I have a few vintage collegiate flocked sweatshirts in my collection. I love them. I love how they age. I love the feeling of the flocked print.
So staying true to making things difficult for myself, I wanted to make a varsity-style flocked hoodie. I started to do more research on how to recreate this today and reached out to my network to learn more. It turns out the original method of flocking was an extremely tedious process and is actually banned here in California due to some of the health risks and chemical exposure.
A little bit about (old style) flocked printing:
Flocking goes beyond simply attaching microfibers onto an adhesive flocked surface. Four distinct methods create this look, some much more scientific than others, but by far the most fascinating process, manual flocking—or direct flocking—was completed by experienced screen printers with the proper tools.
In this system, a machine outlines the design onto the item with adhesive ink. Next, the item heads to a flocking machine, where an electrostatic charge lends a hand. Negatively charged fibers of flock are sent to the grounded receiving material, such as a t-shirt or a plastic car interior. The opposite charge causes the flock to stand up straight on its one when it lands on the adhesive, creating that clean, fabric-like appearance. You can think of this a bit like when static electricity makes your hair stand on end for the moment. With the fibers all standing in the same alignment, the flock does not clump together or lay on its side. The glue is then cured at a higher temperature than usual ink, depending on the material used. The stronger the glue used in this process, the more it can stand up to dry cleaning and washing.
Manual flocking is one of the main methods for creating designs with multiple colors, depending on the capacity of the screen printing manufacturer.
This isn't your typical silk screen you’re used to seeing in most cases.
Our printer was able to do some research for us and was fascinated by a newer method called soft flocking. The results would give us what we were looking for in terms of graphics – multi-color with the look and feel of old flocked sweatshirts – but it’s time consuming and expensive, which is speaking my language! Even though it's a much longer total setup time (compared to a typical silkscreen), we went ahead with soft flocking. Our printer low-key hates us.
The hoodies turned out exactly how I had hoped. The flocking plus the custom dye and wash method, paired with the highly detailed construction made this garment one of my favorite pieces we’ve created. I’m extremely proud of this hoodie. That being said, you can plan on seeing some more flocked print garments from us in the future.