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Who says there’s no margin in printed T-shirts? How about $115.50 or 96%?

You paid Kanye what for a T-shirt?!

You paid Kanye what for a T-shirt?!

According to the London Sun, Kanye West’s pop-up store in London was selling his “Life of Pablo” line of Tees. There are pictures of fans lining up around the block waiting for the store to open. I bet you’re thinking: Must be one heck of a deal on offer!

Well, here’s the deal as explained by a customer: “I queued up for hours to get in to Kanye’s shop and I was so excited to get one of the limited edition London T-shirts. However, I’m not so excited about my purchase now I know it’s basically a cheap T-shirt with a print.”

So what’s this customer talking about? It’s a white Gildan Ultra Cotton Tee (Kanye didn’t even bother to take the Gildan label out) that retails for less than C$4.00 with “London” printed in black at a cost of, let’s be generous and say, 50 Canadian cents. That’s it! For that the price was GBP70.00, approximately CND120.00. That’s a mark-up of about 2,600%. Put another way, that’s a 96% margin.

Last week my post suggested the pop-shop concept could be a good idea for a T-shirt printer. I had in mind that at $9.00 a printed Tee would be attractive to buyers (particularly if it had a clever or topical print). I know you’re not Kanye, but surely if he can have people lining up around the block to pay $120.00 for a black print on a $4.00 Gildan Tee . . .

Perhaps a clever design that incorporates the following text might sell: “Hey Stupid, I could’ve bought 12 of these Tees for the money you gave Kanye for just 1”. I’ve seen worse on Tees.

That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

This week’s quote is from Tamora Pierce:

Can a pop-up shop be a cash cow for your business?

You know where to buy Tees in bulk. You have the equipment, the chemicals and the ink to print T-shirts. And you have customers for whom you do this. But the problem for most textile screen printers is a shortage of customers. Consequently, capacity exceeds demand. So how about this idea for taking up some of your excess capacity—pop-up shops?

Here is how Investopedia defines this increasingly popular concept (also known as pop-up retail or flash retailing): “The term ‘pop-up’ refers to the short-term duration of the stores, which ‘pop up’ one day and are gone the next.

Can a pop-up shop be a cash cow for your business?

Can a pop-up shop be a cash cow for your business?

Halloween costume stores are a common example.” Pop-up stores (popular with entertainers and celebrities for selling their merchandise) can be as short-lived as a weekend. Some can be around for up to six months.

It’s a concept ideally suited to the apparel industry, most particularly T-shirts. The key is to find a topic relevant to a particular public holiday, event, or popular subject, produce a Tee and sell it from a pop-up shop.

If you get the print, overheads and pricing balance right (topical print, low rent and attractive price) it could be an attractive cash cow. T-shirts are the perfect product for selling to the low-cost impulse-buyer market.

All you have to do now is a bit of reading on the pop-up shop concept and then explore how you can take advantage of it. After all, you have the perfect product!

That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote:

“Get mad, then get over it.”

– Colin Powell


Have ink mixing systems evolved without you noticing? Part 2.

The PC mixing system.

The PC mixing system.

Wilflex pioneered total ink room management in the early 1980’s. This included a mixing kit that consisted of a number of bases and just over thirty pigment concentrates. The kit also included a binder with formulas and colour swatches. For the first time printers were able to make colours consistently using the ingredients and very specific formulas. The different bases allowed for ink for different substrates such as cotton and nylon, and specialty bases allowed for the making of special effects inks such as puff and suede.

Over time the formula book was computerised to the point where it is now a sophisticated piece of software that takes all guesswork out of ink making. You can match PANTONE colours, make custom colours, store your own custom formulas, make only the quantity you require, convert existing surplus colours into jobbing black ink, and calculate the cost of a particular job. That just covers some of the capabilities of Wilflex’s Ink Management System (IMS). Other developments over time included additional bases and a reduction in the pigments to just fifteen.

