Stabilizer Secrets: Choosing a Stabilizer

One thing that many embroiderers overlook,  or may not be aware of,  is the fact that using the correct stabilizer can have a huge impact on the success of failure of a stitch-out.   Yes,  there will always be that one embroiderer who uses one type of backing for everything and does well  but,  for the most part,  a good marriage of stabilizer and fabric and design is required for embroidery to appear at its best.    The correct choice of stabilizer can make your sew-out smoother,  faster and provide a finished piece that is of a higher quality.   Because this is such an important decision,  we wanted to offer some things to consider before you choose.

First,  as we already know from this post backing/stabilizer comes in different types.  If you take it down to the most basic level,  you’re dealing with either cutaway or tearaway stabilizer.  Even the specialty backings will most likely be one of these two types,  so knowing when and why you might want to use a particular type is crucial.  Tearaway stabilizer is easier to remove as it tears away,  so it might be a good option for jobs where there are time constraints.  Cutaway stabilizer generally has less stretch to it,  so it may be a better option for performance wear or other stretchy fabrics.   When choosing which stabilizer to use make sure to take into account all the qualities of the fabric,  requirements of the design,  and things like time and effort expended when making your decision.   The right stabilizer choice will improve both your sew-out and your production time.

Second,  stabilizer weight matters too.   Nothing is less attractive than a stitch-out that is weighted down with a wad of backing.   Or a design that is so dense that it’s like a lump of wood attached to the fabric of the garment.   As a general rule,  light weight fabrics should be stabilized by a light weight backing,  and heavier fabrics with a heavier backing.   The goal is to find a backing that will stabilize the stitch-out without weighing down or distorting the fabric.

Third,  don’t forget backing does have a color palette.   Granted,  it’s not much of one,  generally being confined to black,  white and beige,  but there are color choices available.   If the item to be embroidered is thin or if there’s a chance at all the stabilizer might be seen,  it’s best to try to use a stabilizer that is close in color to the item being embroidered.

Finally,  don’t forget that specialty backing can have a huge impact on how well the finished design works.   Poly mesh is a great option for polos and lightweight fabrics. R2000 (a polypropylene stabilizer) is an ideal option for performance wear.   Adhesive backing comes in very handy when there are items like socks of blank patches to be embroidered.  Water soluble topping helps monograms and other embroidery stand out on fleece or towels.    It is entirely possible that you could go your whole embroidery career using only a standard cutaway or tearaway,  but why would you do that?  The specialty stabilizers can offer a variety of qualities that will help make your jobs easier and the execution of the design much smoother.   While specialty backings may,  in some cases,  be a slightly pricier option,  they will pay for themselves in speedier production time and quality finished products.

Remember,  stabilizer is the foundation on which everything else is built.  Just as you wouldn’t build your house on a sinkhole,  don’t build your embroidery on a stabilizer that can’t do the job required of it.   Choosing your stabilizer with care and after thinking about the requirements of the fabric and the stitch-out will ensure that you make a choice which will stand up to the needs of your embroidery and help create a finished product that will delight your customers.

New Tools to Make Shopping Easier

Earlier in June we announced the debut of our new website.   We decided, in part,  to revamp the old site because we wanted to make it easier for our customers to shop with EnMart.   One way to do that,  we thought,  was to add some tools that would help streamline the shopping process for certain products.   I’d like to introduce a few of those tools to you today.

The first tool is our Patch Designer. One of the main issues for people who buy patches has always been figuring out border and fabric color.   Our new Patch Designer tool allows you to do that in real time,  since it adds the colors you pick to a graphic of the patch you want to buy.   That way you can see if purple really does work with aqua,  or exactly what shade of gray you need.  Obviously monitors may skew colors a bit,  but the Patch Designer offers as true a color representation as we could provide.

The Patch Designer tool also walks you through every step in the purchase process,  ensuring you don’t forget to select a backing or don’t leave off a border or fabric color.   Once you’ve added all the necessary information,  this tool for designing blank patches gives you the option to add everything to your cart.   No fuss,  no muss and you can add all your patch details in one place.

