NW Custom Apparel to distribute North Face

North Face is coming to NW Custom Apparel.

After months or even years Northwest Custom Apparel is proud to announce that they are being given the privilege to sell the North Face line of apparel. The items offered will not be from the North Face retail line but special jackets made for the decorator industry. The objective is to allow decorators (Northwest Customer Apparel) the opportunity to share this line with their existing customers.

The standard line of distribution has always been from manufacturer (North Face) to retailers or on line sales outlets. The decorated apparel has grown so rapidly in the past 10 years that more and more manufacturers must take advantage of this distribution channel.

Buying Habits

Buying habits are changing from the two most popular streams of distribution on line sales and direct sales to end users and retail. The decorated apparel industry is quickly becoming a distribution channel behind retail and internet. Promotional product distributors are becoming a force in the distribution of decorated apparel. (logo wear)

Companies are selective when displaying their brand

Companies are more selective when a decision has to be made on where to display their logo. Putting a logo on a no name garment just isn’t in the cards any more. Companies want to be recognized for quality.

Partner with a known brand

Companies partnering with a recognized brand will give them a quality look. This is one of the reasons that North Face is partnering with decorators to allow them to get deeper penetration into the apparel market.

Companies realize that associating their name with a popular apparel brand (Nike, Eddie Bauer, Cutter & Buck, Ogio, Under Armor) will let people know that quality begets quality.

Northwest Custom will be proud to fly the North Face Brand. This is why Northwest Custom Apparel is proud to fly the North Face brand and offer it to our client base. We welcome North Fact to our company.


6 Insider Tips to Screenprint Artwork

Tip 1

All artwork entering the art department for clean-up and print preparation MUST have an order number associated with it. This is to eliminate any confusion as to who is

Clean Artwork
Example of Clean Artwork for screenprinting.

writing the order and makes it much easier to reference the art if any changes need to be made or for future reorders. If a customer is providing art for a pricing quote on art charges before placing and order, please make sure this is clear when giving it to the art department.

Tip 2

The definition of” camera ready” art is different for the screenprint process than with embroidery. The first step art must go through in this process is to make a “positive” of the art. This can be achieved either by printing onto clear vellum on the laser printer or by shooting art with a camera in a darkroom and developing a positive. Positives are then used to bum the screens which the sceenprint ink will be printed through. Printing art onto vellums is less expensive than using a darkroom camera and requires much less set up time, so whenever possible this is the preferred method.

Tip 3

Full Back Embroidery
Full Back Embroidered logo by NW Custom Apparel

A good-looking logo on a t-shirt is only as good looking as the art printed on a positive. JPEGs are not camera ready artwork. Within the realm of embroidery, JPEGs work fine as a reference to be digitized from, but do not work very well for screenprinting. The JPEG format was originally created as a way to compress digital pictures so that they could be easily transmitted over the Internet for the primary purpose of on-screen viewing. While the resolution of JPEGs is perfect for computer monitors, it leaves blurry colors and choppy edges when printed. When a JPEG is received into the art department, it must be
redrawn and reformatted which will end up being charged at $40.00 dollars an hour. There is an exception to this if the JPEG is provided at a very high resolution (see paragraph below). The easiest way to eliminate this extra work is to ask customers to provide artwork that is best suited for the printing process.


Tip 4

Which formats are best for printing? Ideally, screenprint art will have crisp edges, black at its maximum opacity, and clear color separations (if more than one color). The formats that work best for this are CorelDRA W (CDR) and Adobe Illustrator (AI and EPS). We use PCs, so Mac files cannot be accepted unless they are converted to a useable PC format. All fonts should be converted to curves. We can also accept high-resolution .tif files, as long as the art provided in exact desired printing size and at a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch (dpi). High resolution GIF and JPEG files can also be accepted, but only if they are at a resolution of 300 dpi.

Embroidery Thumbs Up
Thumbs up on embroidery


Tip 5

Ad slicks are the best non-digital format we can accept. Ad slicks are professionally printed logos on high quality white backing. If a customer does not have a digital file, ad slicks are the next best thing (if the customer has them available). Also, high quality laser prints work well. The key factor is that the customer’s art has very opaque ink and clearly
defined edges. These make for clear scans when converted to computer files and thus creating better positives.