Wilflex MX mixing system

Wilflex MX mixing system

Building on the success of the PC Mixing System Wilflex now has three additional mixing systems. The limited space on this blog doesn’t allow me to go into every detail of each system. If you’d like a discussion about the mixing kit best suited to your shop, a toll-free call to Stanley’s Calgary office (1 800 661 1553, talk to Wendy) or Cambridge (1 877 205 9218, talk to Craig) will get you the answers and advice you need.

In the meantime, the other three Wilflex Mixing Kits in addition to the PC Kit, are: the Wilflex Color MX System of fifteen individually printable and intermixable colours; the Wilflex Epic Colour Equilizers System specifically for wet-on-wet printing; and the recently-released EPIC Rio system wit its 18 finished ink mixing components specifically for vibrancy and opacity. Each has it’s particular focus and a little exploring of the attributes of each will enable a good match with your specific shop.

Regardless of mixing kit you decide upon, you’ll  find this way of managing your ink to not only be convenient but economical too. It just makes sense.


That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote:

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

– Winston Churchill

Have ink mixing systems evolved without you noticing? Part 1.

Money belongs in the bank, not on a shelf gathering dust.

Money belongs in the bank, not on a shelf gathering dust.

I once took a partial bucket of plastisol off a shelf— it had been sitting gathering dust for two years—and placed it on a meeting room table.  I asked everyone around the table what they saw. They all saw a partial bucket of red ink. That was of course what I expected them to say until I said I saw about $30.00.

My question was if it didn’t make sense to put $30.00 in coins on the shelf and let them gather dust for two years, why would it make sense to do it with a partial bucket of ink?

My next question, this time for you, is why would you buy ink in greater quantities than you need and accumulate the excess, sometimes for a lot longer than two years? It’s money. Shouldn’t it be in the bank?

The solution of course is a software-backed, in-house mixing system. Aside from the convenience of being able to make colours accurately and instantly without ordering and shipping delays, you can make them in the exact quantities required. No excess. No money gathering dust in a forgotten corner of the shop. No money to be paid for eventually dumping it. And the per-gallon cost is considerably less than ordering the ink already mixed—I once calculated to difference and it was considerable, somewhere around 20 percent, though I don’t recall the exact number.

And let’s not kid ourselves that the solution is an instruction to print shop employees to use up the old ink whenever possible. That’s because ‘whenever possible’ hardly ever happens—it’s a lot easier to phone for a gallon of a particular colour rather than search through old, dirty, partially-full buckets. And then after the job is printed, the left-over ink from the new gallon is added to the other partial buckets to gather dust. And so the expensive mountain of redundant ink grows.

If you’re not mixing your textile screen printing plastisol ink in-house, you should take a serious look at it. There’s the convenience of being able to make an exact custom or PANTONE match in the exact quantity you need in minutes, but then there’s my favourite reason for having an in-house mixing system—economics.

The next post will deal with ink mixing system options.



That’s so good it should be on a t-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote:

“Anger begins with folly, and ends with repentance.”

– Beverly Sills.

A creative T-shirt idea.

Manhole covers images - EcouterreI keep repeating that Ecouterre is a site well worth visiting regularly, not only to keep up to date on developments in the sustainability drive in the fashion and textile industries, but because they also report on some intriguing and creative ideas.

In this case, all I’m going to do is quote from Ecouterre and show an image from Raubdruckewrin. Let’s see if a Canadian textile screen printer picks up on the idea. If any of you do, keep me in mind. I’d love to have a T-shirt with a monochrome print of an interesting manhole cover from one of our major cities.

Per Ecouterre: “To the Berlin-based art collective Raubdruckerin, city streets are literally their artistic inspiration. Translating to “pirate printer,” the group uses city infrastructure as printing elements to create truly unique tote bags, t-shirts and backpacks. Decorative and utilitarian manhole covers, grates, and other metal pieces affixed to the street are slathered up with printing ink on the spot before being imprinted with fresh clothing, making true street pieces that honor the cities they are made in.”

Photo credit: Raubdruckerin via Ecouterre.

