Tri-blends have seen rapid growth in the US and they’ve now started cropping up more regularly in the UK. Jeffrey Cooper, vice-president marketing of Gildan, reveals everything you need to know about this ultra soft fabric, and offers you the chance to claim a free tri-blend sample (scroll down to find the details)

From left: The Women’s Tri-Blend Deep Scoop 1/2 Sleeve Tee (6756L), the Adult Tri-Blend Tee (6750), the Women’s Tri-Blend V-Neck Tee (6750VL), the Adult Tri-Blend V-Neck Tee (6752)

What are tri-blend T-shirt fabrics?
Tri-blend fabric uses a yarn that has a blending of three fibres: cotton, polyester and rayon. Rayon, known as viscose in some parts of the world, is what makes tri-blend unique and what gives the fabric such a soft hand and beautiful drape when worn. Rayon is a natural cellulosic fibre that was originally developed as alternative to silk in 1912.

What are the main benefits of tri-blends over 100% cotton and cotton/polyester blends?
The benefits of tri-blends are a super soft hand, a better drape, it breathes like cotton and can have great mechanical stretch and recovery. They can either be made in heathers or solids.

Do all tri-blends use the same yarn combinations and proportions?
Tri-blends use the same fibre combinations, but they can be in different proportions. For example, the Anvil tri-blends are 50% polyester/25% rayon/25% combed ringspun cotton, but you can also find some other proportions like 75% polyester/13% cotton/12% rayon. Cost is really the main difference – they both perform similarly. You can find tri-blend styles with a higher polyester composition are positioned as performance over fashion.

What markets are they best suited for?
Tri-blends are very popular in the US and Canadian markets right now as the market continues to demand softer and lighter fabrics. We are starting to see more traction in the European market and growing interest in the Asia-Pacific region.

How does the price of a tri-blend tee compare with that of similar weight 100% cotton T-shirt?
Tri-blend is a more premium fabric than a 100% cotton tee shirt. Pricing can vary depending on market conditions.

How popular are they in the UK?
Today, tri-blend is definitely more popular in the US marketplace, both in retail and in imprint, than it is in the UK. However, UK consumers are seeing more tri-blend products coming through performance and fashion retail, creating an awareness of the benefits of the fabric base at a consumer level. This will continue to pull through strongly into the printwear market as decorators begin to understand better the benefits to end users, and also what decoration methods can be employed.

What decoration techniques are best suited to tri-blends?
Plastisol screen printing, digital printing, embroidery and even sublimation on lighter colours.

Are there any potential issues that decorators need to be aware of?
Typical issues you can see are dye migration or scorching due to the 50% polyester in the composition. Make sure you are using the manufacturer’s recommended printing temperature to avoid this.

What advice can you give to Images readers who are looking to sell more Anvil Tri-Blend T-shirts?
Know what your customer wants and where your market is trending. Tri-blends started out in the fashion industry, but are becoming more mainstream – you can see it happening already at retail. Tri-blend is an opportunity to upsell to your customers as it’s a more premium fabric and you will tend to see more cut ‘n’ sew features (side seams, hem shaping and so on) that you may not see on a normal cotton shirt. We are also starting to see tri-blends cross over into performance category which is driven by the athleisure trend – a collision of performance and fashion.

Jeffrey Cooper

Try an Anvil tri-blend and see the difference for yourself!

Have you discovered the soft feel, great print surface and fabulous drape of tri-blend tees yet? If not, now is your chance: Anvil and Images are teaming up to offer Images readers a free sample Anvil tri-blend tee.

To claim your Anvil tri-blend tee, click here