Saturday, September 6, 2014

How did they DO that???

This post isn't going to be about anything I've sewn. Not that I haven't been sewing (actually very little, since I just got back from vacation.) It's about something new I just discovered in the RTW fashion that's available. I'm looking for any knowledge anyone out there has to share, to help me figure out exactly what was done to this garment.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a shirt, a summer tank top, at one of the mall ladies' clothing stores. It's probably been around since the middle of Spring, because it was on the markdown rack. I didn't buy it because I was in love with it, it's a fabric that I'm not fond of wearing but the colors are good for me, it was reasonably priced, and makes a very cute outfit with the knit maxi skirt that's become my first choice for a quick change for an evening out. I put the top on last night for the first time, and found myself marveling at what it actually is.

The fabric is printed - most likely a digital print, with a section of metallic beads heat-applied on the center front. (Yeah, I know. Not really the best choice for a woman my age.) The first thing that caught my eye as I was wearing the shirt is that the embellishment is color-coordinated and applied so that it follows the images in the print - there are blue "stones" (they're actually more like little nailheads, like flat-top hexagonal mounds) on each petal of a flower, for instance, and gold ones following the scalloped border of the section. The entire design is a little bit distorted in the center, so not as perfectly applied on the garment right as it is on the left. But someone would have to be pretty close and staring at an intimate part of my anatomy to really notice that, for sure.
I can envision this as a sort of iron-on transfer, with all the studs set on the garment at one time.
 More intriguing to me is the binding that is used around the neckline and armholes of the tank top. It is printed as well, and upon close examination, I discovered that it is perfectly matched where joined to the body of the shirt. Did I say perfectly? It's actually continuous - there is no break in the print. On closer examination, when I lay the shirt flat to photograph, I realized the design actually continues above the front neckline onto the inside of the back.

I pointed this out to my husband, and he - ever the engineer - had me turning in circles while he examined the shirt. The print continues across the side seams as well. A little tug there, and you can see a small solid line on either side of the seam.

Actually, there is a line that breaks the print - you can see it right down the center in this photo The pale line just to the left of that is the side seam, breaking the print again. At the top right here, the print showing on the wrong side is the inner front armhole, which is actually the continuation of the back print.
Lifting the folded edge of the binding shows solid fabric beneath as well. The half of the binding that is turned to the inside at the neckline is also unprinted.

Not so with the armhole binding though - the inner fold is printed as a continuation of the overall design.

The front of the armhole is lying flat, with the back side pulled over to show the inside. The print break at the side seam is also visible in this photo.

So, how did they do this? The garment has to have been assembled using a solid fabric, then printed as a garment. The embellishment has to have been applied in one pressing, coordinated to the print. My dh used to manage a team in a plant that assembled CNC (Computer Numeric Controlled) milling machines - these are room-sized pieces of machinery that can take a block of steel and turn it into a part for something at the push of a button: holes drilled into any face needed, engraving done, you name it. He's betting this process has been adapted to fabric printing, but he's stymied by how the garment is held in position for the printing. Working with the flattened shirt to take the photos this morning, it looks like it may have been some kind of spray application. The logical mind in me wants to know if this is even possible?

The country of origin is listed as China. Fabric is a poly/spandex knit. I can't wait to hear if some of you have seen this in the clothing out there - I look forward to your comments.


  1. I think it's called dye sublimation. Take a look at the video on this site:

  2. I believe you're right - sure looks like how this was created. Imagine the possibilities! I find it interesting that there's a caution about the creases and irregularities in the printing at the edges. Thanks for the link -