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Embroidering Specialty Materials: Fleece

29th June 2010

Embroidering Specialty Materials: Fleece

Because our parent company does embroidery and has for a number of years,  we often get questions about how to embroider a certain material.  Over the years,  we’ve probably embroidered almost every material you can imagine,  and we like to share our knowledge.  That’s why we’re starting a new series,   “Embroidering Specialty Materials” on this blog.  The first installment dealt with embroidering performance wear.

EnMart’s corporate headquarters is in Northern Michigan,  which is beautiful but can also be beyond cold in the Winter months.  For that reason,  a lot of us up here are huge fans of fleece.   An embroidered fleece jacket can make a great fashion statement,  but the material can be a bit tricky to embroider.  If you’re tackling embroidering fleece for the first time,  here are a few tips that might make your project go a little more smoothly.

Tip 1:  Fleece stretches – Like a lot of specialty materials, fleece stretches.  You need to make sure the fabric is adequately stabilized and is hooped so the fabric is taut but not stretched.

Tip 2:  Fleece can be crushed – Unlike some fabrics,  fleece has fibers that can be crushed.  If you hoop too tightly,  your fabric will have hoop marks when your embroidery is completed.     You should pay more attention to how taut the fabric is when hooped,  and less attention to how tight the hoop is on the fabric.  It is also recommended that you hoop your fabric and stabilizer together.   If you do have hoop marks they may be  eliminated by running your fingers over the hooped area once the hoop has been removed.

Tip 3:  A hoop my not be necessary – If you’re afraid of hoop marks,  you can embroider your fleece product without hooping it.  All you need is an adhesive backing or some regular backing sprayed with an adhesive spray.  Hoop the backing and then position the fleece on the adhesive.   Use a topping to ensure your stitches don’t sink into the fabric and embroider.

Tip 4:  Topping is a must – Fleece is a plush fabric,  and your stitches can sink into it easily if they’re not stabilized.   Use of a water soluble topping will help keep your stitches on top of the fabric.

Tip 5:  Your density may vary – When it comes to the density of your design,  opinions vary on how dense is too dense.  Some designers recommend that your design should be less dense,  and others recommend more density.  The best way to know if a design will work on your fleece is to do a test run on a scrap sample.

posted in Machine Embroidery Tips | 1 Comment

28th June 2010

Choosing Machine Embroidery Thread

There are a lot of reasons that machine embroiderers choose to use the thread that they use.  Some people use the thread that came with their machine, on the theory,  I would guess,  that the people who sold the machine must know which thread will work best on it.   Other people tend to purchase the thread that has a name they’ve heard,  probably because  they figure a name that’s heard often and seen everywhere must denote a popular thread.   There are those who buy thread based on the advice of friends or colleagues who happen to use and like a particular thread.  Then, of course, there are the people that select the thread they use based on cost,  and who are always looking for a better price per cone.

EnMart, or rather our parent company Ensign Emblem,  has a lot of experience in selecting thread.  Over the 30+ years the company has been in business,  we’ve probably used thread from every major brand.  We have gone through the pain of converting colors from one brand to another.  We’ve dealt with the chaos that comes from discovering that a thread that look great on paper doesn’t work so well in reality.   The company has tried thread based on recommendations from those we know and trust,  and we’ve also looked at thread purely from the standpoint of how much it cost us per cone.   As the years,  and the threads,  have come and gone,  we’ve learned a few things about how to choose and embroidery thread.

The first thing we learned, as has already been mentioned in another blog post, is the high cost of cheap thread.  Saving a couple cents or a couple dollars per cone looks very attractive when all you’re looking at is the actual physical money that isn’t leaving your pocket.  The problem is that they money you save on purchasing the thread is probably going to be lost in overtime costs,  increased production costs and reduced quality of your stitch-outs.  I’m not going to claim that more expensive thread equals better thread,  because that isn’t always the case,  but I will say that thread that’s being sold for just a few dollars probably is that cheap because it didn’t cost much to make, and so may be lacking in quality.

The second thing we learned is that the best way to determine if a thread is right for you is to try it.  Most companies,  EnMart included,  will provide a sample of the thread they sell so that prospective customers can try it.  Samples should be run in the normal environment of your shop on the sorts of jobs you would normally do.  You want to determine if the thread will work in the conditions that will exist during day to day production.