Another useful new tool we’ve added is the Thread Color Selector.   This tool offers a color grid on which you can select your desired shade.   Once the shade is selected,  the tool will show you the Iris Thread color numbers that most exactly match your selection.  If you have an RGB number for the color you need,  you can select anywhere with that color area and then use the slider bar to reach the RGB color number needed.    The Color Selector will always show the closest matches available.

The next tool is an update of our Thread Cross Reference Converter.  This is the tool you can use to convert from another brand of thread to Iris.   Currently you can convert from Madeira, Robison Anton,  Isacord and Gunold,  as well as search for a thread color based on a Pantone color.  The goal of this tool is to make thread conversion easy and painless.

All the new tools can be found under the Resources tab in the top menu on the website.

Welcome to the New EnMart Website

Have you ever had that experience where you redecorate your house and for the first few days you bump into the coffee table because it isn’t where it used to be?  Things are familiar, yet different.   That’s a bit what creating our new website has been like. All the things you love about EnMart are still here, some of them just may be in different places.     And we’ve added some new features that are designed to make shopping with us easier and more fun.

One new thing is the Patch Designer, a tool that allows you to see your color choices in real time before you make your purchase.   Wondering if aqua and pink works better than navy and red?   This tool will tell you.    Another tool we’re excited about is the Thread Color Selector.   You pick a hue from the color chart and the selector shows you the Iris threads that are the closest match.   If you want to purchase, you simply click the color chip for the color you want and it adds to your cart.   Add in our redesigned Thread Conversion Engine and you’ve got a great system for finding or converting thread colors, all created to make your shopping experience more stress free and streamlined.

You may notice that the website navigation is different too.   Our menus have been redesigned to assist our customers in quickly finding what they need.  Also, did we mention we’ve added vinyl to our product offerings?  We know a lot of our customers are multi-hyphenates, embroiderers-sublimators-quilters or sublimators – crafters or some other combination.   Adding vinyl to the products we offer means we’re that much more of a one stop shop for our customers who work in more than one decoration discipline.

Finally,  there’s the new logo.   A more modern take on the EnMart name,  while still keeping a bit of the flavor of the old logo.   We think it’s a great fit with the new look of the website and for the way EnMart has evolved.

Welcome to the new EnMart.   Thank you for shopping with us.

Stabilizer Secrets: Weight and Why it Matters

One of the more mysterious things about stabilizer,  for some people anyway,  is weight and what that means when it comes to selecting and using stabilizer for a particular job.   On the surface,  backing weight seems pretty simple,  ounces are a familiar weight measurement,  so saying a type of backing is 2.5 ounces seems fairly easy to understand.  What complicates things is when you start factoring backing weight into the success or failure of an embroidered project.   Will using a 2.0 oz. backing rather than a 2.5 oz. backing mean the doom of your design?  Does the weight you choose to use really have that much impact on the success or failure of your project?  Manufacturers go through the bother of weighing stabilizer so the weight much have some impact on the function.

The first thing to understand about stabilizer weight is how manufacturers determine what that weight should be.  The weight of a piece of backing is measured by the square yard.  This means that,  should you have 1.5 oz. backing of the same type but from different manufacturers,  each square yard you weigh should weigh 1.5 oz.   Heavier weight backings,  a 3.0 cutaway for instance,  will be thicker and less flexible.   A lighter weight backing,  say a 1.8 oz. tearaway,  will be thinner and have more flexibility.

Obviously,  the weight of the backing will impact the functionality of the backing as well.  If,  for instance,  you’re sewing a sweatshirt, and the design is dense,  a heavier weight backing will pair with the fabric better and be more suited to holding a dense design.   Suppose,  however,  that you’re sewing on a lightweight polo shirt,  with a bit of a drape.  Then you’ll want a lighter weight stabilizer that is able to move with the drape of the fabric and not interfere with the lines of the garment.  Weight impacts drape and flexibility and the ability to hold a certain number of stitches or a dense design.   All these elements can impact the success or failure of your finished design.

