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Inside the Shop Screen Printing Thoughts Vegan

Stop Killing the Planet with T-shirts

Did you know that it takes 713 gallons of water to make just one cotton t-shirt?

Okay, well maybe that statistic is somewhat skewed because no one manufactures just one t-shirt. What it’s really about is the water that it takes to grow the cotton. It’s a lot.

It’s still a scary proposition for our planet and our limited resources. Last night one of our insta followers tagged us in a post about this, and I knew that I had to say something.

Our whole business being what it is, we print thousands of new cotton t-shirts every year. Does that concern me? You know me, of course it does. We try to make as little impact on the planet as possible in our screen printing. Are we going to shut down and stop taking orders of new shirts? Well, no. I don’t think that our going out of business would effectively solve the problem.

I do know that there are things we (and you and everyone) can do to at least slow this crazy train down.

Less consumption, for one. Think about how easy it is to go to any Target or WalMart in your area and buy a cheap graphic tee. Or think about the festivals and markets you go to. Rather than loading up on an armful of t-shirts and tank tops because you just gotta have ’em all, be choosier. Maybe choose one you truly love this trip. Choose one made with premium quality cotton, from a WRAP-certified manufacturer who uses the most sustainable methods. It’s a start.

Reuse your old tees. It doesn’t take Einstein-level thinking to figure out how to put your old worn-out t-shirts to new uses. Cleaning rags, for one. Cut them up and sew new things like bags and skirts and belts. Cut off the collar, twist it up and bam – soft bracelet! Stop throwing things away, people!

Eschew Fast Fashion. Fast Fashion is where garment designers create a limited supply of a new, trendy style for the mass market. If it sells, it may become permanent. If not, they didn’t bet the farm on it and have unsellable inventory. Neat-o, huh? It is for the manufacturer. In three months (or hours) when that style is no longer fashionable, guess what happens? They get thrown out, maybe donated. But what’s the point? Better to buy classic looks that stand the test of time than to bend to every fashion trend. One of my favorite shirts is a striped tee from The Gap that I bought over twenty years ago.

Watch Your Washing. It’s not just the making, but the care of the t-shirts that can make a big impact. Wash in cold water whenever possible, hang dry and leave out the ironing. If it’s wrinkled, hang it in the bathroom while you shower. It not only saves water, but reduces carbon emissions from using less electrical energy.

You knew I wasn’t going to say stop buying t-shirts altogether, right? Listen, they’re comfortable, easy to care for, they look cool, and they can last a long time. Like any other type of garment or product, we need to be more mindful about what we buy.

Hey! Check out this super cool t-shirt designer/printer that only reuses tees: Stay Vocal

Also! You must check out Threads for Love’s Upcycled Collection. We love it!

One last fact: Did you know that it takes 1,799 gallons of water to make a pound of beef? I’ll let you chew on that one while I eat my vegan burger.

Want to learn more about getting apparel printed? Get our Amazing T-shirt Guide!

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Design Inside the Shop Screen Printing Vegan We printed this!

How to Get a Metallic Look on Apparel

Metallic T-shirt

Shiny things are cool. And though I love my shiny things, I never really thought to print in metallic before. One day a regular client of ours texted me a photo of a singer on stage wearing a tee with an extremely shiny silver image on it. I couldn’t really tell what the image was, but based on the blurry quality it was clear that the photographer was having a very shiny time. Our client asked if we could do something like that.

My first thought was Hell yes, go to a show and get sweaty drunk? Then I realized he meant the shiny shirt.

Of course I said “Yes,” even though we had never done it, but that’s kind of our motto around here. Say yes and figure that shit out later. It’s worked so far.

I did some research and it turns out there a few ways to achieve a metallic look on apparel. One is with foil, one is a metallic ink and another option is heat pressed vinyl. There’s also welding a piece of metal to a t-shirt, but I don’t really think that will catch on. So I’ll talk more about the first three.

Foiled Again

Applying foil to a t-shirt is a two-step process and it’s actually pretty cool. First, a layer of adhesive is screen printed onto the tee with whatever design is needed. After it’s cured, a section of thin foil material is heat pressed on top. When it’s pulled away, the foil in the glue-printed areas sticks and the rest is discarded, leaving the design in shiny, pretty foil.

After trying a sample in silver, I thought it looked amazing. Well, amazing in that it definitely achieved the shiny look I had seen in my client’s band photo (which was blurry if you remember). It shined. It was silver.

It has a very vintage look to it. It’s not perfect and flat like a solid color print, there are teeny tiny gaps in places. This could be due to the black heather material I printed/pressed it on.

I sent a sample off to our client, which they loved. A few months later, they made an order with foil, although they went with gold rather than silver. After pressing some trial shirts, I decided to get in touch with them to make sure it was the look they were going for. It turns out that even though they liked the silver, they wanted something with a more consistent, flat (yet still shiny) look (more on what we did later).

Bottom line: Foil can be a super cool look, but it will be on the vintage-y side, more like gold leaf than chrome bumper.

Metallic Inks

You can also use a metallic gold ink. There are a lot of choicesa nd not all get the same effect. The first one I tried was super dull. Like an aging heavy metal band from 1989, it looked a bit tired and washed up. It should not wear spandex.

