March '17

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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32 || P R I N T W E A R M A R C H 2 0 1 7 Josh Ellsworth is an industry expert on apparel customization and General Manag- er of Stahls' CAD-CUT Direct. His portfolio includes a YouTube site ( joshellsworth) with more than 50 educa - tional videos, a blog ( that is updated regularly and consulting PRESSING MATTERS B Y J O S H A N D Z A C H E L L S W O R T H visits that have been made to some of the largest apparel-customization businesses in the U.S. You can reach Josh by email at and you can find him here, on the hot spot, talking about customization beyond the basics in every issue. Tune in for marketing strategies and sales tips in the heat-applied graphics discipline. Zach Ellsworth is a lead educator at and manages equipment sales for STAHLS'. He has helped thousands of business owners successfully start and grow their decorating business. You can reach Ellsworth at W ith the rise of athleisure and retail fashion inspiring the custom apparel industry, today's blank apparel is changing to be softer and more lightweight. To achieve a softer feel, many blanks are being manufactured with a blend of materials such as cotton, polyester, rayon, or viscose. While these blends create a luxurious hand, they also introduce some heat printing challenges, specifically with scorch marks. In- troducing high levels of synthetic fabrics into a garment makes it harder to print. Care and product choice are paramount when print- ing these items. With the right heat press, loading technique, knowl- edge, and transfer product, you can capitalize on trending T-shirts, such as the tri-blend, while maintaining high-quality results. KNOW YOUR FABRIC First, we must understand what a tri-blend fabric is so that we can heat press it successfully. A tri- blend is made up of a combination of three different fabrics to create an interesting look, a comfortable feel, and an attractive drape for the wearer. This fab- ric composition typically includes 50 percent polyester and some combination of rayon and cotton for the bal- ance of the construction. The cotton gives the garment breathability. Polyester adds resiliency and durability to the item, and rayon is added for a comfortable drape. This is where we get the soft, flowy feel that customers want. Tri-blend fabrics are most commonly found in fashion-forward blanks such as T-shirts and sweatshirts for juniors', young men's, and women's apparel. These garments have a higher perceived value, which is a bonus for apparel decorators, giving them the opportu- nity to sell a T-shirt at a higher price to generate more profit per printed piece. With a sound understanding of the composition of this super soft and trendy garment, it's time to explore how to heat print it suc- cessfully. A (HEAT) SENSITIVE SUBJECT It's always a good idea to start with the three-part recipe that makes up any successful heat press application: time, tempera- ture, and pressure. For time and temperature, the application of your heat transfer and heat press settings will be crucial to eliminating shiny scorch marks on the T-shirt. With any heat-sensitive blank, from polyes- Taming Tri-Blends with Heat Printing Tri-blends provide a soft hand-feel, but they also require a unique setup to properly apply heat transfers. (All images courtesy STAHLS')

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