Embroidered polo shirts
The embroidered polo shirt has become a very important and popular item in a vast range of branded promotional clothing. Branded polo shirts have many uses, including;
- Workwear with a company logo
- Exhibition or event clothing
- Staff uniform
- New product launches
- Fund raising and charity events
- School uniform
- Student team clothing
- Promotional giveaways
There are many options for polo shirts; colours; sizes; mens, ladies, or childrens fit; short or long sleeves; with contrast trim and of course various materials.
Which fabric is best?
Polo shirt fabric is knitted as opposed to woven and it comes in two types; jersey knit and pique [pronounced pee-kay].
Jersey has a finer, softer texture than pique which has a geometric knit with a honeycomb type of pattern.
Pique is more popular for most polo shirts as it is bulkier and heavier with better breathing characteristics. Most polos come in either 100% cotton, 100% polyester or a blend of cotton and polyester.
Cotton polo shirts.
Cotton is a natural fibre which appeals to many people but care in laundering is important as the fibres can permanently shrink. There are organic cotton polo shirts available and these have good eco credentials.
Polyester polo shirts.
Made from synthetic fibres that resist water, stains and chemicals and retain their shape well. Easily dyed, they hold their colour well but some find polyester polo shirts lacking in absorption and therefore sometimes rather hot and sweaty.
Combining the best qualities of each fabric produces an ideal material for polos. Typical blends are 30% cotton and 70% polyester, or a 50:50 mix. The fabric is hard-wearing, keeps its shape well and some garments are resistant to washing at 60 degrees which is a typical industrial laundering temperature.
They are more breathable than 100% polyester, and crease less than 100% cotton and so are a good choice for corporate polo shirts.
Fabric weight, or thickness.
The weight of fabric is expressed as the number of grams per square metre [gsm] and the higher the number, the heavier/thicker the fabric. A lightweight fabric is typically between 100- 150 gsm, medium weight 150-350 gsm and heavyweight 350+ gsm.
White polo shirts will often have a lower gsm than the coloured versions of the same shirt. There are two reasons for choosing a higher gsm. The heavier weight polo will be more durable if it is to be used as regular workwear, and the embroidery will look neater and have less of an impact on the weave of the material.
The embroidery threads slightly damage the fibres of the garment and the flexibility of the cloth is slightly reduced. This is less of an issue on a thicker, tighter weave fabric.
Embroidery or screen-printing?
Embroidered polo shirts have several advantages over screen-printed or transfer-printed polos;
- The shirt will have a smart, business-like look
- Embroidery is very durable and does not degrade with washing.
- The number of colours in the logo does not affect the price.
- There are very many embroidery cotton colours available.
- Once the embroidery disc [computer programme] is created there is no repeat cost for origination.
- Individual names, titles, dates and so on can be added easily at low extra cost.
- The same computer programme can be used to embroider polo shirts, fleeces, hoodies, jackets, caps, bags and folders – in fact almost anything made from fabric.
- Embroidery can be positioned in many places – left and right chest, arms, nape of the neck and so on.
- Amendments to an existing programme are quick and at very low cost.
Text size is a minimum of 6mm high to remain legible. This means that straplines and descriptions under a logo can increase the overall logo size considerably. Embroidered badges that are then sewn on to the polo shirt then become an option.
Areas of colour that are graduated – for example going from light blue to dark blue – should be avoided and solid areas of colour are best.
Large areas of embroidery will stiffen the polo shirt. If a message or large logo is required on the back, for example ‘Security’, ‘Here to help’ ‘Student Advisor’ and so on, it is recommended to use a print or transfer print.
If water resistance is important it is recommended to use an adhesive backing behind the embroidery to seal the threads and prevent moisture tracking through the thread holes. It is a very minor cost.
Some parts of certain garments cannot be embroidered if the back cannot be accessed. For example, if a pocket is embroidered it will be stitched to the back effectively sealing up the pocket! Many garments are now produced with access areas – particularly jackets that have a separate inside lining.
The embroidery process
Producing the computer programme – embroidery digitisation
Computerised embroidery machines use a digital programme to control where the stitches go and that the correct colours are used. The computer programme [often called a disc] is produced by scanning artwork to convert the required image, logo or text into a stitch type that can then be viewed in digital form.
The resulting programme calculates the number of stitches required and this is known as the ‘stitch count’. The stitch count determines the cost of the embroidery, as more stitches means more production time and materials.
The initial programme is then checked carefully and an experienced operator will adjust stitch positions and colours to ensure that the embroidery will be accurate and neat.
Embroidering the polo shirt
The area of the polo shirt to be embroidered is carefully held in a jig which is then clipped to the embroidery computer.
The machines are usually grouped in a line so that multiple garments are embroidered with the same design at the same time. It is crucial that the position on the shirt is correct; that the fabric is not creased, and that the jig is level.
A layer of supporting fabric is placed behind the polo shirt area to be sewn through, thus sandwiching the polo shirt between the stitches and the backing material. After embroidery the jig is removed and the excess backing material either torn away from, for example, simple text, or carefully cut around if the embroidery is more complex.
The backing material softens quickly after washing. There may be excess threads within the embroidery and these must be carefully removed so that the letters in a line of text do not appear linked together.
This finishing work requires skill to ensure perfect appearance. Finally the finished polo shirt is folded neatly and individually bagged with the size label showing.