Build Your Business:

The Mixed-Media Advantage

Use multiple decorating techniques to build customer loyalty, and raise value and revenue.

By Alice Wolf, Contributing Writer

October 8, 2018

Buzzwords like “added value” and “perceived value” can have a big impact on your business. Whether you run an embroidery or screen-printing shop, you no doubt are personally invested in your product’s quality, creativity and profitability. Think the quality is essential but you don’t have the luxury of time for creativity? Think again! By adding a little something extra, not only can you charge more money for a product, but your customers also will be thrilled with the customization that doing business with you affords.

Whether you combine embroidery with screen printing or appliqué; add bling in the shape of rhinestones or metalized appliqué material; or begin with DTG or laser effects, and add texture and depth with embroidery, you are adding value to an original work and increasing the customer’s perceived value of the finished product., a website that bills itself as “the world’s leader in financial education,” describes perceived value as “the worth or merits a customer ascribes to a product or service. Usually, customers are unaware of the factors involved in pricing a product or service, such as the actual or estimated costs of production. Customers rely on the emotional appeal of the product or service and their evaluation of the benefits they believe they will receive. A consumer’s perceived value translates to the price they are willing to pay for a product or service. Customers place value based on the product’s analytical ability to fulfill a need and provide satisfaction.”

It then becomes the business owner’s, or sales or marketing associate’s responsibility to provide the framework by which customers see, appreciate and desire the increased value of the product so much that they are willing to pay for it.

That’s where added value plays a role. According to Investopedia, “value-added” describes the enhancement a company gives its product or service before offering the product to customers. Value-added applies to instances where a firm takes a product that may be considered a homogeneous product, with few differences (if any) from that of a competitor and provides potential customers with a feature or add-on that gives it a greater perception of value.”

When it comes to pricing, “a value addition can either increase the product’s price or value,” according to the website. “Value-added is the difference between the price of the product and the cost of producing it.”

Your final price, after adding value, is determined by what your customer is willing to pay based on their perceived value.

Adding Value
Creativity abounds at Washington-based Kreations by Kara. Owner Tamra Valle describes the thinking that went into her multimedia design, “Fashion Cat Appliqué” (see Figure 1).

“We came up with the idea when we were trying for a different look that would actually use up some scrap fabric that was lying around,” she says. “We layered the scraps of color, adding another layer of gold mesh over fabric in some areas, and then digitized using ‘negative space’ to let the colored fabrics show through.”

Fashion Cat Appliqué was designed for use on something large and substantial, like a sweat shirt or throw pillow, and is available in five different sizes, ranging from about 5″ x 7″ to 10″ x 14″.

Jane Swanzy of Texas-based Swan Threads has her own take on adding value and customization. “I started with a basic white SanMar District Made ladies tee, chose an Urban Threads design, added some Glitter-Flake vinyl stitched up with polyester embroidery thread and added a Rhinestud star, marking approximately where Houston is located to really customize it.”

This kind of personalization, while not terribly time consuming, enhances the shirt’s perceived value (see Figure 2).

Another digitizer, Jesse Elliot of Washington-based Ignition Drawing, combined three elements to create his “Mount Rainier” design (see Figure 3).

“We used appliqué, [direct-to-garment printing] and embroidery to accomplish this unique contest piece,” he explains. “We printed the photo and the dark green border on a canvas bag material with a Brother GT-3 direct-to-garment printer. There is only one piece of appliqué. Then, we made a placement line for the printed canvas, stopped the machine, placed the already-cut piece of fabric and secured it with a zigzag line, and then satin-stitch top stitching. Finally, we embroidered the trees and some grass in polyester embroidery thread for a three-dimensional look.”

This design was done on a sweat shirt.

Value’s Price Tag
When Erich Campbell was challenged with decorating a lightweight ladies’ T-shirt without adding excess bulk, he combined heat-
applied rhinestones and low-stitch-count embroidery. His resulting fleur-de-lis shirt (see Figure 4) is embellished with a combination of light-density embroidery and an overlaid, stock rhinestone fleur-de-lis design.

When asked about pricing this shirt, considering the added value of rhinestones and the appearance of hand embroidery, he explains it requires considering the labor needed to hoop and embroider the piece, as well as align and heat press the rhinestones.

“It would be considerably more expensive than the average garment,” he says. “However, the low stitch count and the pre-made transfers would speed the process and make the end result more affordable for both the decorator and the end user. The design itself, due to using built-in contour-filling tools, did not take long to digitize, and the use of a commodity rhinestone transfer made the costs much more reasonable than one might expect for a multimedia piece.”

Another one of Campbell’s multimedia designs, “Glitter-Flake Chili,” was created as a proof of concept for combining sublimated prints with embroidery designs to create a full-color appliqué treatment with the least amount of setup and no cutting (see Figure 5).

It was used to test both how well the white polyester glitter material would accept sublimation and to dial in the settings needed to offer the process to clients.

“This setup was incredibly quick to execute, as the images were very lightly processed stock photos paired with a simple, single-color embroidery treatment,” Campbell says. “With the rip-away appliqué material, it didn’t really need much in the way of special digitizing, aside from making sure to leave an open space and perhaps having a placement stitch line to show where the design must align.”

With considerable added value, this design’s price should reflect the required additional labor, materials and setup time, as well as an extra heat-press cycle for the Glitter-Flake appliqué’s initial image print, embroidery and image cleanup.

Campbell created “The Top Decorator” (see Figure 6) for an industry contest. It involved adding screen printing and embroidery to a travel- and balloon-themed design to achieve a more complex, multimedia image.

“The ‘passport stamp’ was digitized in an open, single-color style to match the print and to allow the addition of texture without obscuring the background image,” he says.

Instead of technique, labor should be the primary factor considered in pricing this finished product. Since it features a hand-
attached, screen-printed patch and multiple small hoopings, it would be considerably more expensive to produce than a design that consisted solely of screen printing or embroidery.

None of the work was incredibly time consuming, Campbell says, since the parameters set by the contest were limited and stitch counts kept to a minimum. However, the multiple treatments can add a lot of labor cost to a project like this. The unique look — its perceived value — would increase the price.

Alice Wolf is manager of education and publications for Madeira USA. She began doing marketing and public relations for the art industry in New York, and then migrated north to Madeira’s New Hampshire headquarters. For more information or to comment on this article, email Alice at