Tip 6

Color separations are best provided in the .AI, .EPS, or .CDR formats. Any other format will require are time to separate the colors and prepare them for printing. Another option is to provide pre-separated art in multiple TIFs ( or similar format), with a separate file for each color to be printed. We are capable only of spot printing, which is up to 6 separate colors. We cannot do process printing, which blends colors and is used for printing photographs and other graphics with many different colors.

Kept in Stitches for 40 Years

Northwest Custom Apparel Celebrates 40 Years

This year marks Northwest Embroidery’s 40th year in business. Northwest Embroidery was founded by current owner James A. Mickelson in October 1977 in Tacoma, Washington. The small embroidery company started out with a couple of jacquard tape driven embroidery machines from the Baradan embroidery company. In 2015, Northwest Embroidery re-branded as Northwest Custom Apparel to represent that they are more than just an embroidery shop. Northwest Custom Apparel sells custom embroidered jackets, polo shirts and hoodies to local businesses around the South Puget Sound and Pierce County.

40th Anniversary Events – Mark your calendar


The 40th Anniversary events will kick off in April with special deals on Outdoor Caps. The best selling cap, FWT-130 and the MBW-800 will be on sale all month long. The FWT-130 is $8.50 and the MBW-800 is $8.99 per cap. All the cap pricing includes a front embroidered logo up to 8,000 stitches. You only have to order 2 boxes of caps (48 caps) to receive the special pricing.

Summer Open House

Be on the lookout for our Open House this year. We will be bbqing and giving out lots of samples like Hawk Shirts, hoodies and custom baseball caps. Please get on our email list, so you can receive the open house updates. Facebook will also be posting the Open House updates.

Customer Halloween Costume Contest

The 40th Anniversary will be featuring a Halloween Costume contest in October. Customers and community members are encouraged to dress up as their favorite Super Hero and come into our office for a special Halloween Gift (still to be determined).

12th Man Contest

The Seattle Seahawks look like they will be Super Bowl contenders this 2017 season. Russell Wilson will be coming back healthy and ready to pass and run. We are celebrating every Friday as Blue Friday. Remember to come by the office to purchase your 12th man t-shirt and hoodie. Our artist will be developing some new Hawk designs this summer, so your input will be needed to create the best Hawk design ever. Seattle Seahwks






Jim and Erik Mickelson
Jim and Erik Mickelson 2016


Athleisure replaces Office Wear

Athleisure is a new term for a new style of dress that is athletic, comfortable  and very casual. It’s almost like wearing your gym clothes for daily activities. This style of dress is great because it is so comfortable and is now being accepted in the work environment.

What makes this so nice is that it is easy to maintain and easy to care for.

It is also so stylish that it looks like normal street attire. Nike, Ogio, North Face and Eddie Bauer all have styles which are very good looking and comfortable. Northwest Custom Apparel represents all these companies and markets these products complete with custom logos. Northwest Custom apparel offers these garments with custom company logos and many companies use the as team builders. Nothing is more important than showing off your company with branded apparel.

100% polyester smooth faceed fleece. 6.8 ounces, Moisture Wicking Fabric. MQK00049 Men's Half Zip, LQK00040 Ladies' Half Zip, MQK00036: Men's Full Zip, LQK00030, Laides Full Zip

Travel is where Athleisure wear is most popular. It is so helpful not to have to take off your belt or other metal objects when going through security. On the plane it is so comfortable especially when you are trying to squeeze into those tight airline seats. Every extra bit of comfort you can create on an airplane is most welcome. I remember those days when everyone dressed up to fly. Ug.

Traveling in Athleisure wear is so easy. It makes long flights so much easier and you can maintain that feeling of cleanliness which is hard to achieve in fancy business clothes. I would never fly long distance in everyday street clothes.

If you’re an older adult Athleisure wear gives your body a full range of motion. It is just simply comfortable. The most important feature is that it is breathable and keeps you from getting hot or uncomfortable during your during travel.

The most beneficial part of wearing this style of clothing is that allows you to be ready for any activity. You can get up in the morning put on your Athleisure wear, head for the store, run a few chores and then head to the gym.

ST245_LST245_models_GA17_cropThis type of clothing is so stylish that it doesn’t even look like athletic wear. In the streets of Seattle it seems this is the normal mode of dressing.

