Tension: not enough of it in many shops

Tension occurs in screen-printing shops from time to time (from, you know, looming delivery deadlines, misprints, colour errors etc.) but the tension I’m referring to should be there all the time. It is, of course, screen tension.

Properly-tensioned screens are an essential part of quality prints. We all know this but it’s not difficult to find poorly-tensioned screens in textile shops. Some shops don’t have a tension meter and even some who do cannot put their hand on it immediately if asked. And quite often if they can show you their tension meter, it needs re-calibration. How would you feel about the professionalism of your doctor if he or she didn’t have an essential item of equipment like a functional stethoscope?

So, do you have a tension meter? Do you know where it is? Do you use it daily to ensure that the screens in your shop are properly tensioned before using them?

All four Stanley’s branches can help you find or fix a tension meter: Edmonton 780 424 4141; Calgary 403 243 7722; Cambridge 519 620 7342; Richmond 604 873 2451.

Careful how you treat potential customers (or don’t judge a book by its cover) . . .

Here are two lessons about judging a book by its cover taught to us by car dealerships.

Recently a potential customer visited her local Audi dealership in the town in which she lives about 60 kilometers outside Toronto. She was interested in an Audi 5Q.

The salesman did something you’d think even a rookie salesman would know not to do—he judged a book by its cover. Consistent with his generally condescending manner, he asked the lady something he’d probably never ask a man—did she work or was she a “housewife”. He seemed to make the assumption that attractive and blond meant being some man’s trophy wife.

The potential customer, a surgeon, bought an Audi Q5 but from the Audi dealership in the next town 25 kilometers away. It turns out that the first dealership has a reputation for the kind of attitude shown by the salesman. One wonders if management has any idea that some potential customers are willing to go 25 kilometers away rather than deal with them.

This brings to mind a similar incident that took place in Calgary many years ago when the owner of a big graphics shop was interested in a new Acura. He went to the dealership at lunch time in his work clothes which had ink smudges, as one would expect when printing with large screens. The sales staff ignored him (again, judging a book by its cover) and he ended up buying a new Acura from another dealership in the city where he was treated with the courtesy a customer should expect.

Does your shop have a policy about not judging a book by its cover?

Aluminum pallets and soft top rubber

Easy . . . just peel, stick and trim.

If you have aluminum pallets or are thinking of buying aluminum pallets, talk to Stanley’s.

Stanley’s can get you not only the pallets but also the soft top rubber that many consider essential for aluminum pallets. Peel and stick rubber sheets are quick to install so if you burn a pallet during a print run, you can change it on the fly with very little down time.

A perfect fit is assured by buying the sheets slightly bigger than your pallets and then trimming the overhang off after sticking the sheets down.

Call one of the Stanley’s branches for more information on aluminum pallets and peel-and-stick rubber tops.

Edmonton 780 424 4141; Calgary 403 243 7722; Cambridge 519 620 7342; Richmond 604 873 2451.

Ranar presses and dryers

The next time you need a new manual press or a dryer, keep in mind that Stanley’s offers Ranar equipment. Ranar’s line is particularly appropriate for manual shops and home-based printers.

Ranar has been designing and manufacturing quality low-cost equipment for textile printers for over 35 years. They’re based in Southern California just north of Long Beach which means that Stanley’s can easily ship your equipment order from there to anywhere in Canada—they’ve done so many times for Canadian printers.

Ranar’s full range can be seen on their website. For more information about how Stanley’s can help you locate the item of Ranar equipment best suited to your needs, give any one of the four Stanley’s branches a call: Edmonton 780 424 4141; Calgary 403 243 7722; Cambridge 519 620 7342; Richmond 604 873 2451.

“Memorable customer service”—does your shop measure up?

Not the face of memorable customer service.

I think it was Tom Peters who liked the term “memorable customer service” when talking about what made companies excellent. We can assume that “memorable customer service” is the type of customer service that encourages loyalty in customers. Who wouldn’t want more memorable  customer service, especially in world so full of truly indifferent and crappy customer service?

