Category Archives: General interest

Application issues? There’s expert help!

Manufacturers’ laboratories are there to help you.

One of the benefits of dealing with a supplier like Stanley’s is that because they carry quality products, they have access to sophisticated support services like manufacturers’ state-of-the-art laboratories. This is a great resource for printers who want a tricky substrate tested for, say, the best ink application. Wilflex’s testing laboratory is a good example.

All you have to do is call Stanley’s (for textile ink issues, Calgary or Cambridge) and arrange to have your material (substrate sample or perhaps a troublesome print) analysed. If Stanley’s don’t have an immediate answer, the sample can be sent to the Wilflex lab.

It may cost you a courier charge but measured against the cost of a printing disaster, it’s no contest.

Frustrated by bleeding?

Frustrated by dye migration? Wilflex plastisols offer solutions.

Many substrates on the market today are prone to dye migration, or as it’s commonly called, bleeding, This is when  the dye in the fabric migrates into the ink of the image and discolours it. Polyester is the most common offender, but it has accomplices. So how to deal with them?

The Wilflex line of plastisols offers a number of inks to cope with bleeding. And, as you know, Stanley’s is Wilflex’s Canadian distributor. So give the Cambridge (519 620 7342) or Calgary (403 243 7722) offices a call for more information on dealing with substrate bleeding. In the meantime though, here is some information on Wilflex’s non-phthalate, non-PVC inks for use on substrates prone to this problem.

The Top Score series of off-the-shelf colours is good for team sport apparel. Top Score also has a mixing base and pigments for making custom colours.

The Performance series offers bleed resistance and stretch on team sports apparel. Performance has black, white. gold, a mixing base, and pigments.

Polywhite has been an effective bleed-resistant white for many years and is as popular as ever.

Bleed Blocker Under Base is a gray formulated as a barrier to migratory dyes to be used a a first-down screen.

Special effects – you can do it!

Wow! You can print that?

Not too long ago it was estimated that only one in fifty screen shops was skilled at printing special effects.

What this says is that it represents a business opportunity for a shop willing to put in a bit of effort and time in mastering the various special effects that can be accomplished through the appropriate art, screens, emulsions, and inks.

It’s true that some might interpret the high number of shops not printing special effects as a sign that  the demand isn’t there or that it doesn’t pay. But could it be that customers don’t know what can be done and are printers too reluctant to charge what a special print is worth?

This is something you have to decide taking into account you market and customer base. It could just be an added source of revenue. One thing is for sure though, special prints well done always get a “Wow!” reaction.

The perfect vintage print

They’re as popular as they ever were—vintage prints.

This is probably because people seem to like a “lived-in” Tee or sweat but don’t have the patience to wait for many washes for the print to fade. And besides, ink quality and printing techniques have improved so much in the past number of years that images just don’t fade as readily anymore.

So, if you want a lived-in look, it has to be printed that way. Here are a few tips for achieving this:

  • Designs must forego vibrant colours and stay with muted, washed-out colours.
  • Lose the under-base white.
  • In the design aim to use the colour of the shirt as part of it, in other words un-printed areas.
  • Water-based and discharge inks are an option to consider.
  • Softening additives are an option too.

A little experimenting could be a good idea.

What do you do to keep your employees?

You can hire employees, tell them what to do, pay them as little as you can get away with, give them hell when they do something wrong, and generally be a slave driver. But if you’re this type of employer then you should note that it’s not the way to reap maximum productivity and benefit for your business.

And even if you’re not this type of employer, you could still benefit from this tip . . . Buy Bob Nelson’s 1001 Ways To Reward Employees. It’s one of those business books you can flick through and pick ideas that can be applied in your particular circumstances.

Need a mentor or willing to mentor?

A mentor can make all the difference Copyright: www.smallbusinesscharacters.com

We’ve addressed the topic of mentoring in the textile screen printing industry before. This is a particularly important topic in an industry not adequately backed by educational institutions. You know how difficult it is to recruit trained screen printers and when you do find one their value to you depends upon how well they were trained in their last job; and often it’s not well. Mentoring new screen printers can only benefit the industry.

Then there’s also your own training as a business owner. If you came from a technical background, running your own shop brings with it a steep learning curve. This is where mentoring can be a big help and, in fact, be the difference between success and failure of your business.

For more on this, check out June’s edition of Images online magazine by clicking here.

An example of a tidy, organized shop – The Greek Corner

A recent post about a textile screen shop on LinkedIn caught my eye. The owner of The Greek Corner Screen Print & Embroidery kindly gave me permission to use the accompanying photo of his shop to a make point about the link between a clean and organized screen shop and a successful shop.

Hopefully not your ink room manager!

