You Got Me Under Your Spell, Silkies!
It's a Give and Take Relationship.
Can I say one more time that I love silkies? I love silkies and I love to screen print on them. It can be a challenge, but it's my chosen path, if you will.
I choose to screen print on authentic Soffe Silkies (aka Ranger Panties) not only because they're the most comfortable pair of shorts, but there's some nostalgia, sense of pride, and patriotism here. My dad and his buddies were running all over the 80's and 90's in silkies...hahaha! I have loved wearing silkies on runs and hikes since I was in my teens. And now that I'm back home in Florida, I try to wear the everywhere I can. But I admit, at least once a month my husband has to ask me to change out of my silkies before we head out to dinner.
Ranger Panty Ingredients
The iconic silkies are made of loose fitting soft Nylon Tricot, comes from the French verb tricoter, meaning to knit. Tricot fabric has a unique zigzag weave that is textured on one side and smooth on the other. This allows the fabric to be soft and also very sturdy for activewear...which won’t snag or run when you out there doing all your badass things. feature an internal liner and pocket for keys or ID. We call them Silkies, many call them Ranger Panties, and there are a lot of other non PG or PC names for them, but what do you call them? These beautiful masterpieces have remained a favorite of the United States Military for decades.
Nylon is very smooth and it is difficult for ink to bond to it. For decorating silkies, you need the ink to form a mechanical bond to hold onto the nylon material. A lot of screen printers may use plastisol ink for this material because it will hold that bond (for a while), but I'm sorry, I personally do not like plastisol ink. It's essentially plastic, can crack and scratch off after a while, not stretchy enough in my opinion for these stretchy shorts...so many reasons.
On my quest to find the perfect ink for these special shorts, I found what I was looking for at the end of 2020: Silicone Ink! Check out my blog all about Silicone Ink here. But I had a lot to learn and I have had a lot of failures (or we'll call them learning experiences). I am thankful for said "failures" because it helped me not only find solutions, but it got me really acquainted with these shorts and how different cure times/temps, different push/pull printing techniques, different screen meshes, and all sorts of other details can really change the outcome of your final pair of decorated silkies.
Here are some of the challenges.
Not Too Hot:
With screen printing, each ink color is laid separately and for this type of printing requires flash cures in between. BUTT, with silkies, the nylon can scorch and even shrink noticeably when exposed to heat, so I cannot just pop the silkies under a flash dryer for 30 seconds like I can with most other materials.
I've had to figure out how to flash cure the inks in between without melting the nylon or even shrinking it which will obviously mess up the print, especially if it is multiple ink colors.
Save the Wrinkles for the Puppies!
Nylon is a notoriously wrinkly fabric, and you cannot just print over them with silicone ink or it will inhibit your print. No bueno. I had to figure out how to get the wrinkles out of the silkies before printing on them. Heat helped, and I weirdly developed a pre-heat dance with my silkies before printing on them. And by having this issue, I found a solution, which in turn benefited on other multiple angles.
Some Inks are Just Finicky
I had the hardest time with the White RFU (ready for use - just add the catalyst when ready to use) silicone ink on black silkies. I would have the issue where the white ink would wash off or peel off after the first few washes. After lots of research and calls with my silicone ink mentor, lots of testing with different heats, techniques, washing not washing, etc. I have figured out the solution and am better for it.
Hustle Like No One is Awake
There are many definitions of "Hustle". When looking this up, HustleInspiresHustle.com said it best: "The trending meaning of the word has absolutely nothing to do with its original meaning. It now means that you spend every possible waking hour to achieve your career or business goals" (Blog Here). This is me: I live, eat, breath, and sleep...BombBullie.
But, in this context, Hustle is also Hustle!!! and get shit done. I put away my iPhone and all other distractions when I'm with my silkies...minus my podcast going on in the background haha. It's me, the ink, the silkies, the dryer, and at that moment, that's all that matters.
Get wrinkles out of silkies, lay my ink onto the silkies as perfectly as I can while they're still "hot", get silkies back in dryer for cure, air out/cool silkies, do the scratch & stretch test, and on to the next. I am in the zone.
There are a lot more things going on with these silkies and the printing process, but I just wanted to share a little bit more about the process of screen printing on these glorious short-shorts! They're not easy, but maybe that is what makes them worth it.