The third and perhaps most important thing we learned is that you need to pay attention to all the characteristics of the thread,  not just one.  Machine embroidery thread needs to be colorfast,  it needs to have good tensile strength, and it needs to run consistently in your machines.     If the thread runs when it gets washed,  or fades quickly, you’ll be getting a lot of orders back from your customers.   If it lacks tensile strength,  you’ll lose a lot of production time fixing thread breaks.   If you get inconsistent results when the thread runs through your machine you’ll have to spend more time watching the machine and more time adjusting the digitizing of your designs and the tension on your machines to adjust to the inconsistencies in the thread.

Obviously,  since we use and sell it,  we think the best thread and the right thread for you is Iris thread and I’m not going to try and be disingenuous and pretend otherwise.   If you’ve met us at a show,  you probably already have a sample of the thread and have hopefully given it a try.  If not,  contact us and we’ll be happy to send you a sample.  We’re confident,  one you try it,  Iris thread will become your machine embroidery thread of choice.

posted in Thread | 1 Comment

25th June 2010

The Friday Blog Round-Up 6/25/10

First up today I want to start with a post that I’ve been mentioning everywhere because I think it is so spot on.  It’s a post about how people are not brands and it perfectly echoes how I think about and operate in social media venues.  People who think they’re brands make me itchy.  Brands are brands,  people are people.  I want to interact with people on Facebook and Twitter,  not brands.

Second on the list today is a post about car flags from Black Duck Inc.   As Erich points out in this post,  car flags can be a great promotional item.  He also mentions something that hadn’t occurred to me,  car flags can be a great way to unify a group.   If you’re looking to unify your group,  do keep in mind that EnMart does sell car flags that can be sublimated.

Third in the round-up today is an announcement from the NNEP.  They’re having a design contest to find a new conference design for the 15th anniversary of their trade show, conference and garage sale in Ohio.   The person who designs the winning entry will be given free conference registration.    You can find details on the contest in the blog post.

Fourth on the list today is Odd Guy Art,  just because I love the sense of humor these guys have.   Plus,  I’m a lot like Marie,  if you don’t count books,  I’m not really about possessions.     In any case,  I appreciate they way Graham and Marie run their company and I like their designs.  I’m sure you will too, so please stop by and check them out.

Fifth up today is this list from ASI of the top 10 U.S. made promotional products .   I have to say I can’t see much use for the ice cream hat,  but  some of the others would be useful.

To close today I want to add a plea for information about embroidery and sublimation blogs.  I do a search every once in a while to see if I can find more blogs with which I can beef up my blogroll,  but I’d also love to know what you guys read and enjoy.  If you have a blog or know of a blog you think should be on one of our blogrolls, please let me know.

posted in Around the Blogosphere | Comments Off

23rd June 2010

Embroidering Specialty Materials: Performance Wear

Because our parent company does embroidery and has for a number of years,  we often get questions about how to embroider a certain material.  Over the years,  we’ve probably embroidered almost every material you can imagine,  and we like to share our knowledge.  That’s why we’re starting a new series,   “Embroidering Specialty Materials” on this blog.  Today marks the first installment in this series,  during which we will discuss embroidering performance wear.

As some of you may already know,  EnMart has added Vapor Apparel to our product offerings.   I’m sure many people think of these garments as perfect for sublimation,  and they are,  but they also can be used to create some awesome embroidered performance wear.

Some embroiderers avoid creating embroidered performance wear because the fabric is a little trickier to handle.  Like any specialty fabric,  it requires some trial and error and a bit of know how to successful embroider a garment made from a performance fabric.   Today I wanted to share a few tips that can help you create the best embroidered performance wear possible.

Tip 1:  More stabilization is better than less. Stretchy fabrics,  a description that characterizes a lot of the performance fabrics,  require more stabilization.   Using multiple layers of a thin, sheer  cutaway will help stabilize the garment without adding a ton of bulk.

Tip 2:  Combat fabric movement with adhesive – Performance fabrics may be either slippery or stretchy,  so they’re more likely to move when being embroidered.  To combat this problem,  use an adhesive stabilizer or an adhesive spray.  This will hold the fabric in place and minimize slippage and stretching.

