This past winter season has been one for the books in both demand for products and difficulty in delivering those products (thanks, COVID!). However, our small team has persevered through it all and, in my opinion, successfully made it almost all the way through the season with only minor production casualties.
How do we accomplish so much, in our small mountain town of Bozeman, MT? This blog post will hopefully shed some light on the inner workings of our little factory, which produces up to 400 hats and headbands a day to fulfill orders for our wholesale dealers, custom clients, and of course, our online sales.
Rather than hiring a printer who fulfills our orders for printed fabric, we recently have brought all of our printing in house. This allows us to shorten turnaround times, lower minimums and improve our color consistency and matching, all of which has been key in producing high-quality hats and headbands in a shortened amount of time. We have been having a lot of fun printing all of the creative designs that our clients come up with as well as artwork from local artist Sarah Angst. The printing is crisp and colorful but how exactly does it all work?
We first use a high-tech color printer to print rows of specifically-sized rectangles onto transfer paper. We use precise measurements for whatever that pattern is going to become, be it a Small/Medium Chill Toque, a Fleece N’ Swift, Ventilator headband, or any other Sauce product - each of which requires a unique measurement.
Once the transfer paper has the pattern, it is weeded into a rotary heat press with sheets of fabric, cut to size to match the rectangles on the transfer paper. The press operates at 400°F (~204°C) in order to flawlessly transfer the pattern from the paper to the fabric. Once the fabric pops out the other side, it is cooled with fans and ready to head to the sewing machines!
This new printing process speeds up the production timeline considerably, and is the key to the mass production we can do in a single day. We have the flexibility to print what we need and begin production of that specific product on the same day, which is a far cry from waiting up to three weeks for printed fabric!
While printing hundreds of pieces of fabric, it is possible that a slight imperfection slips through. Every once in a while, a little white spec might appear amongst vibrant or dark colors, or a ripple can be seen in the fabric where there wasn’t supposed to be one. This is why we typically allow for a small margin for error, and print 2-3 extra pieces than we need.
Once the printing is done, it will be prepped to be created into a hat or headband by one of our amazing sewers. More to come about our sewing team and the sewing process in the next post!