Fabric enhancements using decorative components
Techniques for producing decorative effects of fabrics and garments
Not too long ago, the vast majority of apparel decorators were specialists of embroiderers or screen-printers. Now more and more companies are adding additional decoration methods to increase their profitability? and more importantly, keep their customer at home. Garments are decorated based on the end usage by affixing sequins, rhinestones, embroidery etc. to enhance the appearance of the final products.
Major Types of Garment Decoration
There are four types of surface decoration and they are…
This is a popular way of decorating fabrics. Shapes of one fabric care applied to the surface or background of another fabric using a fine zigzag stitch or as in the example shown, with a straight stitch, which overlaps the edge of each shape. The pattern pieces that make up the appliqué are usually backed with interfacing to give them strength.
This is the application of a variety of techniques onto one fabric. For example, a currently popular technique is called Shisha work, where tiny mirrors are embroidered onto fabrics. Others stitch; dye or print techniques may also be used to give an ornate fabric.
The properties of a fabric can be manipulated using heat or chemicals. A popular process called Shibori, from Japan explores the manipulation of fabrics in this way. The fabric can be tied in simple or elaborate patterns, the fabric is then subjected to high steam and colour is added. This process works well on synthetic fabrics as they have thermoplastic properties or memories, which allow the fabric to retain its shape. Once heated to a high temperature the shape of the fabric cannot be changed unless the fabric is subjected to high temperatures again.
This is a method of applying texture and colour by stitching through layers of fabric. The surface texture of the fabric is achieved by sandwiching wadding or stuffing between layers of fabric. Interesting patterns and 3D surface textures can be achieved
This method requires the folding of fabric on the vertical length and, usually, fixing the pleat at the end with stitching. A tuck is where the fold is held at both ends with stitching and is often horizontal. Pleats and tucks add decoration and reduce fullness. Skirts are commonly pleated. Some designers exploit the thermoplastic properties of synthetic fabrics and heat set pleats for a very creative effect.
Gathers are small stitches pulled together to reduce fullness (length). Again these are common on the waistlines of skirts, but they are also popular on sleeves, yokes and hems to add volume (shape) to a garment. Elasticated thread (shirring elastic) can be used to gather parts of the fabric to improve fit and add texture and pattern. Smocking is a traditional method of gathering the fabric to reduce fullness; the gatherers are held with patterned embroidery stitches.
Darts is the method of reshaping a garment or product but they can also be decorative if stitched on the surface (rather than inside the item), giving it textured flaps.
Heat, when applied to fabrics, can change the texture and shape but it is important to be aware of the fibre properties so that heat is used effectively. Heat and moisture and agitation applied to wool will felt it; heat applied to polyester or polyamide can soften it can when the fabric is cooled set in pleats and crinkle effects.
Distressed effects such as brushing, shredding, fraying, sanding and stone washing are popular methods or creating decoration and aged effects on products.
Other Popular Forms for Decorating the Garments
The second method of decorating garments is embroidery, a process of sewing decorative stitches onto fabric using needle and thread or yarn. The process has been around since ancient times but is still used extensively today.
Modern embroidery machines are computer driven and digitally controlled. After the machine has been set up with the appropriate coloured thread, a prepared graphic image or text is sent to the machine from a computer or memory device to be stitched onto the garment.
Screen Printing (also known as silkscreening), a process that is complex, messy, and time-consuming. It involves photographically produced stencil screens, emulsions, colour separations, and ink forced onto the garment through screens with a roller or squeegee. Each spot colour used requires a separate run through the process, making sure each colour is in perfect registration. Then the entire process is repeated for each garment. Screen printing is labour-intensive, costly, and is most efficient for large print runs. It is not practical or cost-effective for printing single garments or small batches.
Digital Garment Printing is a breakthrough technology in apparel decoration industry.
These new print-to-fabric printers make it possible and practical for people working from home to compete with traditional T-shirt printing businesses.
Until recently, there were only two choices for how you might directly imprint graphic images and text onto shirts, hats, bags, and other fabric items. There are some other non-direct methods for decorating apparel.
In direct-to-garment printing, a T-shirt or other garment is inserted into a specifically engineered ink-jet printer and the ink prints directly onto the garment. It attaches to an ordinary computer and works the same way as a common document ink-jet printer.
Any graphic image, photograph, or illustration can be quickly and easily printed. It can print a single shirt or many, and the per-shirt cost is the same, unlike screen printing which requires a costly pre-print setup. The “hand” (feel) of the printed garment is soft like the fabric, which may seem to be a small thing but is actually a great advancement.
It is important to understand the significance of this development. Direct-to-garment printing is a revolutionary technology that opens up business possibilities that simply didn’t exist before. Stay-at-home moms can start a part-time money-making T-shirt business from their family room. College kids can print and sell cool T-shirts from their apartment.
Creative people can build their own decorated clothing line to sell in retail stores. Families can create a profitable high-growth T-shirt business in which everyone can contribute. Companies who already do screen printing, sign-making, or embroidery can now add digital garment printing to their service offerings.
Rhinestones are used throughout the clothing and fashion industry on accessories to decorate everything from fingernails to cell phones. They are mostly applied or attached to fabric surfaces using glue, heat or metal settings. Since stones are available in a wide range of colours, shapes and sizes, there is plenty of opportunity for creativity.
Sequins may be stitched flat to the fabric, so that they do not move, and are less likely to fall off; or they may be stitched at only one point, so that they dangle and move easily, to catch more light. Some sequins are made with facets, to increase their reflective ability. The sequins are often hand sewn, glued, heat transferred or machined to the fabric in patterns or all over.
Bead-work of any sort looks a good deal more complicated than it actually is when a few simple techniques are generally sufficient to create even the most complex design. There is a natural affinity between beads and textile techniques; some translating directly. Embroidery and bead-work make a pair. Hand beading is very time consuming and makes garments very expensive.