Web site link: www.ecouterre.com

Easy, effective, and safe clean-up.

Oil-OFF-SampleBottle1-isolated-225x330Stanley’s has found that Oil-OFF, a product by i-Solv of Abbotsford is great for textile and graphics screen printers.

As the name suggests, the product is primarily sold as an oil and grease remover but it has also been found to effectively remove adhesive from textile pallet overspray, plastisol ink spills and smudges, and vinyl lettering. And not only does it work well, but it’s also environmentally friendly.

Stanley’s Calgary ink lab uses it to clean ink smudges off the floor followed by mopping with soap and water.

The other attractive feature of this product is that it’s manufactured in Canada; something important to those of us who’d like to see more made in Canada labels return to our industry.

Stanley’s offers Oil-OFF in a 1-gallon container for $49.00. Any one of the branches can tell you more: Edmonton 1 888 424 7446; Calgary 1 800 661 1553; Vancouver  1800 383 5565; Cambridge 1 877 205 9218.

That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote:

“You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”

– Frederick B Wilcox

“Need design work to elevate your T-shirt brand?”

“Need design work to elevate your T-shirt brand?”

This was the first line in an email I’ve just received advertising design services. I was wondering how I would react if I owned a screen shop when it occurred to me that there are a number of ways a textile screen printer could react to such an email.

One way would be to read it and think I don’t have a T-shirt brand or I don’t need design work or I don’t need to elevate my brand, click on the delete button and go back to work. It would be unfortunate though because anything referencing our industry—advertisements, blog posts, magazine articles—potentially harbours a useful snippet of information or an idea. You just have to think about it a bit and allow your creative instincts to run wild for a few seconds.

Idea.What could happen? Well, it might occur to you that doing design work for others could be a viable way of adding to your business’s bottom line. You may be an artist or a graphic designer, or you may have this expertise on staff. If your in-house design resources are under-utilized, why not take on contract design work? Not every textile screen printer has in-house design resources; why not offer them your services?

What else could happen? If you’re a contract printer perhaps you have customers who could benefit from elevating their brand with a design upgrade. Offer them some added value for dealing with you by suggesting a brand graphics re-think. At the very least the customer may be grateful for the suggestion but if the idea takes off (sometimes simple ideas lead to bigger ideas) your shop might benefit greatly from additional work.

Before you click on the delete button in future, take a few seconds to see if what you’ve just read might trigger an idea or two that you can explore. One of the fascinating things that can happen when you allow your creative brain to be stimulated by something you see or read, is that you end up with great ideas unrelated to the original item (in this case needing design work to elevate your brand).

Creativity usually needs a trigger. Stuff you see and read can be that trigger (even those annoying promotional emails).

Free Rio starter kit from Wilflex!

Screen-Printing-Inks-Featured-Epic-RioIn the last post we told you about Wilflex Rio—PolyOne’s new non-Phthalate, opaque mixing system for 100% cotton and 50/50 cotton/Polyester substrates.

Well, today Wendy at the Stanley’s Calgary office let me know that Wilflex is offering printers free starter kits.

Just click on this link ( http://go.polyone.com/EpicRioSampleKit )

You’ll go directly to the appropriate page on the PolyOne site where you’ll see “Request a starter kit below” in a red box. Scroll down, fill out the required information and your free kit will be delivered through whichever Stanley’s branch you usually deal with.

There will of course be a local shipping charge for delivery from the Stanley’s branch to your print shop. Thought I’d just mention that even though you’ve probably assumed it already.

For more information on the Rio system or if you have any trouble ordering your free starter kit off the PolyOne site, the go-to person is Wendy at 1 877 661 1553 or 403 243 7722.


That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote:

“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”

– Abraham Lincoln

Epic Rio – the new vibrant colour system from Wilflex.

Screen-Printing-Inks-Featured-Epic-RioWilflex has announced its new Epic Rio non-Phthalate, opaque colour system. It’s PANTONE approved which means that accurate formulas are available to make any PANTONE colour.