Tip 3:  Sew from the center out – Sewing toward an area that has already been embroidered may cause the fabric to bunch or wrinkle.  Designs for performance materials should be created to be sewed from the center out.  This method will push any wrinkles away from the design.

Tip 4:  Smooth is good – When you hoop your performance wear,  make sure the fabric is smooth and taut.  The fabric needs to be hooped tightly enough to prevent movement,  but not so tight that it distorts the fabric.

Tip 5:   Plan to experiment – Every machine sews differently, and every fabric reacts a bit differently so make sure you build in extra time when sewing performance materials.   Plan to sew out a shirt or two before you start running the actual job.  This will help ensure your settings and tensions are correct and let you get a feel for how the fabric sews before you begin the actual garments you will sell.

posted in Machine Embroidery Tips | 3 Comments

18th June 2010

The Friday Blog Round-Up 6/18/10

First up this week is a post about who determines the value of your product from the Fashion Incubator blog.   The post makes a very good point,  your customers decide the value of your product,  not you.   If you overthink the entire process,  you can end up never getting your product line off the ground.   By the way,  as long as you’re visiting the blog,  you should also check out the series on what kind of entrepreneur you are.   That’s a good one too.

Second this week is a post from the NNEP blog regarding the new 1099 regulations.   I’ve heard bits and pieces about this,  but don’t know the whole story.   From what I’ve read,  this will add a lot more paperwork to our business lives.  If this is something that concerns you,  the NNEP post will tell you how you can register that concern.

On third base this week,  we’ve got a post from the Retail Minded blog.  If you have a retail store,  you know staying on budget can be an issue.  Nicole offers some tips on how to cut your monthly retail budget including things like starting an online store,  or reducing or eliminating landline phone service.   If you’re looking for ways to cut costs in your store,  check this post out.

My fourth mention this week is from a blog called UnMarketing.  I really like this blog,  both because I’m in Marketing myself, and because these posts make a lot of sense.   This particular post discusses  the fact that emotion and opinion is what gets people talking.   People spread content they find interesting or about which they care.  If you want people to talk about your business,  you have to give them something that makes them want to talk.

Fifth on the list today is a post about creative sales approaches from the ASI Central Team Blog.   I especially like the superhero idea.  I admit all of these may not work for every business,  but the post is a great way to get you thinking about creative ways to promote your particular business.

Finally,  today I wanted to do a small promo for the EnMart Facebook page and Twitter feed.   We love new followers and fans and friends,  so if you’re not following us or haven’t yet made your liking of us public,  please do so.

posted in Around the Blogosphere | Comments Off

16th June 2010

Show Us What You’ve Made

I have to confess,  I love seeing the things that people have made with the products that we sell.  Whether it’s an embroidered jacket or a sublimated mousepad,  it’s so much fun knowing that something we did helped that new product come into being.  I’m a huge fan of the work our customers do,  and quite in awe of how they do it.  Since my talent is words and not visual art,  it always amazes me how some people can take individual components like thread or sublimation ink and use them to create something breathtaking.

Over the time EnMart has been in existence,  and especially since we started doing trade shows,  I’ve had the privilege and the pleasure of seeing a lot of really cool items that had been made using EnMart products.   Unfortunately,  snapping a pic at a trade show isn’t always the easiest thing to do.  Plus,  even if we had snapped a picture,  we didn’t really have a venue in which to display them.  We’ve discussed adding a gallery of customer work to our website in the past,  but somehow that just never seemed like the right option.

Now, I’m pleased to say,  we do have a venue that seems like the right option.  As part of our marketing initiative,  we have created a Facebook page for EnMart.   One of the things this page allows fans to do,  besides following what’s happening at EnMart,  is upload photos to the EnMart fan page.

We would like to encourage all our customers and fans to add photos of the items they have  made using EnMart products to our fan page.   If you’re unsure how to upload photos to a fan page,  you can view this short video tutorial.   (Note:  the tutorial was not made by us,  and is for another organization,  but illustrates the process nicely).  If you’ve embroidered or sublimated something awesome,  please share it with the rest of the EnMart community.

posted in About EnMart | Comments Off

11th June 2010

The Friday Blog Round-Up 6/11/10

First up today is Kathleen Fasanella’s post “The Difference Between a Wannabe and a Newbie“.   This is the bit that really rings true for me:  “There’s a big difference between a wannabe and a newbie. People who have a skill or something going for them, have a confidence from outside the business. They are centered in their place in the world even if they’re only now coming into this one. They’re newbies, never wannabes.”  It’s an interesting take on learning a new business or industry.

