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The Fine Print: Let's talk about tees!

T-Shirt Printing with Plastisol Inks, Water Based Inks and Digital Print Methods

Plastisol ink is pretty much the industry standard for professional screen printing companies. The biggest advantage for using plastisol inks in a commercial operation is it does not cure without the application of heat. It does not evaporate either. The ink remains in a fluid state until it’s cured by substantial temperatures around 330 Fahrenheit. This is typically done on a piece of machinery known as a belt dryer. Another great advantage is plastisol allows for wet on wet application, permitting for multiple colors to be laid down on the textile. Plastisol inks have the distinct and highly desirable characteristics of being durable, vibrant and opaque.

Water based inks are becoming more popular due to the perception they are environmentally friendly and the feel of the ink once it’s been applied to an item of clothing. However, using water based inks requires a different skill set and often times different equipment from traditional plastisol printing. The plus side of using water based inks is the ability to print over seams and hems. This allows for an allover garment print and often compliments hand drawn styles of artwork. A huge drawback is it is very difficult to print on darker garments. This will require additional skills and additives to handle the challenge.

Both plastisol and water based screen print require a screen to be "burned" to push the ink through as seen below.

The digital printing method typically uses water based pigment inks. The advantage of using the digital printing method is producing photo like qualities that are difficult to reproduce using regular screen printing methods. The ink is laid down in multiple passes and is cured on a press. This method of printing allows affordable, durable and quality single print orders.  

Life Hacks for T-Shirts

How to Prevent Shirt Shrinkage

The very best way to prevent shrinkage is to forgo machine washing. If it’s your most precious tee, this is almost fail-proof. Most of us don’t have a t-shirt we cherish quite that much so machine wash it cold on the gentle cycle. This method is the least likely to result in shirt shrinkage.

Drying your t-shirt is another story. Pretty much anytime you introduce heat into the mix; your shirt is going to shrink at least a little. If you’re worried, don’t put it in the dryer at all. Instead, lay it flat to dry. Once the tee is dry, if it looks a little wrinkled, you can smooth it out by adding a dash of laundry softener to a spray bottle full water and spritzing it all over.  Tug a little and smooth out, not only will the wrinkles relax, the tee will smell minty fresh or springtime fresh or whatever smell you get depending on the bouquet of your softener.

Prevent Stretching and Distortion

It’s happened to all of us, after a load of laundry is done, we find a pair of underwear or a shirt that’s been stretched and warped out of all proportion. If you’re sick of your washing machine stretching your t-shirts, use a lingerie bag. These can be found at almost any store that sells laundry supplies. Never experience a gumby shirt again.

How to Keep the Hem on your T-shirt from Folding Up

Unless you’re a seamstress, this one is not an easy fix. The best fix of all is not to purchase cheap tees. But if you find yourself with this problem a lot, you can attempt to keep it from happening on new tees in the first place by not using excessive heat in the dryer. Removing the t-shirt promptly and smoothing down the edges can help the tendency from “setting” in the fabric. It goes against the principles of easy and casual dress, but an iron may help the hem lie flat too.

Organizing your Stash

Are you sick of digging through stacks of t-shirts in your drawers for your favorites only to mess up your neatly folded collection? Stack graphic t-shirts vertically instead of on top of one another in drawers to see all of them at a glance, an added bonus is more t-shirts will fit in the drawer as well.

Ink Disaster

Got ink on your spanking new custom tee? Spraying hair spray on fresh ballpoint pen ink stains can lift them off. Who would have thought?

Armpit Horrors

There’s no use in denying it, we’ve all seen this. Yucky yellow armpit stains. Get rid of armpit stains with supplies you probably already have in your cupboards! Vinegar can be used to pretreat the stained area before the wash by soaking the area in an undiluted solution. Salt is another staple with loads of uses. Dissolve about four teaspoons in hot water and sponge the stained area to remove. Lemons have long been utilized to whiten. Scrub the stain with an equal amount of lemon juice and water and see what kind of magic happens.

Bonus T-Shirt Life Hack

How to Keep a Dog or Cat from Licking their Wound

If your animal has recently been injured or had to endure surgery somewhere on its torso, nothing is worse than the uncomfortable collar of shame. Although animals usually prefers sitting on shirts rather than being in them, putting a child sized t-shirt on the animal may prevent them from fussing with wounds and it’s great for Facebook content too.