Rio is suitable for manual or automatic equipment and is particularly intended for 100% cotton and cotton/Polyester blend substrates.

Something else Wilflex would like you to know about Rio is that it provides a perfect balance of accuracy, vibrancy and opacity. How often have you been in a conversation about textile ink and someone will say: “Yes, but how opaque is it?” Well, Rio is opaque.

Rio has a nice creamy consistency and low tack that requires fewer flash units. Wet on wet printing is a breeze. And here’s something else; it’s an energy saver. Rio allows for a faster oven belt speed and cures at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stanley’s warehouses in Calgary (1 877 661 1553) and Cambridge (1 877 205 9218) can help you with information and samples.

Stanley’s new web site launched!

Stanleys logoStanley’s new corporate site is up and running.

You can link here to see the full range of screen printing, digital, and sign painting supplies.

In addition to supplies, the site lists Stanley’s offering of services such as: technical support; screen exposure and reclaiming; screen stretching; and vinyl and pre-mask slitting. There’s also a section on used equipment.

All the contact information you may need is there too.

A link on the main menu takes you to this blog as well as a soon-to-be-launched blog for the graphics and digital industry.

With four branches, Stanley’s is Canada’s biggest screen printing and digital supplier. And don’t forget the two (West and East) online textile screen printing supply sites. Tour the site right now and see what Stanley’s Sign and Screen Supply can do for your business.

That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote:

“Gambling: The sure way of getting nothing for something.”

– Wilson Mizner



Where do discarded Tees go?

But where do our Tees go from here?

But where do our Tees go from here?

So where do all our discarded Tees go? We hope of course that, like us, most people make an effort to keep them (and other clothing) out of the landfills and instead donate them to organizations we believe will give them a second chance.

It seems though that in the West we have such a glut of clothing that the second-use market can’t absorb it all. It’s because new clothing is so cheap that we can afford to be wasteful, discarding items long before it’s necessary.

Low cost and a slavish devotion to fashion fuelled by vanity create the glut of used but still good clothing. This of course does the planet no favours by unnecessarily consuming and polluting resources like water.

So where do all the discarded Tees go?

Fourteen minutes of your time spent watching this video will answer the question.

Why should you as T-shirt printer pay any attention to this? Well, for one thing, it is your industry, and for another, it might influence your views on how you conduct your business in a world becoming more and more sustainability conscious.


The fading PANTONE chart.

Replace your PANTONE chart at least every two years.

Replace your PANTONE chart at least every two years.

Your new customer chooses a colour off your PANTONE chart. You pull the formula for that PANTONE number off your Wilflex Ink Mixing System software or you order the colour from Stanley’s and they mix it according to the Wilflex software.

Either way, the ink is mixed and, like any good screen printer, you don’t just rush into production. You first print a swatch, cure it, and check it against the chosen PANTONE swatch.

Right away there’s a problem. The test swatch is a few shades different from the PANTONE colour the customer picked off your chart. The pressure is on because you really want to impress this customer—it could mean a lot of business for you in the future. So you re-mix the ink (or have Stanley’s re-mix it).

Still a problem. The second test swatch is the same as the first test swatch and not quite the shade the customer chose from your PANTONE chart. Now you’re really frustrated.

What are you going to do?

It’s easy . . .  you’re going to throw away your five-year-old PANTONE chart because it’s faded with age and you’re going to buy a new one. Okay, so PANTONE charts aren’t cheap at around $200 but spending that, say every two years, works out at under $10 a month.

For $10 a month you’ll never have to admit to a customer that you’re too damned cheap to buy one of the fundamental items a good screen shop should always have on hand.

As for your current dilemma, compare the colour the customer chose from the old chart with the new chart, pick the PANTONE number from the new chart and mix  the shade the customer chose. Problem solved.

And good luck with that new customer.

That’s so good it should be on T-shirt . . .

That should be on here.

That should be on here.

