Customer Feature: Unlock Hope

Part of what makes our job so awesome are the people, businesses and organizations we get to work with. The stories we learn about from day to day are intriguing and always keep us motivated. One organization that has inspired us lately is Unlock Hope. They provide healthcare, better food options and a safe place to live for a group of girls in a hostel in Hoima, Uganda, which enables them to educate the girls. They believe this is the first step in ending a difficult cycle of poverty in Africa.

We recently got to ask Dallas Harris, founder of the organization, some questions while he and part of the Unlock Hope team are on the road selling merch and introducing people to Unlock Hope at music festivals.

How did Unlock Hope come to be?

“Unlock Hope has been around for about 2 years in it’s current form. I have started a couple of other companies with similar missions over the past 8 years until I found a story and product that really connected with people. It all started when I watched the original Invisible Children documentary. I immediately started researching ways to help the people of Uganda and started a company called Feed Just One based on the Mother Teresa quote that says ‘If you can’t feed a hundred people then feed just one.’ We donated a ton of meals through shirt sales but wanted to do even more. After learning more and better understanding the needs of Ugandans I discovered that education – especially for young girls – is the most important thing to them. It gives them hope and a future.”

Why keys?

“The keys have a double meaning. They are in the shape of Africa and symbolize unlocking hope for the girls at the hostel that we support. Also, many kids in Uganda have a little locked box where they store their belongings so they wear keys on strings around their neck and I wanted to create something that people here could wear in solidarity and remind them of the difference they are making in their lives.”

How did you end up partnering with Think Humanity?

“I did lots of research into tons of organizations that work in Uganda both large and small and found that many organizations simply don’t use their donations wisely. It’s pretty unbelieveable how efficient Think Humanity is. They are able to use 99% of all donations for program expenses by utilizing a volunteer staff.”

What is the biggest challenge of your job?

“The biggest challenge is being a small but growing company and trying to manage all aspects of the business. There are so many different tasks that come up that you would never think of and kind of just have to learn as you go. I don’t have any employees aside from people helping out for the summer tour so I do a little bit of everything. I recently started having Threadbird handle the online orders and fulfillment so I’m very thankful for that!”

You’re on the road this summer. What does that tour look like for Unlock Hope? 

“It’s very challenging and rewarding! Up until this point all of the sales have been online so it’s been great to get to meet and connect with the customers in person. We are doing 12 music festivals this summer and hope to add more events in the fall. The hours are very long and there’s four of us crammed in a passenger van along with all of the merch and displays but we are having a great time!”

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What is your favorite story or experience since starting this adventure with Unlock Hope?

“I love getting notes and cards from the girls at the hostel in Uganda!  It’s always great to hear about their lives and learn more about their experience.  I also love sharing the story with people and letting them know how easy it is to make a huge difference in someone’s life.”

What would you tell people who are passionate about a cause and want to take a step towards making a difference?

“Just go for it and learn as you go! I started by ordering 36 shirts and selling them on MySpace out of my one bedroom apartment and now it’s grown so much. Pick a cause that you are truly passionate about and it will make the difficult times and hard work so much easier.”

What’s the best way for people to help Unlock Hope? 

“Aside from ordering the products and supporting the cause financially it is a huge help when people share it with others!”

We want to give a huge thank you to Dallas for chatting with us. We love learning more about what drives our customers and Unlock Hope is definitely doing big things. Find out more about what they’re up to on their site and Instagram. And be sure to check out their available merch on the online store.


Rise & Design: A Little Inspiration

Mornings can be tough. We get it. Some days coffee just isn’t enough to get the creativity flowing, so we’ve decided to help you out!

We’re kicking off this series of super cool designs to get the creative juices flowing with designs from some of our very own Art & Mocks team! So grab that cup of joe and check out today’s inspiration.

Josh Metts

“I’ve always been impressed by the illustrations of Ed Roth, so I wanted to do something in the same vein and a little out of my style for a friend of mine. I always start with pen and paper and bring it to digital for the coloring.”

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Michael Hoss

“The process behind my skull art was fairly simple. I was in the mood to do something different and found some inspirational pieces online. I mimicked a few different styles and meshed it with my own. I’m a fan of brighter colors, so I thought it would be interesting to mix that into a seemingly dark and grungy illustration.”

Check out some more of Michael’s work at michaelhoss.com.

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Scott Simpson

“This illustration from BBC’s hit show, Sherlock, was created w/ Illustrator. I love playing around with different styles and really wanted try my hand at a more vectorized style.”

Check out some more of Scott’s work at scottsimpsondesign.com.

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Printing Minimums: What Are They and Why Do They Exist?

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“Can I order just one shirt?”

Don’t worry, you’re not the first person to ask. This is an incredibly common question in the screen printing world. At Threadbird, the short answer is “no”. We have a minimum of 24 pieces on every order of up to 2 colors.

“But why? I don’t need 24 shirts.”

Great question. It all comes down to time. Screen Printing is a mechanical process that involves machines, manual labor and time. It takes the same amount of time to setup a job with 1 shirt as it does a job with 100 shirts. When the costs involved are averaged over 100 shirts, the order is affordable for the customer. But, when the same costs are averaged over 1 or 2 shirts, the order is no longer affordable.

At Threadbird, our minimum is 24 pieces per design because that is the lowest point at which your order is still economically feasible.

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“Makes sense. But I’ve seen places that will print just 1 shirt.”

Indeed you have. There are many places out there where you can have just 1 shirt printed. These places use a completely different printing process called Direct-to-Garment (DTG). DTG printing is digital printing. It’s like running your t-shirt through a color printer, rather than dyeing and painting each t-shirt.

“Why doesn’t Threadbird print Direct-to-Garment?”

