranking out shirts. These machines can produce hundreds of printed shirts per hour, once they are set-up.
- 8. The next to last step is drying. Most common inks are dried with heat to speed up the process and to “fix” or cure the ink so that it will remain on the shirt through multiple washings. Most companies will employ a conveyor belt dryer that slowly runs the shirts under a heat source and out the other side dry. This is similar to the devices used in many fast food restaurants to heat sandwiches.
- 9. The last step is to count, fold, and pack the shirts for shipment.
When most of us hear the word embroidery we think of a logo or some other design that is placed on clothing or other accessory with thread. There are many aspects to the process that we will explore here. We will cover some of the basic questions you will most certainly run into when placing an order for your own embroidery project. We will explore what this process is, how long it has been around and some of the many fun things that can be done with it.
What is embroidery? There are two basic ways to decorate apparel: Screen Printing is the use of ink to imprint a design and Embroidery is the use of thread to imprint a design. Embroidery will commonly involve something to do with a company, event or sports team. In most cases embroidery is a bit more high end than screen printing is which is why you will see it used in the way it is.
Embroidery is the application of yarn or thread onto a piece of fabric with a needle. It used to all be done by hand but these days almost all embroidery is done by a computerized sewing machine. Of course if you see your grandmother making a quilt or sewing a design onto clothing by hand that is still known as embroidery.
The history of embroidery dates back over 5,000 years ago to China. Tracing its root to that part of the world and then spreading throughout Europe and then the Americas. Early embroidery was very ornate and would often be reserved for the very wealthy or royalty in the form of decorated gowns and robes. Embroidery can involve the sewing of beads, sequins, or other similar items in conjunction with the thread and pattern being sewn. Much like art and music, embroidery techniques and designs can vary greatly from region to region. There are several types of stitching within embroidery such as running stitch, back stitch, satin stitch, stem stitch, tailor’s buttonhole stitch, and whip stitching. These are things you will not need to know when you place an order with an embroidery shop.
Getting your order ready. There are a few things you will need to know to get your embroidery order ready to pass along to the shop or business that is going to do the work. It is very important to keep in mind that being prepared with a few basic things can give your embroiderer a head start in giving you good results. When you ask a shop “How much does embroidery cost?” the questions we must ask are how many do you need and how complex is your design or logo? (We will use the term logo and design interchangeably). Embroidery pricing is based on how many items you order and something called stitch count. The stitch count is the total number of stitches in your design. You don’t need to know the stitch count but it is good to know that is one of the drivers behind the price. The stitch count in many ways is related to how large and how complex your logo is. Typically the number of colors of thread does not affect the price. The larger and more complex the logo, the higher the cost. The other factor is the quantity of items in your order. The higher the quantity the lower the per piece price.
Almost everyone will have a product ID for each item available to be sewn. This can be found on a website or in a printed catalog. Having all the product IDs, apparel colors, quantities and sizes will help both you and the shop. Also please have your logo ready to send. Our embroidery operations do not create logos so having a PDF or JPG or similar version of your logo will speed the process along. If you want a simple text only design like “Joe’s Bar and Grill,” we can create that for you. Once the logo is provided we can estimate the stitch count and give you a quote. After you approve the quote, we will give your logo to an expert technician who will “digitize” or “set-up” the logo into a digital format that is used to control the computerized embroidery machines. The digitizing process is critical to a good result and must be done by experts to achieve the desired result. The file they generate is typically a “.dst” (not .jpg or .pdf). If you already have this file we can use that directly and you will not need to pay the set-up fee.
Lastly make sure you communicate everything very clearly to your embroidery shop. This includes specifying the thread colors, the location of your logo (most common location is the wearer’s left chest), size of your logo, as well as the delivery date, and other questions you have. If you have an event it is very important for the shop to know that so they can get things done on time.
A typical modern embroidery machine may consist of a single sewing head or multiple sewing heads that work in unison. The video shows 12 embroidery heads sewing the same logo on 12 caps at one time.
Embroidery Backing, which is also known as Embroidery stabilizer, is one of the most important components to producing a high quality finished product. In this writing I will provide a background for working with Backing. I will outline what Backing is, tips, how it is used, various applications for Backing, and the types of Backing available.
Embroidery backing is a non-woven product that is applied to the back of a garment before a design is sewn onto the other side of the article. It may be made of 100% cotton or a mix of Cotton and Polyester. The basic process to a non-woven is to press the materials together under immense pressure and then force them through rollers until they become a cohesive solid. They will continue to be rolled until they resemble large rolls of paper.
Backing is something that anyone doing embroidery for more than a day is probably using. Backing, being a stabilizer, helps fuse or hold the thread/stitches to the fabric. It is sometimes sold in large rolls to commercial embroidery shops. Backing is also sold as cut squares in bundles.
The first thing that most people will consider when sewing an item is “How well will this fabric sew?” This is also the question you should be asking yourself. Not only should you ask which type of fabric is being sewn, but also thread type, size of the embroidery, stitch density, stitch length, and stitch speed. All of these things are factors to consider when choosing a backing.