We’ve probably all seen textile screen shops, particularly ink rooms, that look more like a paintball shooting gallery managed by people who should definitely be doing some other job. And these are not generally successful shops. It also often shows in the rest of their presentation such as web sites, Facebook page, and front office.  The Greek Corner’s website is worth a visit to reinforce the “presentation reflects success” concept.

If you believe that your shop sets a standard in cleanliness and organization, let us know and we’d be happy to showcase it too.

Simplify to save

So who runs the simplest, streamlined, most efficient textile shop then?

Edward De Bono, author and renowned lateral thinker, is quoted as having said, “If you never change your mind, why have one?” One of the things he urges people to change their minds about is how they do things—he advocates simplicity as explained in detail in his book, Simplicity.

This is a concept you should consider for your shop. We tend make things more complicated than they need to be and it costs us in time and productivity. Even small changes can make a difference. For instance, if you can cut an unnecessary activity in your shop even if it’s one that takes only, say, 15 minutes a day, that’s a saving of about 60 man-hours a year.

Aside from the satisfaction of knowing that you’re running a slick, efficient operation, think of the dollar-saving possibilities. Look for simplification possibilities—it makes sense on so many levels.

The EZGrip Screen Squeegee – reviews

We’ve told you before about the ergonomic EZGrip squeegee. But now let Todd Tomlinson (just one of 22 reviews received by EZGrip in the past week) give you his feedback . . .

The EZGrip ergonomic squeegee.

“What I liked about it:

a) A natural grip – at 62 I’m battling all the wear and tear on my wrists from years of swinging hammer in the construction industry and all the keyboard work in my white collar jobs. No Advil yesterday for the first time in a long time.

b) Significantly easier to consistently pull print. My transfers were, for the first time, consistent from print to print. After printing thousands of transfers I have my technique down, but this provided another level of consistency that I have had a hard time achieving over hundreds of transfers on a given day.

c) Cleared the screen the first pass nearly every time with white through 156 mesh, which means for 100 transfers I’m pulling 2 to 4 fewer times per transfer. That is 200 to 400 fewer strokes per 100 transfers.”

We don’t need to add anything except to remind you that Stanley’s has the EZGrip squeegee. At about $33 aren’t your wrists and arms worth more?

Choosing a heat press

A basic clam shell press.

You essentially have three heat press choices: clam shell; swinger, or draw.

The clam shell press is easy for beginners to use. However, it may not be suitable for all thicker garments and layout occurs under the heat source (the upper platen). The upper and lower platens are joined by a hinge at the back. The upper platen is lowered onto the lower platen to apply pressure and heat to the garment.

The swinger press allows for easier layout as the upper platen swings away to one side but this means that it requires more space than the clam shell. Since the upper platen swings away, setup is not under heat. Experienced operators can produce more work on a swinger than on a clam shell.

The lower platen of the draw press pulls forward for layout and is then slid back before the upper platen is lowered to apply heat and pressure. The draw press is conducive to higher volumes of work but also requires more room than a clam shell.

You have digital versus manual features to consider and, of course, price. But this overview of your choices is a good place to start your research.

Sock pallets – an avenue to another product?

A perfect substrate for a novel message.

I saw sock pallets recently capable of enabling a print from tip to heel. Then not an hour later I saw a store display with printed socks in high density ink that combined messages with a non-slip traction function. The idea was that elevated socked feet would show a printed message. Some were cute and some were very clear messages such as “Get me a beer” or “Go away, I’m reading.”

This is another possibility for textile shops looking for additional income streams. It’s the kind of novelty printed product that could be added to the offering on an online store.

Worth exploring?

Allied products for your online store

Just look at my online store on Shopify!

In the previous post we talked about opening a new income stream for your shop via an online store hosted by Shopify. As was mentioned then, Shopify supports its clients with a lot of useful information, tips, and ideas to improve their online business. One such recent article listed ten trending online products and at least three of them could be of interest to textile screen printers because, while they’re not printed Tees, they’re still clothing items and not too far a departure from your area of expertise.

One is a men’s plaid shirt, one is athletic wear like leggings, and another is a heated vest (think Canadian winters).

A little creativity, a little research, and a little experimentation. Who knows what could happen?

Have you considered Shopify?

Just look at my online store on Shopify!

You don’t need to be reminded that the Canadian textile screen printing market is not easy, particularly in the main centers where it can sometimes cutthroat. But even if you currently have a niche market (product or location), perhaps far from the any of the big centers where you may feel quite comfortable for now, your bubble could burst tomorrow. Nothing lasts forever, especially in the business arena.

So how to insulate your shop from the full impact of an attack on your current comfortable situation? Or how to deal with a stifling market place where everyone is competing locally for the same customer?

