Welcome to the Story of Custom Fabric Printing UK: The 'Why' Behind It All
Why did we decide to stay committed to reactive dye printing, even in the face of numerous challenges, instead of opting for the easier pigment printing process? The answer is simple: we cherish the vibrant, striking prints that only reactive dye printing can deliver, along with the print's durability over the pigment process. The truth is, you can't achieve the same level of colors, vibrancy, and impact with pigments (when it works right!). Just take a look at it—it's simply stunning!
Our journey has been marked by production issues, broken machines, flawed fabric, ink expiration dates—you name it, we've experienced it. Reactive dye printing isn't a walk in the park, and it could have been easier if not for these obstacles, but it has undoubtedly forged our resilience.
Owning my own printer has always been a dream of mine. I first explored it in 2015 when I visited Printwear and Promotion, gazing at the marvelous machines I couldn't afford. It felt like winning the lottery if I ever became big enough... Then, in 2020, I applied for the Scottish EDGE, didn't make it through, but received an email that changed my business life forever!
Amid the pandemic lockdown, I applied for and won a place in Unlocking Ambition, and since then, everything has changed!
So, how did we end up here, and what's the 'why' behind it all?
I had to undertake a project on environmental impact, and I pondered my biggest business challenge—securing a quick, high-quality, and consistent supply of cotton jersey. Every month or so, I would run out of a print, and to justify the shipping (which is often as expensive as the fabric itself), I had to order 60 meters, even if I only needed 1/2 meter.
Nowhere in the UK offered reactive dye printing at a volume small enough for me, so my only option was China, with the associated carbon footprint of shipping small volumes.
In just two weeks (over Christmas), we had to complete all the testing. Let's just say, nothing went according to plan, but I managed to make the presentation, and TCS-eco secured the deposit and an additional impact fund for being among the top 10 projects out of 40 submitted—woo hoo!
With this funding, my project took shape, and I realised that if this was a challenge for me, it was likely a challenge for every other small business or hobbyist sewer out there. We all want beautiful prints, we want them fast, but we don't want to commit to 10-meter minimum order volumes, and we certainly don't want to wait weeks for delivery.
Many UK-based businesses import from China or Europe and claim a 10-day turnaround time, but that's only if you order at the right point in the month (buried in the terms and conditions). If you place your order one day after the UK-based supplier has already ordered, you're looking at a month and 10 days (6 weeks) before it arrives, plus processing and shipping time. You've paid the price and are left waiting!
This waiting period, where you've invested a significant amount of money and have nothing to show for it, is the most frustrating part. That's why I dreamt of printing my own fabrics and thought, 'I can offer these services to other businesses too.' And thus, Custom Fabric Printing UK was born."
Read blog 2 for the story of reactive versus pigment, its painful.