This clothing is so durable that it makes sense to invest your clothing budget in apparel

which is stylish, durable, comfortable, easy to maintain, and actually looks better than staid old street clothes.

Practical Tips to get Customers into your Embroidery Shop

Create a showroom

It doesn’t matter if you are a big or small embroidery company. You need to have a way to display your product easily and professionally. The days of hanging dish rags onto a rack and getting orders is over. Customers want the Nordstrom of embroidery with great customer service and product. A first impres

Showroom Cutter and Buck
Popular brand names such as Nike, Cutter and Buck, Clique and Outdoor Cap

sion of your embroidery shop is worth a 1,000 words. When a customer walks into a professionally laid out showroom with samples on hangers. (yes most embroidery shops have samples stuffed into a box) and staff dressed with apparel you sell sets a great first impression.

What to display in your showroom

You want to display your garments and caps in a logical and orderly fashion. I suggest separating the garments by vendors. This will make it easier for the sales rep to find the garment in the catalog. Have a rack of Cutter and Buck, Port Authority and Tri-Mountain.  The caps should be on the wall using slat wall and cap shelves, which you can purchase at a local retail display shop.

Catalogs should be easily accessible as you help your customer in the showroom. It is embarrassing when you have to run to the backroom in search of catalogs. I suggest using the smaller sized catalogs instead of handing out the big Sanmar Catalog. Sanmar makes a smaller catalogs for different niches: Essentials Catalog, Sports and Teams and Corporate.

Try to only hand out one vendor catalog. Don’t hand out 2-3 catalogs from different vendors. It confuses the customer and becomes a nightmare when you have to purchase the goods. You will have goods coming from different vendors and all around the country.

Tagging Garments is one way to keep your showroom organized and professional.
Tagging Garments is one way to keep your showroom organized and professional.

Tag Your Garments with Prices

Tag your garments with their prices with the quantity discounts. Include the embroidery cost up to 8,000 stitches. This makes it easier for the customer to get a bottom line price. You don’t want to be that person who runs into their office with a calculator trying to figure out a selling price while the customer waits. Selling embroidery is not a negotiation every sale. Trust me, when you have your prices printed and tagged, the customer negotiation on price stops.

QL-710 Brother Label Printer
The Brother QL-710W Label Printer prints the hang tags using the Shipping label size

What you need to Tag Garments

It is pretty easy to tag the garments. The tricky part is setting up an Excel Data Base to calculate the selling prices. Sanmar alone has over 1,000 SKU’s . I use a formula in Excel that determines the MARGIN on the garment and embroidery. Remember to use MARGIN and not MARK UP.  If you don’t know how to calculate margin, just do a Google search and there are many sites that show you the formula.  The quantity breaks should be 6-11, 12-23, 24-47, 48-71, 72+

Keep your minimum order size at 12 pieces. We put an asterisk next to the *6-11 prices, just in case we need to negotiate a smaller quantity. Notice the price increase when doing smaller orders.

The P-Touch Software comes when you purchase the QL-710W label printer
The P-Touch Software comes when you purchase the QL-710W label printer

The Excel spreadsheet to calculate MARGINS can be tricky for a person not familiar with Excel. I suggest taking some online Excel courses or feel free to contact me and I can walk you through it. Once you learn Excel it will open your mind to more solutions to be  productive in your  business.

Tagging Gun

We have a bunch of tagging guns in our showroom and factory. We always attach our Northwest Custom Apparel hang tag to everything going out the door.  Here is the style and model we use as a tagging gun. These can be purchased on Amazon or your local retail fixture supplier.

Tagging guns are a necessity for showroom organization. This is the TG Tacher 2.
Tagging guns are a necessity for showroom organization. This is the TG Tacher 2.

The model we use the TG TACHER II. It holds about 30 tags per clip and is easy to reload.

Do you need Embroidery Consulting?

My name is Erik Mickelson and our family embroidery shop is Northwest Custom Apparel. We have been in business since 1977 and we are celebrating our 40th this year (2017).  I am the Operations Manager and have been involved with the company on a daily basis since 1997.  My dad is Jim Mickelson and he started the company in 1977 and still plays an active roll.  We want to help other embroidery shops grow and we do offer consulting services for $80.00 per hour. Jim is selective and only works with a handful of clients each year. If you are interested in our consulting services please contact Erik or Jim Mickelson. 1-800-851-3671Erik Mickelson NW Custom Apparle

Diego Garcia welcomes NW Custom Apparel

Northwest Custom Apparel takes pride in the fact that we have been providing decorated apparel to the US Navy in Diego Garcia since 1999. Diego Garcia is located 7 degrees north of the equator and directly south of India. You have to look it up on google to figure out what this island is all about.