The construction of the backing also has a little bit to do with the weight of the backing,  and a lot to do with the quality.  Machine embroidery stabilizer is typically made up of polyester fibers which are held together with viscose or wood pulp.  High quality backing will have more poly fibers and less viscose,  in lower quality backing the ratios will be the reverse.  What determines the quality of the stabilizer is the length of the poly fibers and the amount of polyester versus filler that is in the material.

A quick and easy test to determine quality is the light test.  Take the piece of stabilizer you want to examine and hold it up to a strong light source.   If the piece you’re examining is high quality,  the stabilizer will have even density and feel smooth when you run your hand over it. A lower quality backing will have thin spots and dense spots making for a more uneven sheet.   This uneven density can impact the quality of your sew-out significantly.

Keep in mind that the sheerness and weight of a backing does not always determine the number of stitches that can be stabilized. Take,  for instance,  the poly mesh backing that EnMart sells.  This backing is embossed,  which means if you hold it to a light source,  you’ll see a textured pattern in the material.   The texture allows the poly mesh to hold substantially more stitches than an unembossed piece of the same weight would be able to hold.

In the end,  weight is just one factor that impacts how a stabilizer will perform for a particular job.   The make-up of the fibers and the construction of the backing can also be critical.   And whether or not the stabilizer has any added features like embossing or texture can also make a difference in the density of the designs that can be used.  When deciding what stabilizer to use for your job,  make sure you take all these factors into account.

Stabilizer Secrets: Types of Stabilizer

Once upon a time,  some years ago and on another blog, we offered a series of posts about stabilizer.   The goal was to enumerate the types of stabilizer,  discuss why specialty stabilizer existed and why it was used,  and generally explain stabilizer to help our customers who purchased it use what they purchased more effectively.

Fast forward to 2019,  and we’ve added some new stabilizers to the mix, and definitely a number of new customers,  so it seemed worthwhile to revisit this series with updates as required.  As Mary Poppins (the original,  not the Emily Blunt version) advised, the best place to start is the very beginning,  so we’ll start with a brief overview of broad categories of stabilizer.  Subsequent posts will deal with specialty stabilizers,  why stabilizer weight matters,  how the materials used to create your stabilizer make a difference in the finished product and how stabilizer and fabric work together for successful embroidery.  The goal,  by the end of the series,  is to leave you with an understanding of the importance of stabilizer, and the ability to choose which stabilizer you need for which project.

At the most basic, stabilizers can be separated into two categories,  cutaway and tearaway.  As the names imply,  one type (tearaway) can be torn,  while the other type (cutaway) requires cutting with scissors to be removed. Every type of stabilizer falls into one of these two categories,  with the exception of water soluble,  which requires water to be removed.  Water solubles also tend to be toppings,  used to keep stitches from sinking into pile fabrics,  or used for standalone projects like freestanding lace.

A lot of embroiderers like tearaway backing because removal can happen fairly quickly,  since the excess stabilizer can simply be torn away.  A lot of the efficiency and quality of a tearaway can be shown by how quickly and cleanly it tears. A tearaway stabilizer that doesn’t tear cleanly will leave fuzzy edges that can fray or just make the embroidery look messy.   You also want a tearaway that stabilizes and holds stitches but which requires only a minimum amount of force to tear.  If you have to yank hard to tear away the excess,  you risk pulling out stitches or distorting the finished product.

Tearaway stabilizers are generally offered in light-weight,  medium-weight and heavy-weight options.  The medium and heavy weight options may also often be called “hat” or “cap” backing.  These are the weights that will most often be used when adding embroidery to a hat.   The cap backings are generally heavier, stiffer and more paper-like,  so they tear cleanly and easily.

Unlike tearaway stabilizers cutaway stabilizers require a little more work to remove. Cutting away the excess stabilizer is the most common method of removal,  and cuts can be as close to the stitches or as far away as desired.  Some embroiderers will cut their stabilizer to slightly larger than their design before they embroider,  which lessens the need for cutting after the stitch-out is finished.

