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Many are the ways…

Multitudes of Media

by: 

Ed Levy

Ed Levy is an industry veteran and director of software technologies at Hirsch Solutions.

Multimedia decorating is much more than cutting-edge, exciting and invigorating. In today’s market, it’s a necessity. Multimedia is the process of combining multiple embellishment processes into a single application. There are several advantages of adding this approach to your menu of offerings. 

Embroiderers who do not have chenille capabilities can still incorporate it into designs. It can be outsourced in the form of a patch, sewn down, and then embroider on top of the chenille for a unique mixed-media look. (All images courtesy the author)

While embroidery itself is in high demand, certain markets are always in search of a new look. Take, for example, the tourist market. Retailers need new eye-catching designs that will entice customers to purchase their merchandise. Tourist shops are always on the lookout for something new and exciting. Corporate America is also on a quest for new and unique. To effectively advertise through logoed apparel, it’s vital that logos standout in such a way as to garner the attention of everyone in the vicinity. Multimedia can be an effective tool towards making this happen. Also, as trends shift in the industry, those who incorporate many technologies will be better positioned to offer alternative embellishment types. For example, if embroidery experiences a decline in popularity, having digital printing capabilities can help carry the load. 

Another advantage is mixed media breathes new excitement into existing customer bases with new techniques. There are only so many times the same customer will order the same garments with the same logo before the garments become nothing more than a commodity. In fact, once they become a commodity, your customers tend to want to shop around looking for a better price on their next reorder. Wouldn’t be exciting to think outside the box and show up with a new process that the customer has never used before and start writing new business for what was once a stale account?

In order to effectively sell multimedia, you must understand the basics behind various decorating processes. Whether you are selling it or thinking of producing it yourself, the technology behind the decoration will play an important part in your sales strategy and, the more you know, the better. So let’s take a look at a few of the techniques being used today.

Applique

Applique is one of the most basic and oldest forms of multimedia. Too many times, this process is thought of strictly in terms of reducing stitch count rather than a means of artistic enhancement. In reality, applique is a simple process that is available to any embroiderer and has countless possibilities for creative multimedia applications. 

Applique is the process of adhering one material to another. It used to be a very labor intensive process but modern technology, namely cutters, has sliced the labor into a minimal process.

Applique is the process of adhering one material to another. It used to be a very labor intensive process but modern technology, namely cutters, has sliced the labor into a minimal process. The most important issue with applique is that the final embroidery and the applique material line up properly with one another. This precision is controlled in the digitizing process. 

Print and embroidery

Print can come in many forms. For example, screen printing, direct-to-garment printing, transfers and sublimation all fall into the print category. Combining print and embroidery has two huge benefits. The first: printing allows coverage of a large area with a relatively small cost. For example, a large jacket back design for a school can be created quickly by printing the mascot and then adding embroidered text for the name of the school, with perhaps some detail on the mascot. It’s quick and simple. The second benefit is that multimedia can take a job that would have been very time-consuming and make it quick to produce, yet still cost effective.

One of the key elements for combining print and embroidery is to ensure that the embroidery and print are in registration with each other when the job is finished. For the average shop, you could easily achieve a tolerance of 1/4-inch or less without a great deal of effort. One of the oldest tricks for this method is to hide a registration mark somewhere within the print but will get covered by the embroidery. It is also very important to have consistent hooping of the garment for embroidery which will make alignment easier.

Another way to create a unique look is to mix things up a little bit and combine print, applique and embroidery. Start with blank material, print your own appliques and then embroider the applique to the garment. The more unique you can make a product, the more difficult it will be for someone to steal an order from you.

Chenille

The popularity of chenille continues to soar. As a standalone means of decoration, it is very effective and is very popular with sports-related designs. It is unique in the fact that it is rarely done directly on the garment. Typically, chenille is applied to a felt backing, essentially creating a patch. This patch is then sewn onto the garment. This allows an embroiderer who does not have chenille equipment the ability to outsource chenille and then embroider something onto it. 

Laser 

Lasers are cutting-edge technology—literally. They come in many shapes and forms from a free-standing box type of laser to those that are attached to an embroidery machine to a bridge laser that spans over many embroidery heads. The advantage of a laser is that it can quickly and accurately cut through a single or multiple layers of material. 

Highly detailed applique is simplified with laser technology.

While lasers are mostly associated with applique, they take what once was an extremely time-consuming technique and turn it into a profit center. Three particular areas shine with a laser. The first is a highly-detailed applique. Something with many, tiny pieces that would be impossible to lay down by hand and hold into position long enough for the machine to stitch it in place. 

The second is a multiple layered applique. With a laser, multiple layers of fabric can be placed on a garment in a single step with the laser cutting precisely through one layer of fabric at a time. The third method is with a reverse applique. With a reverse applique, the material is placed behind the garment, which is then cut, allowing the applique material in the background to show through.

Sequins

Sequins add elegance and are a great way to highlight specific areas of a design. Modern technology comes through once again and automatically feeds individual sequins to a design which eliminates any manual labor. Sequins can be mixed with virtually any decoration process imaginable. 

One of the most important things to remember concerning multimedia is that you should choose processes and portions of designs that complement one another. Carefully consider a design and evaluate which portions of it will look the best with which processes. Don’t worry if you don’t have all decorating processes in-house as it will be easy to find other companies to produce portions of a job for you.

If you are looking for something new to offer your customers, or for different ways to save on stitches, or just want to create new levels of excitement, then multimedia is the way to go.