The first batch of 21,000 t-shirts were delivered to Wiggle at the beginning of last week, and the ordering process will soon be opened up to parkrunners. You can find out more about how to order yours here. We are so excited to see these in parks around the world!
We hope that you enjoyed learning about how technical sportswear is created in our last production updates. This time we're going to run you through the fabric cutting and manufacturing process. We're sure that you'll be in awe of the effort and skill that goes into each and every free milestone t-shirt.
Preparation of the fabric
The quality and comfort of our fabric at Tribesports is something that consistently sets us apart from other sportswear brands. On arrival to the factory, the rolls of fabric are examined again under strict lighting conditions to ensure the color and quality of every yard of the fabric passes our quality control. Once the fabric has been given the “OK” we can set about turning these rolls into sportswear!
The fabric is unrolled and left to ‘relax’ for 48 hours to ensure it will not change shape or experience shrinkage during the rest of the manufacturing process.
The relaxed fabric is then rolled out onto a long table and cut into layers, about 3 yards long, until the resulting pile of layered fabric is approximately 6 inches thick.
These layers of fabric are now ready and prepped for pattern cutting.
In order to cut the pattern pieces accurately and maximise the usage of the fabric, garment technicians devise a blueprint of the different pattern pieces used to make up the garment, laying them across the surface area which at scale will match the dimensions of the layers of fabric rolled out earlier.
The technicians have to take into consideration the grain of the fabric when positioning the pattern pieces to make sure that pieces of the garment once constructed will match up perfectly.
This process is repeated to create a separate pattern sheet with the correctly sized pattern pieces for each size of the product per style. For the parkrun milestone t-shirts we have 6 size gradings for men and women, and 4 in youth, so that's 16 different pattern sheets.
The blueprint is then printed on a pattern page which is placed on top of the fabric layers.
A pattern technician then cuts the fabric into pattern pieces, following the details of the pattern page exactly.
This process is done by hand using a hand-operated laser cutting machine - something that requires years of practice and a very steady hand!
Each stack of newly cut pattern pieces is then transported to the production line ready for construction.
Your technical sportswear has already grabbed some awesome features such as wicking capabilities and 4-way stretch and we’ve not even started the sewing process!
Planning the process – Before the pattern pieces reach the construction stage, the sample (prototype) technician has planned out the exact process through which each and every garment will be constructed. Each machinist will be allocated a different set of tasks per garment style in order to create the most efficient process for production.
Applying the heat transfers - logos, reflectives and of course the all important 10, 25, 50, 100 and 250 on the back of the t-shirts. All of the heat transfer branding on our products is designed to work with sports performance fabrics, offering great stretch and recovery and a soft handfeel. We opted for heat transfer for all branding elements to achieve an anti-chafe, performance finish on your products. These precision cut branding features are applied to the fabric before the pattern pieces are sewn together to ensure the exact placement of the heat transfer branding is correct.
The heat transfer detail is carefully laser-positioned matching the exact dimensions that we provide in the product design pack. The branding is applied and heated at 140~150°C for ~15 seconds under 3.5kg of pressure. The time, temperature and pressure for the transfer instruction varies for different fabric and transfer composition.
(Note this is a smaller machine from the sample room, just displayed for example purposes)
Construction - the production line will follow EXACTLY the samples technician’s construction plan to manufacture the garments. So, one technicians job may be to focus on removing the raw edge of the fabric from the pattern pieces before it moves to the flatlock machine for the seams to be constructed, to ensure a clean finish.
The construction process is very detailed and comprehensive process that varies considerably from product to product. The machines used also vary from product to product, depending whether the machinist needs to construct a twin needle hem, an overlocked collar, a flatlocked seam etc.
One of the many reasons that we chose to work with the factories that we have to produce the Tribesports performance range and the milestone t-shirts is because they specialise in creating performance sportswear and invest significantly in cutting edge machinery to ensure the highest level of construction quality, specific to the needs of performance sportswear customers.
Quality control - Once the garment is assembled, the quality control team goes through each individual garment seam by seam checking that all measurements are correct and ensuring the highest construction quality. Here you can see them checking our men's singlet from our performance range.
Wondering what the orange and clear wires are in the photos from the quality control room? These omit compressed air to allow the technicians to clear the fibres from their desks as they work.
The garment construction process is finished, every seam, measurement and branding & milestone placement has been checked, checked and checked again - so what’s next? Before they set sail, it's time for a few finishing touches...
First off, every product is ironed by hand (that’s a whole lot of ironing!) Next, all of the swing tags have their barcodes stickers applied (this is both for product identification and stock management purposes). The correct swing tag is attached to each garment using a kimble gun - so when it arrives, please take a second to have a flick through it before you rip this lovingly applied swing tag off!
The garments are then folded by hand and placed into transparent polybags. A second barcode is applied to the outside of the polybag.
The products are put into cardboard cartons, organised by style, size and color and the exact contents and unit volume in each box is counted, checked and recorded on a sticker on the outside of the carton.
Before loading the products into the container, there are final spot checks of the final inventory - this requires a random selection of the fully packed and checked inventory to be removed from the cartons selected and quality control checked in full. This review process took place 3 full days.
With final spot checks successfully completed, the cartons are sealed, shipped to the UK and delivered to Wiggle ready to be ordered by you!
That's it for now, and for thanks for reading! We hope that you have enjoyed this update, and hopefully it gives you some appreciation of the effort and high level of skills needed to manufacture high quality sportswear, and the work it takes to get a free quality milestone t-shirt to you.
You can see more of our sportswear range here. Did you know that you can earn yourself and your friends £10 off with our referral scheme? Grab yourself a a great deal - maybe a pair of shorts to compliment your new milestone t-shirt...