Cutaway stabilizer is often used with lighter or stretchy fabrics as it is sturdy and provides the fabric with increased stability.   This type of stabilizer is also a popular choice for heavy weight fabrics like sweatshirts.   A 2.5 oz. weight is considered to be a universal or multipurpose cutaway and,  for some embroiderers,  is the only stabilizer they use.

While it is tempting to continue this discussion with an in depth look at the types of specialty stabilizers available,  each of which fall into one of these two main categories,  I think we’ll leave that for another post.  Stay tuned for the next entry in this series,  which will discuss specialty backings,  why they’re used, and how they help you create better embroidery.

Using Photos to Make the Sale

One of the basic tenants of sales is that people have to know what you have to sell if they’re going to want to buy.   It’s so basic that people often forget that knowledge is part of the equation.  Particularly when selling something like a decorated garment,  a picture can often be worth a thousand words.  The question is where do you put those pictures so your customers see them,  and how do you use those pictures to impart a sense of your expertise and what you can do for those who choose to work with you?

One way to get the message out about what you can do is Pinterest.   As I’ve said before,  Pinterest is about aspiration and getting ideas for items that you want to make or buy.   Having Pinterest boards for your company (these are EnMart’s boards) allows you to showcase different aspects of what you can do.  You can create boards around a certain event or theme,  or make boards that feature a particular product decorated in different ways. If you have Pinterest boards,  make sure they’re featured on your website and social media feeds,  and refer your customers to them in your printed literature.

Another way to help spread the word about what you can do is to share pictures of what you make with your suppliers.  Or you can use a supplier hashtag (#IrisThread, for instance) to alert your suppliers to a picture that might interest them. I know,  here at EnMart,  we love getting pictures of products that were made with supplies purchased from us.  We also share those pictures on our Facebook feed (22,000+ fans) and our Twitter feed.  Granted not all the people who like any of your suppliers are going to be in your potential market spheres,  but some of them might.  Plus,  having your work shared by your suppliers gives you a bit of decorator credibility.   Your work is good enough that it’s being presented as an example of what can be done.

As a writer for industry magazines,  I know I’m always looking for photos to illustrate the pieces I write,  so this can be another fertile ground for pictures of the items you create.  Most of the time,  when an article writer needs pics for a piece,  they will put out a call on social media,  asking for pictures of work that centers on a particular discipline, type of garment or theme.  If you are planning to submit a photo for publication,  remember it needs to be at least 1 MB, and 300 DPI.  Magazines can work with less,  but the odds of your picture getting used are better if you stick to those guidelines.

One last bit of advice,  which goes for any photo you use anywhere.  Make sure your photos are the best quality they can be.   Yes,  you can take a good photo with the cameras on most phones these days,  but it still might be worth investing in a camera,  especially if you’re offering your products for sale online.   Pictures are often the first impression a customer forms of your products, so make sure you are, visually,  putting your best foot forward.  Taking quality pictures may be more time consuming and perhaps more costly,  but the benefits will far outweigh the drawbacks.

EnMart’s Tips and Tricks for Success

Every company is different,  and each has its own way of doing things,  and its own little insider secrets.  Since the end of 2018 is close at hand,  I figured it might be a good time to share a few tips for getting the most from your relationship with EnMart,  so you can start 2019 off on the right note.

Tip #1:  Look for the discounts and the specials –  Iris UltraBrite Polyester Thread,  the king cones anyway,  definitely falls in this category.  Did you know if you purchase 12 or more in any combination of colors you will receive a dollar off per cone?  That takes the wholesale price of a dozen cones from $76.20 to $64.20.  There are also quantity discounts on certain items as well.   Make sure to check the “Qty Breaks” tab on the sublimation products and on blank patches.  Purchasing a few more items than planned could be very helpful to your budget.

Tip #2: Sell what others don’t sell – EnMart offers a few products that other suppliers don’t offer.   One such product is the Iris Thread mentioned previously.  Another product that is available only from EnMart is the Remembears.  Offering a product your competitors don’t offer gives you an advantage in your particular marketplace.  If you seize the opportunity early,  you can lock in and dominate the customer base for those products.

