swan threads

Printwear Shop Profile: Swan Threads

Mike Clark is the associate editor for Printwear and Sign & Digital Graphics magazines. Contact him at mclark@nbm.com

Home of the largest indoor rodeo in the United States, Houston is also the city Jane Swanzy calls home. Owner and operator of Swan Threads, Swanzy runs an embroidery and decorated apparel business out of her house. She and her husband Tim have been in the Texas city long enough to witness significant growth over the last three decades.

“In Houston, you’re an inner-looper or you’re an outer-looper,” explains Swanzy, describing the ever-developing landscape of the Houston area and Interstate 610, or the “Loop” that encircles it. As an “outer-looper,” she considers herself a longtime resident in stark contrast to younger residents living among the high-rises and developing business, theater, and skyline districts.

Swanzy runs Swan Threads primarily as a one-woman operation, with occasional insight from her husband. Citing his keen eye for picking out thread colors, Swanzy explains his experience in construction is useful when narrowing in on the finer details of her embroidery and decoration jobs, like alignment and symmetry.

The decorated apparel business began for Swanzy in 2002 when she purchased a sewing machine with an embroidery module, her first piece of equipment. From there, Swanzy says she took on her first actual paid clients but contests that she doesn’t feel that her business started until 2004.

“The day I consider that I really went into business was the day I got my single-head embroidery machine,” notes Swanzy. “I was still working full-time when I got my machine and fully intended to continue my corporate job.”

Despite Swanzy’s intentions, she said within a short time of purchasing her single-head embroidery machine, all of that changed. Swanzy resigned from her job within a week of purchasing the embroidery machine and ventured into full-time apparel decoration. Beginning with embroidery services, Swan Threads grew over time to become the full-fledged operation it is today, offering services such as rhinestone decorating, sewing, sublimation, and heat transfers. For larger orders, Swanzy uses contract services but does most orders in-house.

Swan Threads is also currently a licensed vendor for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the largest indoor rodeo in the United States. 

“I would say about 90 percent of my business comes from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo,” says Swanzy. She adds that this lucrative outlet is a combination of direct business from the rodeo, and committees involved with the event that renders her services.

Outside of large jobs for the rodeo, Swanzy keeps busy with other clients she’s met via her connection at the rodeo. On the day of our call, Swanzy had been “up since zero dark thirty” putting together a T-shirt job for a local barbecue cook-off team. Swanzy notes that one of her favorite parts of the job is the fact that she’s able to choose who she wants to work with and enjoys the jobs she takes on.

In between first and fourth quarter, her busiest order times, Swanzy says she uses her quieter moments to research designs and trade publications, and visit local places like the Dallas Apparel Market to get ideas and information on what kind of apparel demands are trending. Going forward, Swanzy says she wants to experiment further with sublimation and integrate it into techniques she’s already dialed in.

“What I’d like to try is sublimating twill patches, then sewing them onto my embroidery designs,” explains Swanzy.

With roots fully planted in Houston, Swanzy says she and her husband plan on staying in the area as business flourishes with clients from the rodeo and local businesses. Printwear heard from Swanzy in late March, just after the close of the 2016 Houston Livestock and Rodeo show, and she reports sales are up from her 2015 numbers. Swanzy contends rhinestone-decorated hard goods like name badges and sublimated bows with the rodeo logo on them as popular items at the event.

“The bows were the six assorted colors I did for the cutest three-year-old who didn’t attend this year’s rodeo without a bow that coordinated with her outfit,” concludes Swanzy. “I’m hoping this will lead a lot of bow business for the 2017 rodeo.”

For more information on Swan Threads, visit: http://www.swanthreads.com/