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Tee Talent, a social enterprise based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

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How to buy custom t-shirts: carded vs ring-spun.

November 6, 2017



A very typical question from people looking for custom t-shirts is: “how much do you charge to make X number of t-shirts?” Well, when we go to a pub we usually ask what type of beer or wine we want, correct? We don’t just say “give me a drink” or “give me a beer.” We get into the specifics. T-shirts are similar to drinks in this case. There are different types of t-shirts available with different price ranges, and depending on the purpose of the t-shirt that you are purchasing, you should check these details.


Before we started Tee Talent, we researched 25 screen printers based in the Greater Toronto Area and Southern Ontario to see how much they were charging, and how they were assisting their customers. This helped us to differentiate ourselves from the competition, and offer superior customer service to our future clients. During this process, something caught our attention. None of the vendors that we contacted asked what the purpose of the t-shirts were (an event, uniform, branding etc.) To beat the competition, they were offering the cheapest t-shirt available on the market. Later on, when operating Tee Talent, we realized that customers really did not know what they were buying, and that is why vendors are offering whatever cheap t-shirt is available.


From a marketing perspective, this can bring some problems. For instance, if your goal is to have your message circulating, so people can be more aware of your brand, there is a high possibility that you are not going to achieve that. Why? Well, would you use a t-shirt that is not comfortable to go to the supermarket, for example? Probably not. At the end of the day, that cheap quote was actually a very expensive one, because your message is not circulating the way you were planning. A total waste of money.


To avoid this situation, ask for something comfortable, with a soft feel. A ring-spun t-shirt would bring this result and people would use your t-shirt more often. Ring-spun cotton is smoother and longer than open-end yarn. On the other hand, if you are a contractor making uniforms for your staff that will be working with heavy equipment and/or carrying construction material all day, it is better to go with something cheap, like a carded t-shirt. Carded open-end is a cheaper way of turning cotton into yarn and it gives a thicker feel to the t-shirt. 90% of the screen printers will use a carded t-shirt for their quote, so watch out.


If you want to read more about the differences between carded and ring-spun t-shirts, the U.S. based company Bella Canvas published an article explaining the differences in details. Next time when you are purchasing your custom t-shirts keep in mind your goals and the type of t-shirt that will serve your purpose. Balance the cost and benefit of each one.



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