Tip #3: Order early –  We at EnMart pride ourselves on our speedy shipping and strive to get orders for goods that don’t need to be manufactured out the same day. If you want prompt shipping of your orders,  it’s best to place them as early in the day as you can.   Our official cut off time for same day orders is 2 p.m.  In practice we may stretch that a little,  but it’s still always best to order sooner rather than later.

Tip #4: Time Issue – Talk To Us – We know that sometimes orders get placed at the last minute, or a customer brings you a rush order and you need supplies now.  We’re familiar with the panic that can cause,  and we’re willing to help,  if you let us know.   If you have a time sensitive issue with an order,  put a note on the order when you place it,  or contact us to let us know about your needs.  We can’t promise to be able to meet every request,  but we certainly can’t meet any of the ones we don’t know anything about.

Tip #5 – Follow us on Social Media – Want to be the first to know about specials or sales?  Eager to hear about new products before your competitors?  EnMart generally spreads any news we have to share through our social media feeds or by e-mail.   Follow EnMart on Facebook or Twitter,  or visit our boards on Pinterest to stay up on what’s happening at EnMart.  You can also join our mailing list to be sure you receive our e-mails.

No Sale, Just Low Prices

If you’re anything like me,  you’ve probably gotten roughly one million Black Friday e-mails by now.   First it was teasers.  Then it was doorbusters.   Somehow Black Friday the day became Black Friday the week (or several weeks),  and it seems that everyone wants to offer you a deal or a special or a once in a lifetime can’t miss opportunity.

One of the things we get asked quite often is why EnMart doesn’t offer free shipping or do more sales.   There are a lot of reasons why we don’t,  but the most basic one is this – we don’t because everyone else does.   It’s not that we’re contrarian,  it’s more that our goal is to offer our products at prices that produce a profit for us while still being budget friendly for our customers.  Also,  when there’s a blizzard of offers already out there,  standing out from the crowd can be tough.

Still,  we get that free shipping and sales are expected and desired by a lot of our customers,  so I wanted to address in more detail the reasons why we don’t offer either of those things on a regular basis.  One reason we don’t tend to offer free shipping more often is the fact that,  in our experience,  when we have offered it,  orders have not increased.   If we offer a free shipping coupon for orders past a current price threshold,  customers often neglect to use it,  even if they meet the threshold.  Order size also doesn’t tend to increase when we offer free shipping.   Since the whole goal of offering something for free is to encourage more people to buy,  when that doesn’t appear to motivate the behavior we want,  we try something else.

EnMart also does a lot of work to keep shipping costs and product prices budget friendly for our customers.   We offer a variety of shipping options,  including allowing customers to ship via the U.S. Postal Service or on their own accounts.  Our shipping costs are also based on the shipping rates offered to our parent company.  Since that company ships a large number of packages daily,  EnMart customers benefit from rates that are lower than they might otherwise be.

As for sales,  we like sales as much as the next company,  and have tried,  over the years,  to come up with some fun sales that offered good deals.  Still, as with the free shipping scenario,  we find that sales don’t tend to increase the volume or size of orders we get.   They also don’t seem to be a prime motivator for those who are placing orders.  So,  we end up back at our basic premise,  that good service,  good products and budget friendly prices are a larger motivator for our customers.

Please keep in mind that we do offer sales and specials when the mood strikes us.   The best way to keep up to date on what sales and specials are available is to follow us on Twitter or Facebook,  or to sign up for our mailing list.   If we have a special offer running,  we will send out an e-mail and announce it on social media.

Also,  if you have any comments or suggestion for a sale you’d like to see us offer,  or a thought about our current policy,  we’d love to hear from you.   Feel free to comment on this blog post,  leave us a comment or a message on social media,  or contact us through any of the available methods.

Sales Tax Rules Change

To Our Customers:

Most of you, if you follow the news at all, have probably heard of the recent Supreme Court decision in the case of South Dakota vs. Wayfair.   This decision has altered the rules about when and why sales tax must be collected.

