Fabrics, Apparel and Heat Transfers

The apparel market is packed with a diverse range of products for fashion, sports, and leisurewear activity. Because of the vast array of garments and apparel fabrics available, it can be a challenge adding an embellishment that adheres properly to the fabric and brings added value to the garment. The combination of the garment function, fabric and embellishment should enhance the overall visual appearance of the garment and ensure the greatest possible appeal to the consumer.

The Heat Transfer Trend:

The apparel market is now incorporating athletic and performance fabrics in more and more garments. These fabrics are usually form-fitting and will stretch with the wearer as they move. Decorative embellishments, for either branding or personalization, need to mimic the stretch properties of the fabric, or they may become a distraction and will NOT complement the garment.

There are many types of transfers available on the market, from CAD-Cut Vinyl, usually best for small quantity production runs, to Custom Heat Transfers, best for multi-color, larger quantity production runs. When planning to apply heat transfers to stretchable athletic and performance fabrics, test the transfer image on the fabric to make sure it provides stretch elasticity without cracking and without losing its shape. If the transfer shows signs of cracking when stretched, avoid this transfer for these fabrics. Two other important factors to consider when applying transfers to performance fabrics:

  • Recommended heat press application temperature – it should be low enough to not affect the integrity of fabric surface. Performance fabrics are usually made from synthetic fibers and they can be damaged under high heat.
  • Durability – Will the heat transfer keep its overall integrity after several wash and dry cycles? We suggest washing the fabric with the applied transfer to be sure it holds up well.

Heat transfers can be used to embellish a wide range of sports, athletic and performance wear products in both the apparel and equipment (hard goods) business markets. They represent an easy and versatile decorating method due to the heat transfer’s ability to be applied to an extensive variety of garments in multiple off-site locations with reduced labor and supervision. Heat transfers may be kept in stock and stored in readiness for an immediate customer requirement or application. The ability to satisfy “quick turn” demand for apparel embellishment makes heat transfers an ideal choice for branding or personalization needs.

Three Step Process

The application of Heat Transfers is an efficient Three-Step Process:

Step One: Once your heat press machine is set to your transfer supplier’s recommended settings (time, temperature and pressure), place the garment on the machine’s lower platen and place the transfer on the garment.

Step Two: Engage the heat press for the recommended amount of time to apply the transfer to the garment.

Step Three: Remove the carrier (backing) from the heat transfer. The heat transfer should now be fully applied and the garment is ready for use. This easy and effortless process is ideal for embellishing multiple garments. It offers a fast and efficient way to embellish apparel, without the need for stockpiling expensive garments. Simply have an inventory of transfers and blank items available, and embellish as needed.

Fabrics and Heat Transfers:

All fabrics have their own unique and variable differences that relate to the specifics of the garment, fabric function and wearable attributes? It is important when viewing apparel fabric options that care should be taken to evaluate the fabric in advance of selecting the embellishment. Pay particular attention to garment structure and finish and select the heat transfer product type that will collaborate with the fabric and garment nuances, such as fabric thickness, stitching, panels, zips, buttons, pockets, and uneven surfaces, as these can be a problem when applying the embellishment? Taking time to understand how each fabric and heat-transfer characteristic will cohesively come together can make a positive difference in the overall visual aspects as well as the integral wearable qualities of the finished garment.

As the name implies, natural fabrics are produced from plants and animals, such as cotton, bamboo, leather, linen, hemp, wool and silk. Natural components can be blended with other materials to enhance fabric strength, softness, and durability. The fibers are extracted from a natural source and then, through a woven or threaded process, manufactured into a textile. Cotton has extensively been used in the manufacture of sports and leisurewear apparel. A 100 percent cotton fabric or a blend of cotton and polyester has ruled supreme for a long time, especially for T-shirts and sweatshirts. Thicker fleece and jersey materials tend to require increased pressure when applying heat transfers to the garment. This allows for the best possible adhesion of the transfer. Imperfections of the fabric surface can penetrate though the heat transfer’s ink film, therefore close attention is required to ensure the fabric and heat press adjustment methods are aligned to produce the best possible result.

Some of the most popular synthetic fabrics such as polyester, Lycra®, spandex, rayon, nylon, acrylic, and viscose are designed to outperform natural fabrics and, in certain cases, have become good at imitating natural fabrics. They are very much a part of fashion, performance and sportswear garments and continue to be featured in the ever-changing apparel industry. These fabrics are specifically selected for their breathable, stretch, soft and lightweight characteristics that compliment performance wear and are essential for exercise and work out garments.

With active lifestyles and active wear fabrics a predominant market trend in the apparel industry, ultra-efficient and versatile heat transfers are set to continue being a key for branding and personalizing these garments.

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