August '17

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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32 || P R I N T W E A R A U G U S T 2 0 1 7 Erich Campbell is the Partner Relationship Manager at DecoNetwork, leveraging his more than 18 years experi- ence as an award-winning digitizer, e-commerce manag- er, and industry educator to create partnerships in the decorating community and empower decorators to do their best work and achieve a greater measure of suc- cess. A current educator and long-time columnist, Erich ERICH'S EMBELLISHMENTS B Y E R I C H C A M P B E L L continues to take every opportunity he can find to provide value to the industry. G reetings, printers! Yes, I'm talking to you. If you're flip- ping through the embroidery section of this magazine, you must be curious about what we do on the needle and thread side of the industry. I can tell you that embroidery is as fun as it looks, but there are plenty of things you need to know before you add this method to your lineup. I've learned that there are many misconceptions about our work as embroiderers that can er- roneously affect the decision-making process for longtime printers who want to be first-time stitchers. Let's examine two of the most important questions printers usu- ally ask when I'm consulting and follow up with a rapid-fire list of the considerations they've usually missed. Read this and you'll be better prepared to decide whether you're ready to add embroidery to your shop. Don't worry; I won't tell the other printers you've been hanging around with the thread-heads. COMMON CONCERNS The most common question I receive from printers is, "What's the cheapest machine I can use to get started? Can I just use this home embroidery machine?" If you use the cheapest machine that can embroider a garment, you'll never make enough money for the work to be worthwhile, or you'll be frustrated enough to quit. At the worst, a printer will show me a small, single-needle home machine from a big-box store with a four-inch square embroidery area as an example. Though even I have one of these machines for fun, they aren't suited for commercial work. A sub-$500-dollar home machine may seem like a miniscule cost to enter a new business segment, but you will waste a tremen- dous amount of time. These machines' top speeds (which they do not maintain throughout a design) are far less than half the speed possible on a commercial machine. They can't change colors auto- matically; each color requires an operator to re-thread. They have a very limited design size. They are difficult to mount flat garments on, let alone the torturous methods required to turn cap-crowns into a flat medium, all while limiting their em- broiderable area. They are great for a few pieces of craft work, not day-in, day-out commercial embroidery. Printers may avoid starting on the home machine but ask for commentary on used commercial offerings with obvious prob- lems. Often these are machines that have sat uncovered and abused in storage areas for years, require extensive repair and parts before running, or are made by abandoned brands that make finding parts and service near impossible. Though I wouldn't balk at a properly serviced used ma- chine, the lowest-price options are likely to have technical issues. This could break a new embroiderer's desire to pursue the process. A shop's early experiments in embroidery should consist of time spent learning basics and refining operator practices. With outworn ma- chines, it's more likely spent repairing and troubleshooting or spend- ing more money than the machine is worth rehabbing it with a tech in an attempt to chase the initial sunk cost. If you are serious about bringing embroidery in-house, the best thing you can do is find a reputable source with proven support and available technicians. Whether your machine is new or used, be sure that you have access to parts and services in your area. You will have Crossover Appeal Embroidery Tips for Screen Printers I will play around on a home machine and sam- ple concepts, but with an unsustainable top speed of 600 stitches a minute, an area of 4" X 6" in the largest hoop, and only a single needle, this is hardly a machine that's ready for profes- sional, profitable pro- duction at scale. (Image courtesy the author)

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