The age of your embroidery machine may also play into the stitch speed and would influence your choice of backing. Try different backings until you find what suites your setup. You need to also make sure that the fabric you are sewing on is stretched tight on your hoop and that you are hooping the entire piece of backing. This helps improve the stability of the sewing surface and again contributes to a cleaner and finished embroidery output.
There are more than 15 different types of backings available in rolls and sheets or bundles. Among the different types of backings are: tear away, cutaway, and wash away. Most embroidery backing will be made for industrial or commercial machines, but there are always great alternatives for personal embroidery machines.
Tearaway is the most popular choice of backing due to the fact that jobs can be finished faster and cheaper. With a cutaway you must cut the backing with scissors, which can be tedious at best. Tearaways must be able to withstand being punctured by the embroidery needles several times while the design is being sewn. They must also be able to be torn off the back of the garment without causing damage to the design.
Cutaways are usually considered the second most popular backing. This backing is most commonly used when working with a lightweight or stretchy fabric. Cutaway is sturdier than a traditional tearaway and therefore will provide more stability in your thin or stretchy fabric. This will also help achieve a better output of your design because it will help stabilize the sewing surface. One thing that you must always be aware of with a cutaway is the cutting. Once you are done with your garment and it comes time to cutaway the backing pay attention to what you are doing. It can be very easy to snag or accidentally cut your finished product with your scissors.
The next several backings fall under the Specialty Backings area. There are many different backings that will fall in this area I will discuss a few.
Cap backing are generally tearaways. With a backing like this is a preferable to have a clean tear due to the nature of the caps. The backing is needed to support the crispness and clarity of the design, sound familiar? There’s special consideration needed when working with low profile or unstructured caps. Some may think that a hat is fairly sturdy and therefore does not need backing, do make this mistake. Cap backing also helps keep the caps frames in place and prevents the registration or alignment from slipping.
Fusibles backing is the next one. This is backing that can be permanently applied to the garment with an iron or other heat source. Fusibles are used on items that are hard to hoop such as, fleece, leather, and some athletic wearables. Fusibles can be chemical sprays and are generally less preferred.
Puff backing is a specialized stabilizer that is lofty or puffy but still has some rigidity to it. It is used to create a raised, profiled, or three-dimensional look. It is most commonly found in caps. Many collegiate or professional sports team will employ a puff backing in order to achieve a higher looking and higher priced end product. Puff should be tested with your fabric/surface to ensure that it will hold up to the rigors of repeated thread puncture.
Black Backings are less common but do serve a specialized purpose. If you are applying a logo to a leather jacket, dark sweater, or black sweatshirt this backing is your choice. The black backing will have less show through than a garment with white backing.
Toppings are the last one I will cover. Toppings are a type of spray film that prevents stitching from sinking into the patterns of fabrics like pique knit, yarn knit, terry cloth and others. Topping is not necessarily a traditional backing. It is sprayed on the top of the garment to achieve its affect. One of the many product names given to Toppings is Solvy. Most toppings are water-soluble or polyethylene.
As you can tell by now there are many options for backing that can make your job easier and your product better. Using backing in your embroidery operations is a must. While this article is a very basic overview of backing it is a good idea to use the limitless resources available to gain a better understanding of backings. Attend trade shows, subscribe to the free magazines and online groups, and get in touch with your peers.
1) When purchasing Embroidery equipment of any kind, take advantage of any training offered to you by the supplier of this equipment. Some may also offer free follow-up training courses. While sometimes the classes may seem to cater to the beginner, anyone can benefit from the courses and there are always new things to learn throughout your career.
2) Take advantage of the innumerable resources both offline and online. These resources may include: trade shows, magazines, industry peers, chat rooms, bulletin boards, user groups and e-mail lists. It is quite remarkable how often you will find a fellow embroiderer willing to offer advice and help in this industry. Many believe that competitors don’t help one another, but people do look out for one another.
3) Create a workflow. Having a workflow is critical to most processes in any industry in which something is being produced. This may be construction, software development, filming a movie, or running an embroidery shop. How jobs flow through the production process from order taking to delivery is crucial to your operation. To be more efficient and save time, group jobs by the type of frame or hoop needed. For example, embroider all the caps, then switch to flat garments or vice versa.
4) We must place the next tip near the top of our list because it is a core component to our model, technology. Design and digitizing technology advances at a rapid pace and can make the art process faster and more accurate. You will experience a better output and therefore happier customers. It pays to have the latest embroidery software updates as they become available. Some may even want to consider updating your most important cornerstone, your machines. This would apply to working with machines 20 years or older.
5) The next tip is also related to your workflow. Take a look at the size of hoop or frame required for an order. It makes sense to run similar sew locations in a consecutive order (i.e. left-chest jobs, then full-front embroideries) than it does jumping from one job to the next always changing the position of the logos. Lastly, arrange jobs in a sequence that will limit the number of times you need to change the thread bobbins on your machines.
6) Arrange your work area to limit the amount of physical movement required to complete the job. These days the more we can cut down on repetitive stress and overall movement of any kind, the more efficient we will be. Additionally, you should get an approval from your customer, provide a sew out proof (digital pictures may apply), hoop, sew, finish and pack an order without moving more than two feet in any direction. The less energy you exert, the more you will be to focus on the true task at hand.
