The Uniform Monkeys: ZSK Sprint 6 from Stocks Embroidery

Chris Sullivan, production director

Tell us a bit about your business

We’d dabbled in garment printing for a couple of years before we started the schoolwear side of our business in 2017. We set up a website, bought an embroidery machine and organised pop-up shops to give people a chance to try on and order in person. In our third year we now have about 15 schools and preschools we deal with. It’s meant we needed more space, the ability for customers to collect orders and deal with us face-to-face, so we opened our shop in May this year.

What’s the latest embroidery machine you’ve bought?

A ZSK Sprint 6 from Stocks Embroidery. We bought it in August when we were having trouble keeping up with demand using our existing machines and relying on suppliers. It cost us £10,000.

What other machines, if any, did you look at before purchasing this one?

Earlier in the year we looked at other machines, in case we needed to make a decision quickly, including the Brother PR670 and PR1050, Happy, Tajima and Amaya single- head machines.

Why did you choose this specific make and model?

We only wanted to consider machines that produce a high quality result — only one [other] factor was as important to us and that was reliability. We knew we’d be running the machine for 12-16 hours a day at peak time and needed something with the build quality that wouldn’t let us down. The Sprint machines are so solid and, ultimately, the same engineering as the £80K multi-head models some of our garment suppliers use. We knew it could run and run and still produce top quality embroidery.

Is there anything you’d like to see in an upgrade or don’t particularly like about it?

I would like to have more needles, but we could have gone for the Sprint 7, which offers 18 needles instead of 12. For our work I couldn’t justify it, as I am seldom in need of more than 12 needles, but it would take away the need for me to re-thread colours occasionally. My only other niggle is that the USB ports are on the rear of the controller rather than the side, which is awkward. However a cheap USB hub solves that completely, so it is hardly a big deal.

What’s it like to use? Do you have any tips on how to get the most out of it?

It’s brilliant to use. It does exactly what it is meant to do over and over again, which isn’t exciting or surprising, but it is what we need it to do.We tend to run it at 1,000 stitches per minute (well below the 1,200 it can do), which keeps the stitch quality great, plus we can keep up with hooping garments and have a constant queue ready for this and our other machines. To get the best out of it I would say don’t ignore your basic maintenance. Oil the hook with each bobbin change, do a daily check of the stitch plate to clear out stray threads etc — quick things, but they keep everything working well. Factor in a proper service once a year when you’re not busy. If you expect great results and minimal interruptions, use only good quality threads and backings.

What type of work is it used for?

Our primary market is schoolwear, but obviously word of mouth spreads and people approach you for all sorts of work for their businesses and clubs. It’s ideal for runs up to 50-60 garments a day (breast logo), but I’ve used this machine flat out to produce between 800-1,000 garments in a fortnight during our peak period.

What other machines do you have? Does your latest machine work in combination with any of them?

We also have vinyl cutters and heat presses. Combinations of garments with printed backs and embroidered breast logos are commonplace in workwear — I’d definitely recommend having both options so there isn’t much you can’t do. We also have an older ZSK (maybe eight years old now), which runs in tandem with the new one, sharing many of the same parts and taking the same punishment day in day out. Being able to run different jobs, or colourways, at the same time (unlike on a multi head) has been extremely useful for us.

What would be your advice to others thinking of buying an embroidery machine?

Rank your priorities – is reliability most important, or speed, output quality or portability? Then look at how long you expect to own that machine and decide which machine seems to offer the best value, not just which is cheapest. Visit shows to collect info and ask questions to get a feel for which machines you like and which companies you trust to support you.