T shirts – how are the “fashionable” ish ones made?

T-shirts are not a topic of conversation that one might normally spend time discussing, especially since there are much more pressing issues in the world, which certainly warrant more attention, such as cyclone’s in Burma, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7389541.stm and news of Royal Mail’s £200m losses http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/support_services/article3892886.ece .

However, I recently attended a meeting with one of our suppliers in order to understand how t-shirts often found in high street shops bearing witicisms, insults and funky art designs are made.

The t shirt making process (before heat transfer or screen printing) is a relatively simple automated process.


  1. The basic t shirt is designed and the dimensions are transferred to patterns

  2. The t shirt material is then cut to the dimensions of the pattern, these pieces can include seperate front and back sections or atubed body, sleeves, perhaps pockets and trim.

  3. The pieces are then sewn together. The hems of sleeves are generally finished before they are fitted into the garment, since it is easier to hem the fabric while it is flat. An automated system moves the sleeves to the sewing head by conveyor. The edge may be finished by folding it over, forming the hem and stitching, or by applying a band. The band may be attached as a superimposed seam or folded over the edge as binding.

  4. One or more labels are usually attached at the back of the neckline. Labels provide information about the manufacturer, size, fabric content, and washing instructions.

The t shirt is now ready to be designed upon!

There are two main processes which can be used to transfer ink or designs from a computer onto the plain t shirt or garment.



Sublimation itself is a process used to imprint a design or image onto products with a polymer-based surface. First the artwork is designed or scanned into your computer. The design is then printed using sublimation ink onto sublimation transfer paper, and heat applied to the receptive product such as a polyester coated outer tshirt using a heat press. The result is stretchable, extremely durable and can be washed without fading

Screen Printing

The increasing demand for low volume runs of personalised clothing combined with the ease and speed required when producing transfers, make the screen printing an excellent system for the personalisation of clothing.

Used in conjunction with a computer and a heat press, the screen printing can produce single or multiple colour transfers in a wide variety of high performance materials, including floc and flex materials.

The screen printing system allows businesses to produce transfers that can be industrially washed, dry cleaned, tumble dried and ironed, making them ideal for sports, promotional and work wear.

Company’s, individuals and groups of people use personalisation of garments. You only need to go to your local Wetherspoons to see those on a hen party or stag do, or check out your favourite football team playing at the weekend to see how popular and useful personalised garments can be.

So, many of the “fashionable” t shirts found in high street shops bearing funky designs are made using one of the technological processes above. Lucky for us, right? Else we’d all be walking around looking pretty plain and similar 😉


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