Decoration - Finessing Fleece Decoration

Two Experts Offer Tips For Imprinting On Fleece Items

FleeceFleece products have become a tried-and-true standby for many clients searching for a high-quality cold-weather apparel option. These high-pill fabrics, however, provide decoration challenges that distributors and their customers need to be aware of.

Two ways to really set off a fleece imprint are with embroidery and laser-etching. Here, two experts share tips for each.

Laser-etching fleece provides a rich, tonal look with dimension. You can control the effects with a little file prep and setting adjustment. "Laser technology in etching fleece applications works off of a vector file, which is basically simple digital art that can be resized with no degradation," explains Henry Bernstein, director of Hirsch International (asi/14982), which offers the SEIT Laser Bridge. "The laser itself is following the digital art with raster lines, which then can be controlled through settings of power, velocity, raster angle, contour and repeats. In the hands of a creative artist, it's amazing how interesting and detailed the effects can be."

Bernstein recommends fleece made of 100% synthetic fibers for the fastest, most consistent results. "They will react with the slightest amount of exposure, so in essence it doesn't take much exposure to achieve excellent results," he says.

Another tip: The tighter the fleece's nap, the more visible the etch will be.

While the look is sophisticated, the technique is simple with the right equipment. "The truth is that it is one of the easiest applications done under bridge laser technology," Bernstein says.

However, there are issues to be aware of. The laser can't cross over an already-exposed area, so the etching file has to be gone through carefully. Fleece comes in a number of varieties, and not every type decorates the same way. And while most colors perform well, white and black won't have the same visual pop.

The Embroidery Option
When it comes to embroidery, the depth of fleece's pill can prove tricky. "As daunting as fleece may seem, it is actually an adaptable fabric, provided that you prevent the stitches from getting lost in the loft," says Alice Wolf, marketing communications manager for Madeira USA. "As long as fleece is stabilized from below and supported from above with a removable topping, any thread can be used with fleece."

To demonstrate, Madeira USA created two stitch-outs featuring the same five types of thread combined into a single design on a piece of red fleece: Madeira's Classic Rayon #40, wool-blend Burmilana, Supertwist #30 and two weights of smooth metallic, FS #40 and FS #50 (shown above).

"The importance is in the topping used, in this case E-Zee Aqua Supreme, and the backing used to stabilize," Wolf explains.

Without the topping, the stitches sink into the fleece, creating a muddy, uninspired decoration. With it, the decoration is pristine and precise.