Another gold was much shinier and had more of the metallic look, but still wasn’t exactly what our client was going for.

Bringing Back Vinyl

Let’s get this out of the way. I’m not a huge fan of putting vinyl on tees. I admit that it can have a very clean look, and my obsessive-compulsive need for clean lines gets a lot of satisfaction in pressing vinyl. I will always prefer putting ink on shirts over vinyl. Ink wears better over time and it just feels better on the shirt. 

That said, putting vinyl on jackets and other items that aren’t going to go through the washer every week is something I can get behind. Which is how we came to use gold vinyl on our client’s tees.

They decided to get some promo bomber jackets for their team (and these bombers are the bomb, bee tee dubs). The black ones would get gold crowns and lettering and the look worked so well I sent them another sample on a tee. Winner winner, vinyl dinner (um, gross). Yup. I did it, I put vinyl on tees. I lived. They loved it.

The look is super shiny, metallic and consistent. Our client is happy, so that’s a shiny happy win.

Foil me once, shame on you…

I haven’t given up on the foil. First, I really love the vintage look. It’s not right for everyone or every design, but I know there are people who will think it’s the very thing they want. I’ve also read about some tricks to filling in those tiny gaps by mixing the glue with colored ink. I will have to go back to the lab and see what happens.

Until next time, shine on, you crazy diamond.

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How Inside the Shop Screen Printing

Bella+Canvas 3001 Unisex Review

You can have my shirt when you pry it off my cold, dead torso.yellow bella 3001 copy

That’s how strongly I feel about the Bella+Canvas 3001 Unisex tee. In fact, it’s our go-to shirt for screen printing.

Here’s Bella’s description of this awesome tee:

This updated unisex essential fits like a well-loved favorite, featuring a crew neck, short sleeves and designed with superior combed and ring-spun cotton that acts as the best blank canvas for printing. Offered in a variety of solid and heather colors.

This shirt feels super soft to wear, it’s light (4.2 oz) and it’s 100% ringspun, airlume cotton. I love 100% cotton because it’s easy to maintain and breathes better than many blends. Plus, it looks fantastic on me. They don’t mention that on their website, but it’s true. Actually, this shirt looks good on every person we’ve sold it to or printed for. It’s just a great choice of tee when you need something that fits a wide range of bodies.

They also have some fantastic color choices in this tee.

For some reason, the pale yellow (pictured) feels a tiny bit lighter and easier to wear than darker colors like black or orange – but I allow for my imagination to have taken over here because I love the color so much. Some of my favorite printed Bella tees of ours are black.

The counterpart for the 3001 is the Ladies 6004. It’s basically the same shirt, but with slightly shorter sleeves and a tighter fit. Even so, the unisex t-shirt looks great on feminine bodies, which I can’t say for many other brands where frumpy seems to be an okay standard. This one I can actually suggest and still sleep at night.

If 100% Made in America is important to you, you’ve got options. They also have the 3001U, which is the same shirt but 100% made in the USA. There are fewer color choices, but maybe you can sleep better at night. Still, their policy on only working with overseas factories who don’t use sweatshop conditions makes me feel good about the brand in general.

This is a super value shirt, which is another reason I recommend it to our custom print clients. I believe it’s the lowest-priced shirt in the Bella+Canvas brand and for the money it’s far superior to brands like Gildan or Jerzees.

There are also some reasons I love this tee that only have to do with the screen printing process. These shirts are super easy to print on. First, they’re light (4.2 oz), so getting them on and off platens, folding back into boxes and all the other handling we do doesn’t make us feel like our arms will drop off after a run of 50. They also have a tight weave, so the ink goes on smooth like buttah.

We also have very few loose strings, holes and sewing weirdness when we get the blanks in our shop. Their consistency in quality is nice to rely on. We have had some issues with certain colors (you know, the exact ones we needed at the time) being out of stock at Bella and all our third-party vendors, which can be frustrating. So we have to be cautious about recommending it to customers, making sure we get their order in sooner than later.

So let’s sum up:

  • This shirt looks great on me
  • We get great printing results
  • It looks great on just about everyone
  • Super Duper great value

I realize that I don’t really have anything negative to say about this t-shirt. I decided to start off our t-shirt reviews with our favorite tee. Coincidentally, it’s also the one I look best wearing.

Questions? Just email sparky@sparkyfirepants.com. We’re listening!

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How Inside the Shop Screen Printing

How we screen print your t-shirt in multiple colors

Watch the video above, or if you’re pressed for time, read below!

Screen Printing Basics

Screen printing is a very old and really simple process. A stencil is made with your design on a mesh screen. When the screen is placed on a press, ink is pushed through the mesh only in the open areas of the stencil, where it sits on the t-shirt (or paper). The ink is then cured with heat so it will last through lots of washing and wearing.

Screen Printing Multiple Colors

When a design has more than one color, the colors in the design must be separated so that each can be printed individually. This is different from your desktop inkjet printer, where the colors are all mixed together inside the machine.

Once the colors are separated digitally, a screen is then made for each color. On the press, an ink color is chosen for each color in the design and printed one at a time.

Questions?

You can always ask us any questions and we’ll explain anything about the screen printing process and how it affects your apparel. Drop us a line at sparky@sparkyfirepants.com or call 818-835-2585.