So what does it take? Well, first and foremost it’s top-notch communication. This simply means being able to communicate the information about your shop’s products and services clearly and precisely and in a polite, caring and engaging manner.

Sounds simple? Then why do so many businesses fail to put people who can do that on the front lines with customers?

Keep your mumbling, short-tempered, grumpy, ill-informed, indifferent, and rude employees away from any customer contact and watch for an increase in the number of returning customers looking for more memorable customer service.

13 million tons a year!

Comfortable and fashionable.

13 million tons a year. That’s what Americans throw away in Tees and jeans according to CNN quoting a PBS report. This equates to 85% of the clothes they own. We don’t have figures for Canada but it’s likely to be something similar per capita.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that much of the discarded tees and jeans can easily be upcycled into new-looking outfits.

Frank and Oak is one brand that has become known for leading the charge on sustainable, affordable fashion. Now they’re focusing making clothing for men and women from post-consumer waste. They salvage worn out jeans to create new garments and in the process use 79% less energy, 50% less chemicals, and up to 95% less water than standard jean production.

Customer feedback claims that these garments are soft to the touch, comfortable, and popular. At $85 it may not be quite as “affordable” as claimed, but its ecological attributes make a strong case to buy them.

We mention this to reinforce the idea that our industry has to do something about its reputation as one of the world’s worst for water pollution and unnecessary waste.

Has your shop joined the drive for a more responsible industry yet? Have you reviewed your printing processes for ecological  considerations? Every little step in the right direction helps. And if you’re smart about it, you can use responsible manufacturing and printing to differentiate your shop from the competition.

Setting up a home-based print shop? Do you have the power?

You don’t need the frustration . . .

This could save you a lot of expense and frustration . . .  Before you buy equipment (particularly a conveyor dryer) for your home-based print shop, check that you have the power to handle it.

If you have to spend money on upgrading your home’s power it might change your plans for a home-based print shop. So here’s a plan:

  1. Check on the power requirements of the dryer you intend buying.
  2. Consult an electrician to make sure that your current power set-up can handle the dryer.
  3. If you have to upgrade your power set-up, get an estimate of cost.
  4. Taking the cost of upgrading your power set-up into account, re-examine your business plan to make sure it still makes economic sense.

Don’t end up like a would-be home-based shop owner in Calgary who recently found out that his power set-up couldn’t handle his new dryer after it was delivered. You don’t need the frustration.

Employees . . .

Employees . . . One of the challenges of running a shop.

Employee management is one of the tricky aspects of running a shop, in fact, of running any small business.

Hiring, paying, directing, supervising, and firing can all be stressful and take up a lot of the time of a business owner. There are ways to do these things properly and there are resources that can help in this regard.

This is why you might be interested in this month’s Images Magazine excerpt from Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business. You can find it by clicking here. And, as always, while there, enjoy the rest of the online magazine.

You can purchase the book for $24.50 here.  

Keep the shop clean!

Clean routinely—it makes business sense.

A textile print shop is a dust magnet. The fibers from the garments take to the air and settle everywhere. The ideal solution for the sake of everyone’s health (they’re breathing in the airborne fibers) and for safety (fiber build-up is highly flammable) is an air cleaner.

But besides the health and safety issues, a dusty shop gives a poor impression of the business.

It’s true that nobody particularly likes to clean but if it becomes routine to remove dust and wipe down the equipment even every second day or so (say a half hour at the end of the day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) it’ll probably be all you need.

It’s a good practice for many reasons.


Check to see if the label can be removed and the fabric isn’t too rough to print on.

Many clothing lines like to remove the manufacturers’ material labels and brand garments as their own with screen printed labels. Most manufacturers know this and make their labels easy to remove, but some don’t.