Your weekly quote:

“Yield to temptation. It may not pass your way again.”

– Robert A. Heinlein


Creativity is alive and well in the T-shirt business.

Image reproduced with permission of Freshbrewedtees.

Image reproduced with permission of Freshbrewedtees.

Freshbrewdtees of Cleveland has just demonstrated how creativity is alive and well in the T-shirt business.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship and J.R. Smith paraded around showing off his tattoos, creativity struck.

Fresbrewedtees and Smith collaborated, made a few minor changes to avoid trademark issues, and produced this winner.

The result was a T-shirt that sold over 1,000 in the first 24 hours at $35.00 each. You do the math.

Creativity and striking while the iron’s hot—the T-shirt industry at its best.

This Tee can be bought online at: http://freshbrewedtees.com/


Match chemicals with equipment.

I will not use the wrong chemical in the spot remover gun again!

I will not use the wrong chemical in the spot remover gun again!

A recent incident provided an opportunity to address a problem that arises from time-to-time.

A textile screen printer asked for a spot remover gun replacement. It was alleged that the gun’s pump had malfunctioned. The gun was replaced even though the pump showed signs of erosion due to the use of a water-based fluid. Now, as any textile screen printer knows, spot remove guns are designed to use spot remover fluid. And spot remover fluid is a solvent-based, not water-based, product.

When this happened a second time just a few months later, inquiries confirmed that the printer had again used a water-based fluid that wasn’t even a spot remover but a liquid tape reducer. The manufacturer quite correctly refused to replace the gun.

The lesson here is that instruction to print shop employees on the use of equipment must include the apparently not-so-obvious point that the proper chemicals must be matched with the appropriate equipment.


That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote:

“If you can dream it you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing started with a dream and a mouse.”

– Walt Disney.

Did you know this about synthetic fleece?

PollutionEcouterre is reporting that popular synthetic fleeces are messing up the oceans.

A study commissioned by Patagonia and carried out by the University of California Santa Barbara found that Polyester and nylon jackets can shed up to 250,000 synthetic fibres (1.7 grams of plastic) in a single wash. These fibres are fewer than 5 millimeters in length and so slip by filters from the washing machine to treatment plants to end up in rivers and eventually lakes and oceans.

Once in oceans and lakes the fibers find their way into the digestive system of birds, fish and other marine animals, where they tend to stay.

The consequence of this study is that various measures are being considered to prevent the plastic fibres from ending up in lakes and oceans. This could include washing equipment modifications, improved filtration, and improved waste water treatment.

Here we have another example of how much work our industry is facing in reversing the damage being done to ecosystems. And textile screen printers have a role to play by being aware of the problems associated with the fabrics they handle.


If you’re going to insist on using aerosol pallet adhesives . . .

Tekmar's Target AV-1 for capturing aerosol adhesive overspray and airborne particles.

Tekmar’s Target AV-1 for capturing aerosol adhesive overspray and airborne particles.

I will never understand why aerosol pallet adhesives are still being used by so many textile screen printers when much more economical and eco-friendly water-based adhesives are available.

Overspray on the floor and airborne adhesive particles easily inhaled by press operators, are just two of the obvious problems with aerosol adhesives.

However, now there is a solution. To combat these two problems, Tekmar has introduced the Target AV-1 Adhesive Vacuum.

The AV-1 is positioned under the pallet where it creates a vortex to draw airborne adhesive particles into a disposable filter.

Don’t you think that a disposable filter is a much better place for adhesive particles than the floor or an operator’s lungs?

There’s more about the AV-1 here on Tekmar’s web site. You could also can Stanley’s Calgary office at 1 800 661 1583 for more information.

That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote:

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”

– John Maynard Keynes

Worrying indifference.

Come on! What is it going to take to make our industry ecologically aware?

Come on! What is it going to take to make our industry ecologically aware?

In previous posts I told you about the Clean Tee project by Nomadix. They developed a Tee made from 100% recycled materials and launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding program to finance it.