Second this week is a great post from Erich Campbell of Black Duck Design.  He is my colleague in blogging for Stitches Magazine  and he has a terrific post up on his Stitches blog about how your substrate can effect digitizing and finished embroidery.   He’s got some great tips about how to make almost any substrate work in your embroidery machine.

Third on the list is an informative post from the Retail Minded blog about leasing a retail site.   While some of us tend to operate almost entirely online,  the retail storefront is still alive and well.  If you’re considering having a brick and mortar site,  check out this blog post for some tips on finding the best retail location for you.

Fourth up today is another great post from Urban Threads showing how people have used their designs.  I’m a huge fan of the design aesthetic of Urban Threads,   their designs are the kind I would sew out if I had an embroidery machine.   They have an awesome collection of pictures,  from tattoos to designs embellished with rhinestones to some body painting,  it’s all in the Show ‘N Tell Gallery.   Check it out!

Fifth on the agenda today is a little pimping for EnMart’s other blog SubliStuff.    We have a post up on that blog that gives instructions on how to sublimate a shot glass.    I like doing the tip posts for SubliStuff because I always learn something new.  In this case,  I learned that you can sublimate a shot glass in a toaster oven,   which I thought was kind of neat.   I also learned not to cool the shot glasses with water,  as they might shatter.  Instead,  use a cooling rack or a small fan for air cooling.

Finally,  I wanted to recommend three great resources,  all forums,  that some of you may not have seen yet.   The first is T-shirt Forums.  I’m pretty sure almost everyone knows about this forum as it is one of the biggest decoration forums on the Internet.   There is a lot of good information here, although you may have to search to find what you need.  There are also a lot of threads on this forum.

The second forum is the Apparel Decorators Forum.  This is a smaller forum,  with a great group of members who are very open and friendly.   This forum also has a lot of good information and is a great place for people who are just starting out.

Last but not least,  I wanted to mention a forum that is about small business,  but not specifically about decorating.    The aptly named Small Business Forum is where people gather to talk over the ins and outs and ups and downs of running a small business.  While it doesn’t have much of a decoration component,  there are a lot of helpful tips on running a business.   In the interest of full disclosure,  I should mention that I am an Admin on this forum.

If you’re looking to make connections with other business owners,  check out one of these forums.  If you do check them out,  make sure you say hello.  I’m EnMartian on T-Shirt Forums and ADF and Kristines on the Small Business Forum.

posted in Around the Blogosphere | Comments Off

8th June 2010

Press 3 for EnMart

It feels a bit like I’ve been writing a lot of “things are changing” posts lately, but things are changing and some explanations need to be given.  EnMart is adding new products.  We’re adding new locations.   We’re even adding a new, and fancier, phone system.  Change is a good thing,  and can bring benefits,  but it sometimes does need a bit of explaining.   Today I want to explain the changes to the phone system and how they will benefit you.

First,  some background.  When EnMart started,  we had an entirely separate phone system from the one used by our parent company, Ensign Emblem.   EnMart was a brand new company and, while we had hopes it would succeed and prosper,  we didn’t know for sure that it would.  Revamping the main company phone system costs money and time,  and it seemed prudent to wait until the volume of calls had grown and the company was established before we did the work and spent the money.

Now, almost three years down the road,  the need for a new phone system for EnMart has become acute.   Our call volume has grown exponentially and the only way to provide the type of customer service we pride ourselves on providing is to create a larger phone system with more capabilities.  So that’s what we’ve done.

Today,  when you call EnMart,  instead of simply being connected right to customer service,  you’ll be greeted with an introductory menu (audio recorded by yours truly).   To go directly to EnMart personnel,  you can either dial the extension, if you know it,  of the person to whom you wish to speak  or press 3 to be taken to the next available customer service representative.   There’s no complicated menu to listen to,  and no on hold purgatory.  You press three and your call is answered. It’s that simple.

