Sign & Digital Graphics

Start Here October '18

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75 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 1 8 Hooping: It can be difficult to hoop a garment straight to the seams (or adjacent structures like pockets) so that it won't appear skewed and to keep tension firm without excessive stretch. You must adjust hoops for differing garment thicknesses and materi- als, so hoops aren't so tight that the garment is crushed with a permanent 'burn' ring nor so loose that the material crumples and shifts during stitching. This tight, yet undistorted hooping is critical to pucker-free designs. Cap framing is an entirely differ- ent animal, requiring you to smooth the cap around a cylindrical gauge and strap the crown into place. These elusive skills benefit from direct education or, at least, video examples. Hooping is one of those things one develops a feel for with experience, but benefits from evaluation from a pro early on. The chief knowledge component for hooping is in select- ing the proper stabilizer. A single piece of medium cutaway will suffice for most flat garments with a well-digitized design, while caps require only tearaway from pole to pole of the cap gauge to be properly stable. Those two types are ubiquitous, but modern embroiderers enjoy a broader selection of useful stabiliz- ers. Stretchy performance materials and light garments benefit from thinner and similarly stretch-resistant no-show mesh and performance wear specific stabilizers, for example. Your stabilizer vendor often offers 'recipes' of their tested combinations that serve as a good starting point. Finishing: Though seemingly simple, finishing requires atten- tion to detail for the best presentation of the completed decorated garment. Learn to carefully cut away most of the excess stabi- lizer leaving adequate area to avoid cutting garments or nicking embroidery. Holes or unraveling designs are a total loss. Learn to trim surface connecting stitches that aren't trimmed on the machine without leaving fuzzy 'tails' and how to steam, fold, and pack for presentation. Finishing is your last chance for quality control and determines the initial experience your customer has with your product. When the box opens, finishing comes first. The Bottom Line Ultimately, commercial embroidery is about commerce. You may work hard to be skilled at the trade, but you won't have a chance to keep doing the work if you don't make the money it takes to survive. To that end, these are embroidery-specific business tips to keep in mind. Know your overhead, plan for profit, and price accordingly. Always know what it costs to keep yourself running. Know the cost to be in your location, the energy required to run equipment, the costs of your supplies, and the labor needed to decorate a piece. Measure costs but plan for expansion, repair, and profit, and price accordingly, accounting for the work you can reasonably do with available equipment and time. If that's something your customers won't pay, you need to work on find- ing customers that will or more efficient ways to oper- ate. Start by pricing below what you need to operate, maintain, and reinvest, and you might as well quit rather than work hard for too little and go under anyway. Have a market in mind before acquiring equip- ment. Whether it's your first machine or adding a decoration process, don't let the desire to create make you commit before you have a market. Start with a clear idea of who you will service, what unique experience you can offer, and what this group of people needs. You can operate and build a market entirely without equipment by selling while outsourcing your production. Contract decorators exist to fulfill that role. Always try not to justify the costs of a machine before you have a plan and a target to which you'll sell its produce. Before you get to full production, you have to have the hoops you need and be able to uni- formly hoop, set machine tensions and run. When looking for your machine, make sure to check in with more than the manfacturer; see what your peers in the industry think about the brand, look out for availability of repair and support, and look for the best fit for your market and support. Continued on page 92

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