Hot Fleece: Heat-applied alternatives for fleece

How many of us have experienced the unexpected garment selection from a customer or the last minute add-on to an order? It never fails: they call and ask for a quote on T-shirts and when the order comes in it has Ts, long-sleeve Ts, crewneck sweatshirts, and, of course, women’s 100 percent polyester sweatshirts along with two youth or toddler sweatshirts for the coach’s children or grandchildren. It now becomes a challenge of how to print this order so all garments look and feel the way the customer expects.

In a perfect world the Ts should be printed with one set of screens and the fleece with another. Unfortunately this route is practically an impossibility due to the varying sizes and types of garments, which means the only option is to reimage new screens at a smaller size to accommodate the youth and the women’s performance garments. Or is it?

Finding a fit

The women’s performance sweatshirt is a totally different animal in comparison to the rest of the order in this scenario. The way a performance sweatshirt is constructed, the tack/glue down that a typical screen printer uses does not adhere well to the fibers of the inner lining of the sweatshirt. With a multicolor imprint this becomes a registration nightmare, not to mention a likely candidate for dye migration as the garment travels through the dryer. The crewneck sweatshirt in this scenario is not a major issue, however the youth/toddler hooded sweatshirt becomes one. Normally, you could suggest to either resize the art to fit across all garments, which isn’t ideal for any T larger than a youth medium, or charge for another set of screens to accommodate the garment imprint size.

This is where a digital heat applied application comes into play with the ability to resize with ease. On an order as varied as this, a digital heat applied decoration on the performance garments and the youth hooded sweatshirts will work wonders. This will not only save time but will also give you an avenue to sell the garments to your customer at an affordable price.

Art considerations

Not all artwork is created in a manner that is conducive to the print-and-cut method, however, there are options. If it is a simple one-color logo, consider using a cut only method. Industry vendors have many proven substrates to accomplish a fashion feel, athletic finish, or affordable option. If the design is a complex multicolor piece of art, there are a few more factors to take into consideration to determine what solution/media will be the best fit.

If in this scenario we decide to decorate all of the fleece garments or just the youth/toddler in this manner, we will need to use a different solution. The common 50/50 polyester/cotton fleece sweatshirt will use a standard, easy to weed media. This will allow you to weed smaller objects within the design.

For the performance garment, the solution/media needs to be stretchable, which, unfortunately, can create a weeding problem. This is where haloing, a method where a thicker boarder is placed around fine details in the same color as the substrate, comes in play. Depending on the operator, the halo will be almost unnoticeable to your customers. However, depending on the type of media used, this may result in a heavier, stiffer hand due to the greater coverage of this method. Even so, the greatest benefit of doing the performance fleece with this method is that the conventional screen printing not only requires a higher heat to cure the inks, but cannot hold detail as well as a digitally printed heat transfer.

Add-on sales

Now that you have already done several different digital heat transfers in various sizes and media/solution types, why not increase the sale? Working with heat transfer materials, the same art can easily and quickly be applied to backpacks, hats, lawn chairs, cooler bags and performance polos. Taking the initiative to show your customer what can be done with their logo opens up a great revenue stream for you and your company.

So what turned out to be a headache at the start, can easily open up the door to more opportunities and sales. By utilizing the “best tool for the job,” you will give your customers the look they want on a variety of different substrates while minimizing the challenges of  a mixed substrate jobs for yourself.