Softshell jackets are popular and versatile choices across many market sectors

However, for some decorators they represent a challenge to decorate – dye migration, press marks and needle damage are all cited as issues. Yet by following the correct procedures, softshells can be decorated easily and to a high and repeatable standard. Stocks, Resolute, TheMagicTouch and Screen Print World show you how in these step-by-step guides to personalising the Gildan Hammer Unisex Softshell Jacket.

STEP-BY-STEP: HEAT-TRANSFER VINYL ON A SOFTSHELL

Heat-transfer vinyl by TheMagicTouch

In this step-by-step, Nathan Newbury of TheMagicTouch demonstrates how to apply MagiCut 123 Flex onto the Gildan softshell jacket.

“Heat-transfer vinyls are cut using a cutter and applied using a heat press,” he explains. “The process is clean, simple and affordable.” In this example, Nathan used a Graphtec CE7000-60 cutter and a Beta Maxi heat press. He reports that TheMagicTouch sells more than 200 different garment vinyls, from glitter and flock to stretch flex and soft metallics, and says they are perfect for the application of single- and two-colour logos, lettering, numbers and designs onto almost every type of textile.

Remember to protect the zip during this process, warns Nathan, and press at a low temperature to avoid the risk of press marks and/or dye migration. MagiCut 123 Flex has the advantage of allowing you to choose high temperature application (using a 3-5 second press at 160°C) for speed, or low temperature application (120°C for 20 seconds with a cold peel) for easily marked or sensitive fabrics; this is a good option for some softshells.

www.themagictouch.co.uk

(1) Load MagiCut 123 Flex into the cutter and send your artwork to the cutter using design software. Cut and weed the flex

(2) Secure the weeded flex with heat tape to the Gildan softshell jacket

(3) Place the jacket on the heat press. Use a T-Pad to protect the zip and release paper to protect the garment, then press for three seconds at 160°C

(4) Peel the backing sheet off when cold

(5) The finished jacket decorated using heat-transfer vinyl

STEP-BY-STEP: EMBROIDERING A SOFTSHELL

Embroidery by Stocks Industrial Embroidery Solutions

According to Andrew Stocks, director at Stocks Industrial Embroidery Solutions, a great way to start embroidery on softshell jackets is to use a Towa digital bobbin and thread regulator. “This device will allow you to set both the lower bobbin and the top thread tension of your manufacturer’s given specification.”

Next up is the choice of stabiliser. “On this occasion we would suggest TC-50 cut-away backing due to the stable and fine construction of the backing, which will reduce puckering on the softshell material, but not appear bulky behind afterwards,” explains Andrew. “TC-50 is a fine, opaque backing with multi-directional properties that allow double strength when cross laying the weave of  two pieces.”

Both the needle point and the needle size play an important role when embroidering softshell jackets. In the Groz Beckert range in the needle system DB X K5, which Andrew says is used in most industrial embroidery machines, there is the normal round point (R), used for the embroidery of textiles, leather, artificial leather and coated textiles; the round point with small ball point (RG), which is a universal point used for the embroidery of knitted and textile material such as microfibre; the light ball point (FFG), for the embroidery of knitted fabrics; and the medium ball point (FG), for the embroidery of elastic or coarsely meshed sewing fabric and tulle (different manufacturers may use different point codes).

There are two that stand out for softshell, he notes: the normal point R, which is the standard point form and has a slim, conical shape with no point supplement, and the light ball point FFG, which displaces woven and knitted threads, directly piercing the spaces and avoiding damage to the material.

“We would recommend testing the two on the garment and see which gives the optimum performance as this can all be one big recipe, including factors from the design, the fabric, the needle and the thread,” says Andrew.

The final hurdle is the framing of the garment. “If you hoop the garment too tight, you will bruise and mark the fabric. Hooping too slack will result in fabric movement and stitch displacement.” Andrew recommends the HoopMaster Mighty Hoops, a strong magnetic hoop that he says can be used on almost any embroidery machine. “There is no need to adjust the outer ring of the hoop because it holds the garment with magnetic force, and automatically adjusts for different thicknesses.”

He concludes: “To summarise, we advise users to check the tensions on the machine, use the correct stabiliser for your garment, select the best needle for the garment, frame the garment correctly with the correct tension, and always run a test first.”

www.stocks.co.uk

(1) Put the back of the HoopMaster magnetic frame in the fixture. Lay the sheets of TC50 cut-away backing in position, covering the back of the frame

(2) Put the jacket over the board and fixture, leaving the plastic arms out

(3) Position the magnetic frame on top of the plastic arms and then press down to ‘attract’ the back of the frame. The hoop is now in position

(4) Load the frame onto the embroidery machine. Stocks used a ZSK machine in this step-by-step

(5) Start the embroidery – remember to use either an R or FFG needle with softshell fabric

(6) The embroidered Gildan jacket

STEP-BY-STEP: DTG PRINTING ONTO A SOFTSHELL

DTG printing by Resolute DTG

According to Colin Marsh, managing director of Resolute DTG, printing a softshell jacket using a DTG printer was, until recently, “quite a task”. Thanks to the introduction of the Resolute DTG Poly transfer film designed for water-based ink, it is now possible to DTG print many types of garment that do not have a high cotton content, he reports.

