Jumping into the world of screen printing means a pretty big learning curve. There are endless terms, practices, and tips to learn about the trade. Whether you’re new to screen printing or have been in the game for a while, there are some terms you should know about T-shirts. Check out any clothing distributor’s website. Are there terms you don’t recognize? Here’s a list of popular T-shirt terms that you’ll see and regularly use in the screen printing industry.
Activewear: Clothing is designed for sports, exercise, and outdoor activities. Usually made from polyester, Lycra, or other stretchy fabrics.
Cap sleeves: A sleeve extending only a short distance from the shoulder and tapering to nothing under the arm.
Carded open end: A cheaper way of turning cotton into yarn in which the fibers are bonded by a wrapped fiber that runs perpendicular to the fiber bundle. Up close you can see that carded open-end fiber is bulky, fuzzy, and creates an uneven knit. These are the hardest to get a quality print.
Combed and Ringspun: The two-step process occurs when turning cotton into yarn to create the softest tees possible. First, the staples are combed to remove impurities or inconsistencies in the yarn, creating a softer hand. Next, in the ring-spun process, yarn is made by continuously twisting and thinning the strands, creating a fine rope of cotton fibers.
Dye migration: Discoloration of ink due to the polyester fabric seeping into the ink
Hand: How a garment feels. Combed and ring-spun tees have a soft hand feel, meaning they are super soft to the touch.
Lycra: An elastic polyurethane fiber or fabric used especially for close-fitting sports clothing. Commonly referred to as Spandex.
Poly-blend: Overarching term that includes all garments with Polyester as a material component.
Raglan: Sleeves with a contrasting color, shoulder seam tapers up to the neck collar, commonly known as baseball tees.
Relaxed Fit: Clothing that is looser and does not hug the body. This mostly applies to the shoulder, hips, and waist.
Ringspun: Made from smoother and longer yarn compared to open-end yarn. It also goes through a spinning process that softens and straightens each fiber, creating cotton that is softer and more durable.
Ringspun cotton zoomed in.
Scoop neck: A deeply curved wide neckline on a garment.
Side seams: Create the crafted, tailored structure a t-shirt needs to fit correctly. Although more expensive to make, these are the only type of tees you’ll find in a retail store.
Single: Diameter of a yarn, determined by the number of times the fiber is twisted. The smaller the number, the thicker the yarn, and the higher the number the softer the yarn. Think about it the same way you think about sheets—the higher the thread count, the softer the sheets! Most cheap shirts are made from 18 or 20 singles. For a super-soft garment aim for a single count of 30 or higher.
Slim fit/Fashion fit: Clothes are narrower and fit more snugly to the shape of the body. This mostly applies to the shoulder, hips, and waist.
Staple: Essentially, a cotton fiber. The fluffy piece of cotton (called a “boll”) that is plucked off the plant, contains about 250 “staples.” High-quality thread is typically made from long staples which are easier to spin into a very fine piece of thread.
Tri-blend: A blend of polyester, cotton, and other man-made fibers, usually made in a 25/50/25 blend.
Tubular tees: The main shirt body is knit as a tube, then cut to length, and the sleeve and neck holes are cut out, then sleeves are sewn on and trimmed. These shirts are more economically made and are the cheaper option. Also are typically made from Carded open-ended cotton.
Unisex: Clothing meant to fit both men and women. These types of garments are usually relaxed fit, meant to be universally worn.
V-Neck: A neckline that comes to a “V” or a point near the collarbone.
Weight: The number of ounces per square yard. Lighter fabrics tend to be made from combed and ring-spun cotton and are typically much softer than the heavy-weight, open-end alternatives. This also includes 50/50 and tri-blend materials which are inherently lighter due to the synthetic materials.
Women’s Fit Tee: A slim-fit garment designed to flatter the female shape. These types of shirts usually include shorter sleeves, larger necklines, and fitted forms.
There’s much more to learn about T-shirts: which shirts fit your customer base, how to print on different types of shirts, and more. As you gain more printing experience, you’ll be able to choose the best type of shirt for your clients. Ask around to find the most popular T-shirts that screen printers use, and experiment with multiple types of garments to hone your skills and preference. Got questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 1-360-576-7188.