Consider an online aspect to your shop on Shopify. It doesn’t have to be an extension of your T-shirt production; there are already a ton of online Tee vendors. You have a production facility, you have design capability, and you have equipment. All you need to add is creativity—ideas for products and ways to produce them. Think about it. Do some research. Think about it some more. Test your ideas. Keep in mind that Shopify is a great resource for online selling—check them out.

An online store on Shopify could be the diversification and additional income stream you’ve been looking for.

 

 

Important stuff to know about renting premises

Don’t be fooled or bullied by a landlord.

 

This month’s Images Magazine is featuring an excerpt from the Landlord chapter of Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business. If you’re renting or intend renting premises this excerpt is full of useful information you’ve probably never considered.

A direct link to the excerpt is here but while you’re there you should check out the rest of the online magazine as well—it has a lot of good stuff for textile screen printers.

Slow payers and your cash flow

My cash flow can’t handle you anymore. Please go away!

When you ask a customer to pay an overdue invoice the response can range from an apology and immediate payment to an aggressive reaction and a threat to take their work elsewhere. One of the more creative and cheeky responses I ever heard of a screen printer receiving from a customer was: “Why are you asking me for money? Do you have a cash flow problem?” Of course it’s an outrageous response for many reasons, but there is an element of truth to it.

The fact is that slow paying customers can cause cash flow challenges but we tend to deal with it by not dealing with it because we are terrified of losing a customer. So we end up retaining a bad customer. But we need to remember that a consistently slow-paying customer can often turn into a non-paying customer which has the same result as giving away our product for nothing. If you can’t turn a slow-paying customer into a prompt-paying customer it’s probably better to get rid of them before they become a non-paying customer.

Have you discussed ink with your Stanley’s person lately?

These guys at Stanley’s know a lot about ink!

Ink manufacturers, Wilflex in particular, are constantly working on developing new inks and upgrading existing inks. Not only does it make business sense for them to do this, but they also have to make sure their products are compatible with the steady stream of new fabrics that regularly appear on the market and that they meet increasingly strict environmental standards. They also listen to printers’ demands such as the long-standing beef about having to carry so many whites for coping with different fabrics. On this particular topic, Wilflex now has an all-purpose white available. Have you tried it yet?

Give Stanley’s a call and ask to speak to a textile ink specialist about recent changes, upgrades and anything else you’d like to know about textile ink. Best locations to call about textile ink: Calgary (403 243 7722  ) and Cambridge (519 620 7342).

Cleaned up and ready for the busy summer season?

Cleaning and reorganizing makes good business sense.

The busy season will be so much more tolerable  and productive if you give the shop a morale-boosting cleanup before things become hectic. I know that there’s never a good time to do this kind of thing but making time is really not all that difficult. One way to do it is to down tools for a day while things are still a bit slow and have everyone do nothing but clean up and reorganize. Reward them with coffee and donuts in the morning, pizza at lunch time and perhaps a beer or two when the job is done. Friday would be a good day because that will mean that paint (floors, shelves etc) will have the weekend to dry properly.

Imagine a busy season when you can lay your hands on materials and tools without having to look for them. Ink, emulsions etc. properly labeled and shelved. Clear walkways and work spaces. Clean equipment. Annoying minor equipment malfunctions fixed. Planned workflow.

A clean, organized shop is a happy, productive shop, especially in the busy summer season when there’s enough pressure without also wasting time because of filth, disorganization, and malfunctioning equipment.

Chemicals = Gloves

Keep ink and chemicals off your skin.

A recent post on LinkedIn pointed out that 60 percent of liquids (including paste-like products) that come into contact with our skin are absorbed. Even if, like me, you’re not sure how to interpret this number exactly, the fact remains that our skin absorbs stuff. If you’ve ever used a hand cream you’ll know this.

So, why do so many screen printers expose their hands to inks and chemicals? If you don’t wear gloves, you’re absorbing stuff through your skin that’s not good for you, to say the least! It’s a serious matter. Gloves, re-usable and disposable, are cheap at the price when compared with the cost of health problems.

Find a graphic designer

I finally found a great freelance designer!

It may be an ongoing issue for your shop or it may be a need that arises from time-to-time—we’re talking about finding designers. For many smaller shops a full-time designer might even be out of the question, in which case a freelancer would make sense. A few places worth visiting to find freelancers are Dribbble, Freelancer, and Upwork. Dribbble in particular is for designers (yes, the extra “b” is intentional) . One of these could be the answer to your designing dilemmas. But, as you know, it’s important to make sure that the designer understands designing for screen printing.

An answer to your phone-answering dilemma

With a phone answering service your customers will always get to talk to a real live person!

