Our fabric is printed with archival, UltraChrome K3 Inks making stoles and other fabrics easier to care for. Though I wouldn't treat them like some old T-shirt, stoles can hand rinsed in cold water, without fading.
This is a professional photo printer, the Epson 7880, that will print huge panoramas. In this case we are creating our own fabric prints. More about the stoles is here: Stole Prices and Terms. This printer offers superior smoothness in printing and superior saturation and coverage.
The paper/fabric is indeed special too. It is paper backed cotton broadcloth (coated for brilliance as of Spring 2010). You just print and then pull the paper off and there is your fabric. (Of course you have to create the artwork first!) Lots of research and significant investment went into getting to this point in my production process along with special gear. Professional color profiles, specific for our fabric, were created via a spectrometer. Not recommended for the faint of heart.
You can see from the height of the desk that this is a big girl too. Extra care is taken with it and it has its own dedicated UPS with line filter for clean power without glitches from the local power company.
One of the things we have discovered is that even with the most sophisticated equipment that the fabric we print on must be pristine. There cannot be a bump in the fabric nor can a thread be out of place. A single raised thread or even a loose thread is a nightmare so with each piece of fabric we inspect it, brush it, clip threads and then inspect it twice more.
Here are some production details if you are interested:
I just assumed that people knew that we printed our own fabric. Yes, we do it right here in the studio. The artwork comes first and it is created to fit onto the stoles or item we are creating. We use Jacquard printable cotton broadcloth which is paper backed so that it can be cut to fit into the printer. It comes in rolls 50' long by 56" wide. Jacquard coats the fabric, which is new as of 2010, to better accept the ink for richer, truer colors. Getting from the computer screen, which is where the art is created in Adobe Photoshop, to the printed product is not an easy process as what you see on the screen is not exactly what you get out of the printer, color matching wise. We have professional color profiles but even that isn't enough. We also have our own formulas for adjusting the color.
And with printing on fabric there are all sorts of variables that are introduced:
* Any stray thread can act like a brush and drag ink across your print. We clip all the thread before printing.
* Any stray lint will accept ink and then fall off the fabric leaving a white spot. We brush the fabric and inspect it at least three times for lint. (You usually cannot use a lint roller as it raises more lint and threads off the fabric.)
* Without the proper suction, the fabric lifts up (due to the wetness of the ink) to print head and drags ink into unwanted areas. (There are adjustable suction setting on this printer.)
* One must discover the proper weight to hang off the end of the fabric, as it is coming out of the printer, to compensate for the curling due to the saturation of the ink. That weight is a sheet of paper the width of whatever you are printing. That in itself was a major accomplishment as the professionals at Epson were stumped. It took an out of state, Epson certified technician, coming to the studio multiple times to figure out what to do to solve this.
* You must allow for adequate drying time to be able to cut and sew the fabric.
* We use K3 Archival inks so the fabric can be gently rinsed in cold water.
Why do stoles cost so much?
Some folks wonder about the cost of stoles so we like you to know where some of that comes from. As of November 2013, just one set of 8 ink cartridges is $700-$900 depending on discounts available.
One 50 foot roll of printable fabric is almost $270. (We keep an extra roll of printable fabric as it has to come from overseas.)
We have two Bernina sewing machines so there is always a backup. Machines are serviced regularly.
We have two ViewSonic 23" monitors so that the art can be enlarged across two screens when necessary. We have an HP Elite 8300 EMT desk top computer with 16 Gigs of ram with an on site service contract. We use only the desk top to create the original art as lighting is too variable using laptops. Even during travel, we keep all projects with us and all original art so that the colors are accurate and true even if we do use a laptop. We back up each project daily (with backup software) and we have 4 external 2TB hard drives for backup. (That is three backups plus a portable 2 TB drive for travel.)
Each piece of gear is only plugged in to a UPS (never directly to an outlet) and the printer has its own dedicated UPS.
We use Adobe Photoshop for our software. We use System Mechanic to keep everything running smoothly. We of course have Internet security and a variety of other annually licensed software. We have a web site and use Paypal for processing orders. Both have fees.
We have annual County and State licenses in Nevada.
For contacting us we have decided to go totally cellular so that you may reach us at almost any time as we know sometimes there are liturgical emergencies.
We keep on hand several bolts of fabric and interfacing and plenty of thread.
Labor is then added. Our sewers are all contract labor but are folks who have years of professional sewing experience. (There are no under the table payments at AFTS.) We pay a decent wage.
We keep a fully stocked sewing room with long tables, a computer and many, many supplies. All fabric and especially the printable fabric is inspected multiple times for lint and stray treads which can ruin the printing process.
As new stoles are created, sometimes days are spent in the creation process and the art work is enlarged and refined. Every inch is reviewed on the screen.
Then on top of everything else we pay Sales Tax when applicable. We pay income taxes at a rate of approximately 25%. (That is 25% instantly gone to the government when stoles are created. 15% of that is mandatory Social Security.) And even small businesses have to pay property tax in Nevada for everything that they own that was purchased for the business.
Lastly the artist get paid. Years of experience go into each stole. The artist not only creates the stole but prints the stole and does all of the associated paperwork and books.
Some folks wonder why we charge for custom art. It is kind of like asking a plumber to fix your sink for free as long as they are at your house or an architect to sketch out a new gazebo. Occasionally we do things on a gratis basis but it is not something to be expected as artists have expenses too just like everyone else.
If you are curious about our quality look at the comments throughout our website and know that we have been in business 2000 and were creating art even before that.