7) Your order taking process is critical to getting the job done correctly and is a crucial part of good customer service. If you go back to the customer to ask for missing information, they may question your abilities. To prevent issues you may use an order form. This could be something as simple as a spreadsheet. You should include thread colors, size, location, need date, scheduling details, any special instructions, shipping method, and of course price. Get something that works for you and don’t be afraid to change it if you think something is not working.
8) Using a reference chart of standard variables for working with different garments is key. Doing this will simplify similar orders in the future and serve as a helpful tool for discussing jobs with customers. When it comes to repeat business having notes about thread count, hoop size, location, and other instructions shows organization and professionalism to your customers. This will also save time. In turn using a general reference tools will help you cruise through new orders.
9) Thread tension is an important tip for both the life of your machine and the quality of embroidery you produce. Improper thread tension usually results in poor quality embroidery. Learn how to adjust the tension on your machine, and check that it’s properly set whenever possible. There are several things that may affect thread tension, depending on the machine these include; needle eye size, dye from the thread, humidity, fabric type, backing, and thread path. Watch your sew out for problems (i.e. visibly loose threads). Finally, check the tension every time you change a bobbin or cone of thread or repair a thread/needle break.
10) Take advantage of your machine. Today’s modern machines are technological wonders and many embroiderers use the default settings on their design software. Just like someone using their new computer they way it came in the box, don’t be afraid to make some adjustments. This might seem like a safe approach, but you are not getting all you can out of your machine and are limiting your creativity and visual output. Learn your software’s capabilities, read the owners manuals, and call tech-support. Keep in mind that if you happen to make mistake and change something on your machine, someone will be there to help you.
11) Watch for dull needles. Dull needles can hurt embroidery quality because they don’t pierce the fabric correctly. This will lead to uneven and jagged stitches, especially on heavyweight items. It may also cause the thread to break and cost you valuable time. Commercial embroidery needles should be changed frequently. Changing needles will ultimately be cheaper than trying to stretch a needle beyond its use. Needles are commonly changed once a month. The heavier and tougher the material the more often your needles will dull. It can never hurt to play it safe and check them everyday.
12) Doing regular press checks is a very important step to saving you time and money.
We have all been there; the phone is ringing, you have customers walking in the door, and you realize that you put an embroidery job on your machines and did not check them. This is a key time to look for flaws in your design, make sure the sewing is crisp and clean, and that the design is sewing the way it should. It is always a good idea to check the job on the first run of a new design. If you have help in your shop and cannot get to it ask someone else to take a look. Flaws are usually pretty easy to spot. Less easy to spot are thread tension and correct thread colors. As the owner/operator of the machines this may fall squarely in your lap and is equally important. Doing these check will prevent you from having big problems and are worth the time.
13) Hoop the entire piece of backing. Backing is used to stabilize a fabric and to make sure the thread sews properly to the fabric. By making your backing as big as the hoop or hooping the entire thing you are providing a good smooth surface that will increase the quality of your output and ensure the design sews like it should. (There will be a subsequent article on backing).
14) Create a library or database of designs that you use often. When working with schools and other organization you will find that many logos and lettering may be very similar. In these cases it is a good idea to create and save a template for future use. These days we all are most likely using software that will allow us to do that. This can also apply to monogramming where your names and letters may be used over and over again. This saves time on future job setups and will help produce consistent designs.
15) Many problems can arise when sewing on fabric that has a rough or uneven surface. Among these materials are: terry cloth, sweaters, corduroy, pique knits and fleece. It is a great idea to use a water-soluble topping, usually a spray. This is known as Solvy. Solvy is applied before sewing and helps stabilize your surface. Washing or applying a damp cloth will remove the Solvy.
16) Check your thread paths. Incorrect paths on your thread will most certainly cause your output to be incorrect or at best look very poor. As the thread runs from the cone to the needle it passes through several guides and beneath tension knobs. Check these paths every time you have a thread break.
17) Know your hoop size. The bigger a hoop is the less stable your sewing surface is and this directly affects the quality of your embroidery. This is why it is not only a good idea to use the correct hoop size, but also to invest in many hoops of different sizes. Use the smallest hoop possible for the job.
18) Save yourself the time and effort by getting a hoping aid. This will keep you from having to hoop the garment over and over again and will ensure that you get the hoop aligned properly the first time. There are many hoping aids available and some of them are: The Snappy, Embroiderer’s Buddy, Embroiderer’s Friend, and Embroiderer’s Hoop Mate.
19) As you move along in your career you will certain get the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. This is also your opportunity to document why you made the mistake. Create a system that will allow you to record notes about the difficulty of certain jobs, fabrics, sew locations and difficult logos. Just like creating templates this will save you time and make you more efficient.
20) Modern embroidery machines are quite easy to take care of. It is wise to read any owners manuals and other guides that may have been given to you with your machines. Follow all the recommendations to ensure a long and productive life for your machine. Check the manufacturer’s website for up-to-date materials and if offered buy the cleaners an oils they suggest.