This is why it is important to do a little work before agreeing to screen print labels for a customer. You want to be sure that:

  1. The manufacturer’s cloth label can be removed without damaging the garment or leaving a stub (this happens if the label is sewn under or into the seam); and
  2. The material on the inside of the shirt isn’t too rough to screen print on.


Ribbed garments and other risks

Ribbed. Perhaps better to decline.

Sometimes in business one just has to turn down a job even though it may seem counter-intuitive.

Just like in any other business or profession, one may occasionally be asked to do something that carries with it a risk to reputation and possible losses, in other words, a downside greater than an upside. At times like this, keeping in mind the upside/downside imbalance, it can be smart business to decline the “opportunity.”

One such “opportunity” in textile screen printing can be ribbed garments. Here’s the problem . . . it’s not that you can’t print on ribbed garments, it’s that afterwards when it stretches when it’s worn, the unprinted valleys between the ribs will be visible thus making the print unsightly. On the press the garment is not stretched as it will be when worn so ink doesn’t make it down into the valleys. And besides, while you probably could take special measures to get ink down into the valleys, is your customer going to pay you enough to make it all worthwhile?

Sometimes it’s just smarter to decline certain jobs.




Fibrillation has probably been an issue for as long textile screen printers have been printing. It’s not to be confused with the identical medical term, though sometimes it’s so frustrating that it may feel as if the printing fibrillation can lead to the medical fibrillation.

If you’re new to the industry, fibrillation is when the fibers on the garment stick up through the print to give it a “faded” look. This might be fine if you’re trying to create a worn, faded look but it’s just annoying when you’re not. And don’t think it’s a fabric quality issue. Ironically the “better” the fabric, for example nice soft brushed cotton Tees, the greater the fibrillation issue can be.

Over the years various fibrillation solutions have been used. One effective measure is a clear first-down screen to “glue” the fibers flat but the downside of this is a heavier print. In more recent times it seems that most printers are using a screen with exposed emulsion but no image as the first screen in the printing sequence to press the fibers down. A harder squeegee blade, flooding with a bit of clear base to provide lubrication for the squeegee, and extra pressure is widely used.

There are solutions to fibrillation, the trick is just to find the one that works best for you and the print you’re trying to achieve.

Textile screen printing’s image problem

Portray a professional image and boost your business and the industry.

Pinterest and You Tube are beginning to annoy me! Both are guilty of promoting the idea that textile screen printing is nothing more than a craft activity anyone with a kitchen table and a few rudimentary bits and bobs (wooden frame, squeegee and some ink from Amazon or eBay) can do.

This does nothing for textile screen printing’s image as a legitimate, technically-challenging, occupation and significant contributor to the fashion and clothing industry. Image is important in establishing legitimacy (and hence the right to be rewarded appropriately) in the minds of the buying public. Wouldn’t we be more resentful of the fees that our dentists charge if Pinterest and You Tube were full of demonstrations of how to do your own extractions with just a kitchen chair, a pair of players, and a few Tylenol?

So, let’s do something about boosting the image of our industry. If every shop put forth a professional image and conducted business accordingly, it would help offset the hokey impression widely promoted in social media. In any case, a professional image is good for individual businesses by promoting confidence in customers.


A big shift to organic materials and renewable energy

Organic materials

It might be a slow process but our industry’s steady transition to organic fibers is happening and is, as usual, being led by the big and influential players.

Just as Nike, Adidas, Converse and other major sporting goods manufacturers drove the transition to non-Phthalate, non-PVC plastisol inks, major retailers are driving the organic fiber garment transition.

For example, Inditex, a Spanish-based clothing retailer with 7,490 stores worldwide (847 in the U.S. and 47 in Canada mostly under the ZARA brand name) has set a target of 90% organic materials in its clothing by 2023. In addition to this, the group aims to have 80% of its energy consumption from renewable sources and its use of plastic shopping bags will end next year.

What is your shop’s plan for joining this drive to organic materials and sustainability in our industry? It might be worth considering, not only as the responsible thing to do but, if promoted properly, it could be a marketing feature.

