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How To


Earn Your Stripes

July 06, 2017

By Jeanene Edwards, Contributing Writer

Stripes. Are. Back. That's right. The design trend made its presence known during the spring 2017 season and shows no sign of fading.

This isn’t shocking news. Stripes are perennials of the fashion world — they never really go out of style. Why should they? Stripes have a lot going for them. They’re gender-neutral, accessible to all ages, and offer variety in sizes and colors. In addition, the simplicity of stripe patterns appeals to the eye and makes fabrics come alive. They also serve as great foundation pieces, able to fade into the background while elevating the design elements printed on them. Yet, surprisingly, given the length of time stripes have been around, some decorators have little experience with this fashion staple.

Change Your Stripes

Historically, decorators have been hesitant to print on stripes. There’s always been a strong preference among designers, customers and decorators to shy away from patterns that appear “busy,” and choose instead to design and print on solid backgrounds. Knowing this, manufacturers have been reticent about offering stripes as a staple of their collection. But, with fashion industry heavyweights such as Elle and Vogue declaring their allegiance to all things vertical and horizontal, designers and end consumers are more actively seeking striped product on which to print.  

Decorators who get on board with stripes have access to new opportunities to diversify their offerings. If you’re new to printing on stripes, check out these tips and tricks from industry insiders:

1. The Thinner, the Better
When it comes to printing on stripes, thinner is better. Thin stripes create tighter patterns, allowing designs to pop.

“The striped microfleece Fruit of the Loom is releasing this fall has small stripes that blend together to create a faded, yet solid look,” says Donald Mullins, manager of product and creative development at Fruit of the Loom and JERZEES Activewear. “If the stripe pattern is thin and creates an almost solid tone, printing isn’t an issue. Decorators can proceed as they normally would. If the stripes are large and thick, however, printing can become trickier with a decorator needing to work around the lines.” Knowing your substrate, Mullins emphasizes, is key to executing a successful design.

2. One-Color Designs
When working with stripes, stick with a single ink color that works with the stripes. Using more than one color on the design makes it hard to see.

“You don’t want to use a color that is similar to the color of the stripes, because then the design gets hard to see,” says Amy Epstein, proprietor of Greensboro, North Carolina-based Wear Yours screen printing. She notes that while ink typically does the best job when it comes to printing on stripes, but the overall goal is just to keep it simple.

Owner/operator Cheryl Collins-Lizzio of Iroquois Print & Sign Design in Onarga, Illinois, agrees, noting in a Facebook post about stripes that, “Big bold print is best. Small text sometimes falls in the wrong spot on stripes, making it hard to read.”

3. Avoid Wide, Long Designs
While stripes should preferably be thinner, the designs you’re working with will ideally be of a more irregular or circular shape, as these can be of tolerance with alignment but still look straight. By contrast, long, wide prints are most apt to cause headaches and problems. In the simplest of terms, think of a “University of Mississippi” print across stripes versus a coffee mug or sun.

“Stripes vary due to the manufacturing process, meaning that every piece you print on may be different,” says Mullins. He suggests using a laser light on your pallet to help align the stripes when you’re loading your garments.  

Epstein agrees that when working with a smaller design, decorators run the risk of the design getting lost in the pattern. “A bigger design works around this issue,” she notes.
As for thick versus thin, printing on a heavier stripe pattern can be more difficult, as you can see the “line” from a distance, but it’s far from impossible.

4. Be Creative
There’s opportunity for creativity in every challenge. At first glance, stripes can pose an uphill battle, but they give a decorator the chance to flex their muscles. A decorator can use different inks to utilize the stripes as a part of the design, for example, making for a unique shirt that allows the art to really pop.

“It takes collaboration between a decorator and the client to get the print done right,” Epstein states. “You can do so much with stripes that any designer is going to have fun coming up with the best designs, colors and patterns to complement the final product. Work with your client to come up with something special and be the one to suggest printing a design meant for a solid background on stripes, instead. You won’t know if you don’t give it a shot.”

No End, New Beginnings    
Stripes don't have to be a source of struggle. The simple tips offered above are all you need to ride this trend while diversifying your skills. Getting in on this wave of fashion has the potential to ensure a solid ROI while diversifying your portfolio. As with most things, practice makes perfect, and you might not get it right on the first try. But don't get discouraged. You'll learn something new every time you print, and before you know it, you’ll be showing us your true stripes.

Jeanene Edwards is the vice president of marketing and merchandising for Fruit of the Loom/JERZEES Activewear. She has more than 20 years of experience working with global apparel brands. 

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