“This walk-through explains the process from start to finish when using a Resolute Green Button DTG printer – this may be different on other systems when using the same Resolute DTG film products.” He adds that the main differences between DTG printing directly onto a cotton or cotton/polyester garment and using this method to print are the print mode used and the fact that no pretreatment is required.

A special print mode on the RIP is required to prepare the image correctly for printing onto transfer film. The image must be mirrored, with the CMYK portion of the image printed first; this must then be backed up by the white ink used as the underbase. In order to get soft edges a special rendering method is used, which may not be present in entry-level RIPs. Soft edging may be required to print complex images such as white smoke or graduations that fade off into the garment.

www.resoluteink.co.uk

(1) Once the image has been prepared for print, place a sheet of Resolute DTG Poly transfer film matt side up on the shirt platen of your DTG printer. Secure this on all four corners with magic tape and make sure it is pulled tight to avoid the film buckling once it gets wet with the ink. Now, print your image and get ready for the next stage of the process – this must be done while the ink is still wet

(2) Place the printed film on a clean work surface and sprinkle the wet DTG ink with the Resolute DTG Transfer adhesive–it is important to remember this is not the regular adhesive used for screen printed plastisol transfers. Make sure all the ink is covered with an ample covering of the adhesive. Agitating the film will make sure all the little nooks and crannies of the image get coated with enough adhesive

(3) Tip the remaining adhesive into a plastic box ready to use again. Make sure all the adhesive that is not bonded to the ink is shaken off the film or it might show as a shadow when the film is pressed

(4) The adhesive must now be cured. The simplest way to do this is with a heat gun normally used for removing paint. Move the gun from left to right, approximately 8cm away from the film – this melts the adhesive and creates a barrier between the ink and the garment

(5) Place the softshell onto the heat press. Position the DTG transfer film, cover with a sheet of silicone paper and press for 15 seconds on medium pressure. Once the heat press is open leave the garment and film to cool for around 10 seconds – this is a hot-peel process, but it should be done at around 100°C for optimum quality. Peel in a single, steady motion

(6) It is quite normal to see some ink deposits left on the film after peeling, but if an excessive amount of ink is left on the film then the process needs tweaking for that particular softshell jacket. Here is the finished hi-res image produced using traditional DTG printing with no pretreatment, which can be used for all types of garment including hi-vis, polyester and softshell jackets

STEP-BY-STEP: SCREEN PRINTING ONTO A SOFTSHELL

Screen printing by Screen Print World

Screen printing on softshell jackets is a relatively straightforward affair, advises Dave Roper, managing director of Screen Print World, provided you use the appropriate pallets, off-contact and inks. You’ll also need to pay extra careful attention to your screens – pinholes, in particular – and controlling the temperature in your dryer, as mistakes can be costly. Follow Dave’s step-by-step guide to nail your softshell prints from the start.

www.screenprintworld.co.uk

(1) Spray glue only works with single-ply jackets, so set up a ‘jacket hold’ pallet. This special pallet holds two- or three-ply jackets in place while printing and creates a tight surface that doesn’t move

(2) Set up your screens as usual and make sure the off-contact is about the thickness of a £1 coin. Always do a sample print before attempting the first jacket

(3) To get the best print results use a good quality ink. Here, we’ve used Amex Plastisol Low Bleed White with a fibre bond additive–this is a low-cure fixer that improves washfastness and will help the ink cure to the surface of the jacket. We have used a low-bleed ink to prevent dye migration

(4) Print as usual and make sure you have taped all the target marks up and that there are no pin holes. Mistakes at this point on jackets are very costly, and one jacket ruined could be the profit on the job, so print with caution and doublecheck everything before you start. After printing, give the jacket a final flash dry at a low temperature until touch dry – this makes it easier to remove from the press

(5) Check the temperature of the dryer, not just what is on the control panel. You don’t want to over-cure the jacket as it may cause dye migration or heat damage. We cured at 150°C for one minute. As a final precaution, once cured wait 24-48 hours before you send the jackets to the customer and never stack more than five jackets at a time as they can hold heat

(6) The finished screen printed jacket

SPONSORED BY GILDAN

All print and embroidery was performed on SS800 Gildan Hammer Unisex Softshell Jackets. Full product details are available on the Gildan website, where you can use the company’s Find Inventory tool to check the stock availability of the SS800 and all the styles in the Gildan range, throughout the Gildan distribution network.

www.mygildan.com