What interesting life hacks for t-shirts do you have to share?

Just How Much Does a Cheap T-Shirt Cost?

Last week UK’s The Mail on Sunday broke a disturbing story concerning a recent campaign championed by The Fawcett Society to raise awareness for women’s rights. Elle Magazine in conjunction with the Fawcett Society was recruiting prominent UK politicians to wear t-shirts with the slogan “This is what a Feminist looks like” printed on the chest.  The fallout began when Mail on Sunday reporter Ben Ellery toured the company manufacturing the t-shirts in North Mauritius, a small republic in the Indian Ocean. His report of women working in sweat shop conditions raised a fire storm of criticism and shock causing many stores to pull the shirts from the racks.

Although The Fawcett Society stands behind their claim that the t-shirts were made under ethical conditions the controversy put a hot spotlight on the question of ethical standards in the garment industry.

Major brands have faced significant criticism when investigators peak behind the curtain. Take the infamous revelation by Charles Kernaghan, Executive Director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, (formerly known as the National Labor Committee) that Kathie Lee Gifford’s clothing line for Wal-Mart was being made by 12 and 13-year-olds in Honduras. For many well-known companies, the public outrage was a wake-up call and the notion of not being responsible for sub-contractors ethics was an unacceptable stance.

A continuing challenge supplier’s face is not being in complete control of their manufacturing environment. Even if they have the best intentions for social responsibility, if the bulk of their products are produced by offshore contractors, it’s difficult to enforce U.S. style ethics in countries where the government functions in chaos.

Hanes is one supplier that has faced that challenge head-on by producing 80% of their total unit volume in facilities they own or with contractors that are 100% dedicated to the Hanes brand. They also have zero tolerance with factories that transgress with child labor, sexual or physical assault and auditor bribery. Hanesforgood.com states on their website that they have disapproved 20 factories in the last 18 months for failing to uphold the standards set forth in their Global Code of Conduct, Global Standards for Suppliers, and the Fair Labor Association code of conduct.

The Four Biggest T-Shirt Blunders that Made the News in 2014

Perhaps you've heard about the really offensive t-shirt that made its ways to the boys’ apparel section in a popular department store in the Philippines.  The offensive message was “It’s not rape, it’s a snuggle with a struggle.”  The t-shirt probably would have gone unnoticed had it not been for shopper Karen Kunawicz post on her Facebook account which went viral and put a spotlight on SM Department Store. After the post had been shared across social media approximately 4,000 times, the store finally took notice and made the following statement:

 However, one must wonder if Kunawicz simply turned away in disgust and continued shopping, would the t-shirts still be on sale condoning an indifferent attitude towards a violent act.

Urban Outfitters did not handle their blunder nearly as well. Earlier this year, they released a “Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt.”  The big problem was that it had “distress” and “fade” marks that clearly resembled blood. Anyone that’s not been under a rock for the last 50 years would recall that in 1970, Kent State was the scene of a horrific Vietnam era war protest incident that resulted in the deaths of four students and left nine others wounded one suffering permanent paralysis. Urban Outfitters lamely stated that no offense or reminiscing of the Kent State Massacre was intended but the red spattering and holes were simply part of an effect and were deeply saddened that anyone perceived it any other way. Really?

Another department store debacle was brought to us by Zara’s, a Spanish department store that produced a children’s shirt that strongly resembled the uniforms Jewish prisoners were forced to wear during imprisonment by the Nazi’s. The shirt features black and white stripes and a YELLOW, six pointed star. Sure it says, “Sheriff” but it doesn't take a genius to realize what else the design might look like. Hey Zara’s, we don’t recall a sheriff’s uniform ever involving black and white stripes either. Next time, try this instead:

DC Comics also received a very public and negative response to the two new t-shirts that can easily be construed as anti-feminist. One features a cartoon rendering of Superman kissing a swooning Super Woman with the slogan, “Score, Superman does it again.” The second t-shirt is much simpler but relegates women back to the kitchen stating “Training to be Batman’s Wife.” While some may feel these have a negative impact on building equality between the sexes, they are hardly the caliber of some other examples. What’s your take on some of these examples?