The Tee uses no dye, no chemical treatment, is made in the U.S.A., and is built to last. In short, it addresses all the things about Tees that attract the most criticism in today’s market of increasing ecological, toxic waste, and social-conscience awareness. The funding project was conducted on a reputable crowd-funding site.

In spite of all this, the crowd-funding project fell short of it’s modest $20,000 goal by more than $6,000. This reflects very badly on our industry. It leaves us with many questions and few answers. . . .

  • Is there something about this that sounds too good to be true?
  • Why wouldn’t screen printers support this project in large numbers to encourage a more eco-friendly Tee for their industry?
  • Why wouldn’t one or more of the major Tee manufacturers scoop this up?
  • Is there any commitment at all in our industry to a less toxic garment?

Whatever the reasons for this Kickstarter project failing, they seem to add up to a worrying indifference.

Not staying in touch with industry literature? Start with Images digital magazine.

Okay, so you don’t make a point of regularly reading industry magazines or books or even blogs. But why?

Actually, I know why. I’ve heard all the excuses over the years and I could list them here but I’m not going to, because they’re all BS. Discovering what others are doing in this industry, seeing the latest trends, finding out about new products, and receiving business advice will give you an advantage. Without this kind of input you’re disadvantaged. How else can anyone expect to grow as a screen printer and business owner? It requires a bit of effort though—knowledge and great ideas aren’t magically absorbed from thin air. You have to look for it in the right places.

Checking out online industry magazines.

Checking out online industry magazines.

Attending a trade show is one of the right places—every year I try to encourage Canadian textile screen printers to attend the Long Beach Show—but it’s not enough. Industry blogs, magazines and books are the other right places.

It’s almost impossible to not get something out of every blog, magazine or book. At the very least, just a sentence or a picture can stimulate an idea that could turn into something beneficial for your textile screen shop.

So, here’s a suggestion to get you started. Grab your favourite drink, relax and log onto Images Magazine’s site .Click on the June digital magazine and enjoy leafing through the fifty-plus pages. Oh, pay particular attention to the article on page 56 in the June edition. Subscribe for free and it’ll turn up on your email each month.

Now find other industry blogs, newsletters and magazines. Stay ahead of the competition.


That’s so good it should be on a T-shirt . . .

That should be here!

That should be here!

Your weekly quote:

“Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitos?”

– Anon

Reading between the headlines . . .

When I was just a kid, I remember hearing one of my father’s favourite expressions for the first time: “If you throw dung at a wall long enough, some of it will stick.”

I’ve been throwing something at the wall for some time on this blog—though it’s by no means dung—and I’m going to keep throwing it for some time yet. I’ll keep going until there’s evidence that some of it’s beginning to stick. I’m talking about the inevitable upcoming changes in our industry as a result of the increasing pressure from the ecological lobby. They will affect you, the textile screen printer, and I’m determined to help by alerting you to the changes as they creep up on us.

Think I’m being alarmist? Here are the latest headlines about the clothing industry—our industry—in the Ecouterre newsletter. You read between the headlines . . .

Adidas, Parley Giving Away 50 Pairs of Shoes Made From Ocean Plastic

Wool and the Gang Launches Yarn Made From Upcycled Denim

Levi’s Launches “Collaboratory” to Boost Innovation in Sustainable Fashion

Timberland to Make Shoes, Bags From Recycled Plastic Bottles

H&M, Swedfund Pilot Sustainable Textile Factory in Ethiopia

PETA Claims Eddie Bauer, Lands’ End Use Down Ripped From Live Geese

There will be more and more attention focussed on the poor ecological and sustainability of our industry, particularly the cotton T-shirt aspect of it.

See the geese below with bare and bleeding legs and torsos after having their down stripped? Expect more and more of these disturbing and eye-catching types of images as the spotlight on the clothing industry intensifies . . .

Image source: Ecouterre.

Image source: Ecouterre.

Therefore, it seems to me to be a good time to get ahead of the game and exploit the rapidly-developing sustainability movement.