Currently, EnMart and Ensign Emblem collect sales tax in the states where we have a presence, MI, GA, IL, CA, NV and NJ, as was required by previous tax law.   With the advent of the new decision, we will also begin collecting sales tax on all orders that ship to AL, IN, KY, MO, WA and WI.     It is likely there will be additional states added to this list in the near future.

If you are currently in one of the states listed above, you can establish your tax-exempt status with EnMart/Ensign by completing the relevant state sales tax exemption form and submitting it to us.    This form should be completed in your legal business name.   We will begin charging sales tax in the additional six states listed above on October 1, 2018.    If we do not have a completed form on file by that date, your account will be charged sales tax until such time as the completed form is on file.

Please be aware that,  even though we are currently only adding six additional states,  most states will probably be requiring sales tax collection in the near future.   Even if you are not in one of the states in which we currently charge tax,  it still might be worthwhile to complete a sales tax exemption form for your state and send it to us.  All forms are kept on file,  and once an account is set to exempt status it will remain so.

For a current list of taxable states, links to their respective exemption forms, and for submission of your completed forms, please visit our Sales Tax Exemption Forms and Links page.

As always, our goal is to remain compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.

Thank you for your assistance and cooperation.

The Art of Setting Price – Part 3

In part 2 of this series, we talked about finalizing the prices you will charge based on the data you’d collected,  and how to communicate those prices to your customers.   There are some customers who will accept the prices you give them without an issue, thinking they’re fair,  there will be some customers who think they’re getting a bargain,  and there will be some who will always want to argue the price or who will press for something extra.  How you deal with the latter group may be the difference between a business that makes a profit and one that soon sinks out of sight.

So,  how do you deal with those people who want to argue or negotiate price?  One way is through education.   A lot of people don’t know what goes into making a shirt or a transfer or a hat.  Show them the process.  Show them the machines you use to do the work.  Talk about the supplies you buy,  the webinars you watch and the seminars you’ve paid to attend.   Let your customers know that you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into being good at what you do.   People are always more comfortable about and more willing to compensate experts for their time and expertise.

Another technique is to try to get to the “why” of their objection to your price.  Are they operating on a budget that may be unrealistic?  Do they not understand what goes into making the goods they want to buy?  Did they find someone down the street that offered to do it for cheaper?   If you can find out why they’re objecting you can address the issue and possibly change their minds.   Or, perhaps,  find out that it isn’t worth changing their mind and the job in question is one that should go to the cheaper guy down the street.   At least if you have all the details,  you can make an informed decision.

“The guy down the street will do it cheaper” tactic (at times it might be the “guy online”, but you get the idea) is often a common method of pursuing a lower price.  When this is used on you,  probably the first question to ask is “why didn’t you go with the guy down the street then?”,  in a non-confrontational way.  Usually,  if a customer is coming to you after having been quoted a lower price elsewhere they either have some reservations about the other shop,  or they’re hoping they can spin you a tale that will make you lower your price.   Getting the details will usually tell you which option it is and point you to the route that may get you the price you want to charge.

Another thing that decoration shops may often encounter is the person or group who wants a print job to be donated,  or who wants to pay for the job in “exposure”.  There are times when jobs of this sort can be beneficial,  but make sure to examine each job of this type carefully before you say yes.  Who will be seeing the work you’re doing,  and is this your customer base?  How many people will be exposed to your work?  What would be the cost of the work if it were paid for, and how does the value of what ever is being offered instead of money measure up?  Will this job generate goodwill among people who could potentially be customers or who could direct customers to you later?  Not all barter or “exposure” jobs are necessarily bad,  but it always pays to do the analysis and be very clear on what you can expect to get before you agree to any such deal.

Finally,  don’t forget your secret weapon when it comes to standing firm in price negotiations,  the absolute rock bottom price you calculated earlier.  If you have that price calculated for every product,  then you know how much room you have to negotiate,  and the floor beyond which you cannot go.