Another great question. Quality has always been one of our highest priorities at Threadbird. And while DTG printing can meet peoples needs, it does not hold the same quality as traditional screen printing. Colors are not as vibrant and printing typically needs to be done on light colored garments.

“Are there any other factors that affect the minimum order amount?”

Yes, as we mentioned above, 24 pieces is the minimum for all orders of up to 2 ink colors. The following minimums are based on the # of ink colors in your design:

  • 3 Ink Colors – Requires a 36 piece minimum
  • 4-6 Ink Colors – Requires a 50 piece minimum
  • 7-10 Ink Colors – Requires a 100 piece minimum

And lastly, there are a few other situations where minimums are a little bit higher.

  • Tag Printing – Requires a 50 piece minimum
  • Sewing Hem Tags – Requires a 50 piece minimum

“Makes sense. I’m ready to place an order! Now what?”

If you have your order and design ready for us, you can start here. Our team of all-stars will help you figure out pricing and answer any other questions you may have along the way. You can also always shoot your questions to printing@threadbird.com.


How To: Make Your Print Look Vintage

So you want that natural vintage look? We get it! The vintage look is a popular request and we can help you achieve it. Not only will it look great, but it will feel great, too.

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So how do you get the best vintage distressed look for your apparel? Here are a few recommendations from the Threadbird crew:

Start With Waterbase or Discharge Inks.

Waterbase and discharge are two popular printing styles where the inks are essentially dyed into the fabric, rather than “sitting on top” of the garment like plastisol ink does.

Sometimes waterbase and discharge prints will have a slight ink feel at first, but will soften up to the “no feel” state after the first wash.

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Note: stick with waterbase on lighter garment and discharge on darker garments.

Select Your Choice Of Either Tri-Blend Or 50/50 Garment.

This will help create a natural fade and distressed look as the inks are dyed into the fabric.

Need some garment suggestions? We thought you might ask!

When Printing On 100% Cotton Shirts, Create A Distressed Look With A Texturized Design.

When printing on 100% cotton garments, colors will be more vibrant, so you will not get the same fade that you naturally do on a tri-blend or 50/50 garment. However, you can still achieve a vintage look with 100% Cotton garments by designing your graphics with textures.

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If you’re looking for some texture vectors to design a vintage look, you can go here.

Ready to try it out and get your own vintage printed garments? You can start here! Have more questions for us? Feel free to shoot us a message at printing@threadbird.com.


Threadbird Top 5: Summer Garments

Temperatures are warming up, sunshine and blue skies are making a comeback and we’re getting ready for your summer apparel orders! We know picking the right garment can be half the battle when placing an order, so we thought we’d give you a hand. We’ve put together a list of our top 5 Summer garments. These t-shirts and tanks are lightweight, soft and stylish, and we’ve got plenty more where these came from!

American Apparel 6401 – Unisex Sheer Jersey Short Sleeve T-Shirt

The classic. This ultralight, sheer jersey version of American Apparel’s legendary (and most popular item) Fine Jersey Short Sleeve T-Shirt is great for just about any person or design. It results in a great print, too!

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American Apparel BB408 – Unisex Poly-Cotton Tank

Lightweight and cool. A unisex tank in 50/50 combed cotton/poly blend. Featuring a durable ribbed neckline, as well as durable ribbed arm openings. The combed cotton/poly blend provides an ultra soft, worn in feel and superior drape. This tank is another solid choice for any design.

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Canvas 3005 – Unisex Jersey V-Neck

The classic V. Outfit everyone in this conservative V-neck. Soft, classic unisex fit for all.

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Bella 8800 – Women’s Flowy Racerback Tank

Girly and lightweight. Made from Bella’s exquisite flowy poly viscose, this racerback tank’s rich and luxuriously soft fabric is designed to drape perfectly and accentuate your figure.

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Bella 8805 – Women’s Flowy V-Neck Tank

Trendy and flowy. Made from the same fabric as the Bella 8800, this v-neck tank is another flattering, flowy option to keep cool in through the summer and great for layering the rest of the year.

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Let us know if you have any questions about which garment is best for you! You can always email us at printing@threadbird.com or find more about our garments on our apparel page.


Your Threadbird Order is Being Processed: What Now?

When you place an order with Threadbird, our team immediately begins moving it through the system. You can help that process go smoothly and as quickly as possible by making sure your customer service rep has all artwork, sizing, due date (if specific) and shipping address with your order. We’ll handle the rest!

What exactly do we mean by “your order is being processed“? We’re glad you asked!

Once you’ve accepted and paid your invoice, here’s what’s next:

Your digital mocks are created. You should receive the mock for approval within 48 hours (usually faster).

  • Once you get the mock, double (maybe even triple) check the following:
    • Your Ship To address – This might seem obvious, but it prevents headaches down the road.
    • Finishing Options (printed tags, hang tags, fold and bag, etc.) – Do you have any? Are they shown on the mock?
    • Garment count for each size – Are all sizes and counts accurate?

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Our Purchasing department orders your blank garments.

  • We order your blanks right away to speed up your turnaround time. If you want to change your blanks, please let your customer service rep know as soon as possible to prevent additional delays and/or fees.

Your order goes into production.

  • Average production time after mock approval is 5-7 business days.
  • Any finishings and/or complex jobs may require additional time. Turnaround time is an estimate and not guaranteed.
  • If you have a specific due date, please be sure to let your customer service rep know when placing your order.
  • Questions or concerns about your order in the meantime? Contact printing@threadbird.com.

Your order is on the way!

  • You can expect an email with tracking information as soon as your order has shipped.
  • As much as we cross our fingers that it won’t be an issue, we can’t be held responsible for any shipping exceptions, i.e. inclement weather, lost packages, etc.

We understand you’re excited to get your order, so you can count on us doing everything we can to make that happen as soon as possible while delivering the best quality!