July '21

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A W A R D S & C U S T O M I Z AT I O N M A K I N G S U B L I M A T I O N M O V E S | H O W A R D P O T T E R MAKING MOVES WITH SUBLIMATION MIXED MEDIA USING A LASER AND SUBLIMATION EQUIPMENT TO CREATE SOMETHING TRULY UNIQUE H ave you ever thought about how to create a mixed media design using sublimation and your laser? How would you do it? Is it easy for you or your staff to reproduce? Is it cost effective to make a healthy profit from the extra work? When you walk around the mall and see cool customized pieces, you might wonder how it's done. Most higher-end pieces are manufactured from the start that way, so they get to work with bolts or panels of fabrics that are flat and easier to work with. In our case as decorators, we add these customizations af- ter the fact, which we have to troubleshoot how to make work. You have to deal with what the fabric is made from, weave of the fabric, color (at times), push-pull of the material, quality of the dye, and more. It's a lot to think about! Around 2012, our company purchased a laser that mounted to our embroidery machines as an attachment. We initially bought it to create the distress look on apparel with ripped fab- ric. Once I realized we could not only cut partially through, but through thicker fabrics, we started messing around more with the equipment and what it could handle. TRYING SOMETHING NEW After a few weeks of experimenting, we had a customer that was itching for something new for their fire department. I came up with an idea for a mixed media look that I had never seen done before, so everything was new to me; I was learning every step of the way. The customer was ok with waiting since they were the first to have this process done. At the time we were only the 26th company in the United States with this laser. After all of the trials and errors, we figured all of our settings out — what stitch and cut depth we wanted to achieve the look we were going for. First, we took a 100% polyester shirt and cut a section of fabric out of it. We created a dye transfer and heat pressed the flames of the transfer onto the fabric. From there we had to put our tearaway backing on our hoop in our hooping station and take the sublimated fabric facing up and tape it down to the tearaway backing in all four cor- ners, so it wouldn't move. Then we slid the hoodie over the top of the sublimated material that was taped to the backing. When doing this process, make sure you do not shift the sub- limated material at all. Once the hoodie was positioned where we wanted it, we hooped the garment, creating a fabric sandwich that contains the hoodie on top, the sublimated fabric in the middle, and the backing at the end. Some companies use the tearaway and some don't. It depends on the look and feel you want. From there we loaded the design into the embroidery ma- chine and set our colors to run, and then set our laser cutting settings. Every laser is different. We wanted it to cut 95% of the way through the hoodie, so when we pulled the fab- ric, it frayed. Our machine, when started, sewed the outline of our design with a bean stitch, which sews all three layers together. Then the laser cut out the shapes. It was time to take our tweezers and remove the cut shapes, which exposed the polyester flames we created, making the hoodie look like it is on fire. It looks really cool, but you can see how many steps go into it. 3 0 G R A P H I C S P R O J U L Y 2 0 2 1 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M We created a dye transfer and heat pressed the flames of the transfer onto the fabric. (Image courtesy PJ Loomis)

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