A miser can’t do marketing

Misers aren’t good marketers.

Giving stuff away—even small gift items—has been a long-standing marketing tactic. And with good reason; people like receiving stuff not just because of the item itself but also because of the gesture. Giving and receiving are good feelings that can plant the seeds of a mutually beneficial relationship.

This is where misers make the mistake of false economy by saving pennies and potentially losing out on dollars. Here’s a case in point . . .  Last week in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia at a business presentation the presenter handed out worksheets to the fifteen or so participants for completion as part of the presentation. Then, in anticipation of some people not having a pen with them, he handed a pencil to each participant. That was good. What wasn’t good was that after the presentation he went around and retrieved his pencils.

First of all, he looked pretty cheap recovering pencils worth a few pennies but, more importantly, by not handing out pencils with his company name and contact information on them for the participants to keep, he missed a marketing opportunity.

Miserliness is not a good quality in a marketer. What does your shop do to subtly market itself with inexpensive gestures?

Cash – the lifeblood of your shop

Investors, lenders, and other financiers come in many different types.

You have dreams for your new or expanded shop. But regrettably, no matter how fantastically technically outstanding your future shop is going to be, no matter how many awards it’s going to win for its work, and no matter how many customers it’s going to have, these things will never happen without an essential element that’s often not given enough consideration.

The important element that fuels all these grand plans is, of course, cash. If there’s not enough of it everything else becomes irrelevant. And it’s the first element you need to secure before your new or expanded shop even settles into the starting blocks or it will never get going. So the question becomes one of how much cash to raise, how to raise it, and where to raise it.

This is the topic of July’s excerpt from Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business in Images Magazine. You can see more on this topic by clicking here.


Imprint Canada Calgary Show

The dates to mark down now are September 21st and 22nd. Imprint Canada has announced that again this year they’re partnering with Promotional Products Professionals of Canada to stage the Western Imprint Canada Show in Calgary.

You should make a point of attending trade shows to keep abreast of the latest ideas and new products on the market. Remember what we always say about keeping abreast of developments in a competitive industry, if you’re not there your competitors probably are and you won’t find out what new stuff they know until they’re already making money off it.

Are you planning ahead for the sale of your shop?

This will not be you if your business’s goodwill turns out to be personal

It’s never too early to plan for the day you’ll want to sell your shop. There are things you should know so that you can start from day 1 of your business to get as much as you can when you eventually decide to sell.

The first thing you want to ensure is that as you grow your business you allow it to develop it’s own identity quite apart for yours—and definitely apart from the identity of any of your employees. The reason is because of a thing called “goodwill.” Not to get too technical here, but goodwill will be part of the price that you’ll be asking—the intangible part over and above the value of the tangible assets. Intangible (literally: “cannot be touched, invisible”) goodwill exists but not in the way tangible assets such as cash, vehicles, equipment, buildings and so forth exist. Goodwill can include a number of Intangibles such as the business’s good reputation, a loyal customer base, a convenient location, and other elements that keep customers coming and therefore contribute to the value of the business.

But here’s the thing about goodwill, it has no value to a buyer if it is deemed to be “personal” goodwill. So if customers are drawn to the business because of the reputation of the owner or a key employee as an excellent technician, a great personality, or some other attribute, that benefit goes away if the owner or employee goes away after the sale of the business. This is personal goodwill and why would a buyer pay for it if it goes away with the seller?

So, in anticipation of one day selling your shop, let it develop it’s own goodwill independent of you, the owner, or a key employee.

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.

Teflon time-saver for your heat press

Teflon sheets.

A Teflon sheet on the lower platen of your heat press can make it a lot easier to slide garments on and off. The rubber-silicon pad on the lower platen doesn’t allow for easy sliding on and off of garments. The Teflon sheet will change that.

You’ll want a sheet bigger than your bottom platen so that it will overlap the edges. Magnets on the underside of the platen can be used to secure the sheet in place.


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?