We’ve had a lot to say about the necessity for a real live person to answer your shop’s phone when it rings. I’m sure we don’t have to discuss again how much you risk losing a potential customer by sending them to voicemail. You can’t build your business around what’s convenient for you, it has to be what’s convenient for the customer and, most of the the time, voicemail is not convenient for an impatient customer.

Well, if you can’t give your customers and potential customers the experience of reaching a real live person every time they call, there are services that will do it for you. Expect to pay about $150 a month for an answering service but weigh that up against peace of mind and possible lost business when people phone your competition because you’re not answering immediately. Here is one such service worth exploring: www.smiledog.ca —check them out.

Images magazine for textile screen printers

This month’s excerpt in Images . . . Lawyer

 

If you’re not yet receiving the Images monthly online magazine, you should be. It’s a fun read right on your monitor and is crammed with interesting articles and technical information. Excerpts from Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Business is being featured each month this year so a good way to start is by clicking here for the April 2019 edition and then paging through the rest of Europe’s premier magazine for our industry. You’re bound to find something useful or interesting, not only this month, but every month.

The non-reader’s easy way to access the wisdom in business books

Now you can read summaries of exceptional business books.

So you don’t like to read or you don’t have time to read complete business books. I get it. But what if there was an easy way to access at least some of the useful information that business books offer without reading the entire books? Well, there is! Soundview offers summaries of many of the better business books. This is a resource too valuable to overlook, especially when you can pick up tips and ideas to greatly benefit your shop and also make you a better-informed business owner. Check them out by clicking here.

Mixing makes sense

Mixing the exact quantity of ink required for a job.

Back in the 1980’s Wilflex was the first manufacturer to offer textile printers the ability to match and mix their own plastisol colours accurately and only in the quantities they needed. The PC mixing system provided bases for all types of inks (multi-purpose, special effects, nylon, etc.) and over 30 pigments. Precise formulas enabled printers to make exactly the right colours consistently and repeatedly. Today the system is still in use but has been refined. It only needs 15 pigments now and the matching and formula aspects are computerized. Clean, sharp colours are now at your fingertips. And, importantly, it makes economic sense in many ways.

Ask Wendy at Stanley’s Calgary (403 243 7722) or Craig at Stanley’s Cambridge (519 620 7342) about the benefits of the Wilflex PC mixing system.

Cure it properly!

You’re curing your tees with what??

I recently saw this simplistic explanation of screen printing:

  1. Place design on top of the desired position.
  2. Add a thick layer of ink on top of the artwork.
  3. Spread across evenly using the squeegee.
  4. Remove screen.
  5. Set the ink on the fabric by using some sort of dryer.

It’s not a generally helpful or detailed enough explanation but what is really troubling about it is: “Set the ink on the fabric by using some sort of dryer.” Some sort of!? No! Use a proper conveyor dryer! This type of explanation only reinforces the wrong idea for new printers in particular that a heat gun is fine for “curing” plastisol. It’s not. Period!

What small gestures do you make?

Small gestures — big benefits.

It’s not the value or nature of the gesture that matters, it’s the thought behind it. And remember that people like doing business with people they like. Show some generosity of spirit toward your customers and employees and you’ll be well on your way to being likable. It just makes business sense. Here’s a link to a case in point.

 

Reclaiming, degreasing, and “de-ghosting” in the sink; there are alternatives.

Where is this going?

As local authorities become increasingly sensitive about what goes down the drain and into the municipal water processing system, you may want to consider alternatives to your open-sink screen recovery process. Stanley’s can tell you about dip tanks, closed loop filtering systems, and holding tanks. Do this before you’re forced to or, worse still, incur a fine.

Textile screen printers — a rigid breed!

It’s true! Textile screen printers are rigid, stubborn, and sometimes hostile when it involves discussions about switching products, even when it involves the whole shop’s health. I bet you’re still using spray adhesive even though you know that there are perfectly good water-based, non-spray pallet adhesives available! Roni Henning was right when she wrote that: “Printers are a rigid breed and once they have developed a system of printing that works well, they are reluctant to change. I myself had felt this reluctance. I didn’t realize that if something is poisoning you and the environment it can hardly be working well, even though the product looks good.” She’s a print maker, but she could just as easily have been writing about textile screen printers. Is your reluctance to change products harming the health of your shop?

Tidying up the shop; a productivity tool

Not just de-clutterers and cleaners, but productivity tools.

Many books have been written about improving one’s life by tidying up (also sometimes called de-cluttering). The NY Times best seller by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, is one example. It applies to textile screen printing shops as well. The tidier and less cluttered your shop, the more likely it is to maximize productivity. Think about it . . . never tripping over stuff, finding things quickly, space to put work in progress, and never contaminating product or materials. Then there’s also the impression a clean, uncluttered shop has on existing and potential customers. It just makes good business sense on so many levels.