This phone system will allow for quicker access to specific people.   It will allow EnMart customer service personnel to transfer you to our resident experts without having to ask you to make another call.   It will provide more available lines for incoming calls,  so no one will ever get a busy signal or have to wait on hold for their call to be answered.  Basically,  it will allow us to serve you better and more efficiently,  without placing more barriers in your way when you make a call.

We think that’s a win-win for all of us.

posted in About EnMart | Comments Off

7th June 2010

The Exceptions to the Rule

With the opening of EnMart South in Georgia,  EnMart now has four locations across the country.  Our goal is to have locations that will provide a one or at most two day shipment time to our customers,  and I think we’ve accomplished that pretty well.   There are, however, a few exceptions to the one or two day shipping rule.  Most, but not all, of the exceptions are things which we have to create when they are ordered.

One of those exceptions is, for instance,   blank patches.   Blank patch orders are currently filled from the Michigan facility.   So, regardless of where you are in the country,  your blanks will come from Michigan.    If you order Ntrans screenprint transfers,  you order will be filled either from EnMart South in Georgia,  or EnMart West in Nevada.  Sublimation supplies currently all ship from Michigan as does our NaturaLink.

The goal is to eventually have all supplies in all locations,  or to at least have certain supplies in the locations that have the most orders for those supplies,  but that sort of thing takes time.   Right now we’re working on building the correct levels of stock at the satellite locations  which is an interesting challenge as our business continues to grow,  and as we add more and more products.

I also wanted to remind everyone that all  locations are warehouses,  not stores.  We do allow and encourage local pickup,  but we ask that you place the order through our website or through our tool free customer service line first before you go to the location to pick up your order.   The satellite locations are not equipped to handle payments,  and require a few hours to fill orders for pick-up.   Running your order through the website or through customer service prior to going to the location will ensure that your order is ready for pick-up when you arrive.

Mostly I wanted to thank all our customers for their patience as we work on getting all the satellite locations online and building the ideal stock levels in each location.   We appreciate your support,  your interest and your feedback.

posted in About EnMart | Comments Off

4th June 2010

The Friday Blog Round-Up 6/4/10

First up this week,  I want to say thank you to Angie from AK Designs,  who actually reads what I write here.   She wrote a terrific post that was inspired by my post about communicating with customers.   I love that what I wrote made her think.  I also think, based on what she wrote,  that she’s doing a great job communicating with her customers.  The fact that she’s worrying about it, shows she’s aware how important communication is.

Second,  the  GSSA blog has a great post about promoting your business inexpensively.   Sometimes the simplest things are the things we forget to do,  so this is a good reminder.   The one tip that I really like is to barter your services for radio or television time.  I used to work in local television, and I can tell you tv stations always need swag and logo wear.   Making a deal where you exchange your products for advertising services is a win-win for both sides.

Third,  we have a timely article from the NNEP blog reminding us all that persistence pays when it comes to sales.   Your prospects have full, busy lives.   They may be very interested in what you have to offer,  but time may be in short supply.   If you are persistent in keeping your name in from of your potential customers,  you most likely will get a sale at some point.   Put yourself in your customer’s place,  and you’ll see that lack of contact doesn’t always mean lack of interest.

Fourth up, we have Odd Guy Art.  They seem to pop up every time I do one of these posts,  but that’s because they consistently write good stuff.   This week’s mention if for their post on Social Media Marketing.   They make a lot of the same recommendations I would, including the most important one, KNOW YOUR TARGET MARKET!   They have some terrific advice regarding social media marketing.

In the fifth slot this week are a couple of posts from Sewing for Cash.   It appears that embroiderers and quilters now have iPhone apps that are developed specifically for them.    There’s this hand embroidery app for those who do hand embroidery.   There is also a quilt block app for those who quilt.   It truly amazes me the tools that are available these days.   If you have an iPhone, you might want to check these out.

Finally, Urban Threads has turned two years old,  and to celebrate their birthday, they’re holding a contest.   If you’ve used an Urban Threads design to create a project,   you can send your design to Urban Threads and be entered into a contest to win one of 200 $10 gift certificates.    Check out their blog for more details  and to say Happy Birthday!

posted in Around the Blogosphere | 2 Comments

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