T3717 yacht club flagsNorthwest Custom Apparel has been a supplier since 1999. We have done everything from bar coasters and shirts to caps for all the island residents. This is the design which has been applied to thousands of caps for the Diego Garcia Yacht Club.




p2462 goat lockerAnother project we have done was make embroidered shirts and caps for the island’s navy chiefs. The chief’s quarters are often referred to as the Goat Locker. In time honored tradition it is an honor to live in the “goat locker,” The anchors with the starts are images of the ranks of the Chief Petty Officers. No star is a chief, one star is a senior chief, two start is master chief.


j550The Moral Welfare is the group which makes this island enjoyable because they manage all the clubs, athletics, personal services, and recreation. It is one of the most loved units on the island. By the way haircuts, laundry massages are all free.

25375 yacht clubA very popular place to hang out is the yacht club. We have done designs for the yacht club which islanders can purchase and send home to remember their stay on the island. The yacht club has a bar (of course) and their membership is recognized by all the yacht clubs in the world. It pays to join especially if you are traveling.





M2004 The dogeThe island is owned by the British and as you know the Brits are famous for their clubs. Where ever their troops are stationed you’ll find a well stocked pub. There is a excellent British club on the island.

If you ever get to Diego Garcia this place is highly recommended. You must stop by and visit their gift store with all the neat British stuff.




T3217The island is often referred to as Dodge City. We took the time to make a special embroidery for the island gift shop. It highlights the famous donkeys which habit the island. Visit Dodge City and watch the donkeys play.



The whole purpose of this blog is to show that Northwest Custom Apparel can be found in all parts of the world.






Buy at Costco we decorate

Save big bucks

You can save big bucks by purchasing your apparel at Costco and sending to Decosource for the embroidery. We are the largest decorator in the Pacific Northwest. We can easily beat any delivery schedule that the big box vendor promises you. Our most important product is service. This is the easiest way to save money on your apparel orders. Buy from Costco and let us decorate.team-photo

Fantastic Pricing

Costco always has fantastic pricing and you should take advantage of it. The key is the process to get it done and save money.
Costco can give you a unreal price for apparel but they can’t give you the best of service on decorating your garments. Decosource can offer same day printing on apparel if you get it to our factory in Milton, Wa. by 10 am.
If you need gifts for your holiday party you shouldn’t take the risk of letting anyone use a third party vendor to get your order out on time.

Set up takes time

Most important you should consider the set up required for embroidery or screen printing. Decosource can offer 24 hours for a completed sample. The big box vendor cannot do this. Their process will not permit it. You can expect to wait 2 weeks for an embroidered sample but you definitely will get a good price.
The easiest way to reduce your employee uniform and apparel costs is to make your bulk purchase from Costco or any other big box merchant.  You have to keep your eye open because the product might not be available in the future. This is why you should make the purchase immediately.

Call Decosource

Give us a call at Decosource 253-922-5793 or shoot us a e-mail. Tracy@decosource.com with all your art work.
Once your art work is received we will begin immediately to start the process to decorate your goods.

Our most important product is our service. We have been rated number one in our industry. We have been in business since 1977 and we know what we are doing.

Oldest Embroidery Factory in the Northwest

Longevity breeds success

Northwest Custom is the oldest embroidery company in the Pacific Northwest. We opened our doors in 1977 when we purchased our first multi head embroidery machines from Japan. When we stated our manufacturing we had no idea of what the future had in store for us.
Our oldest employee just retired.group-2

She had 33 years of service. We have several employees with over 25 year’s service currently working for us. This is what makes our product so good. We have employees who care.sharon-picture

Our customer service staff is the best. They all are familiar with the embroidery process. They know what they are selling. Each one has operated an embroidery machine. Because of this they can analyze incoming orders. They know how to work with a new customer by actually talking to them. We discourage use of the internet for new orders.

Order Process

The hardest part of our process is a new order. We know we must take our time to get it right. We work with each new customer to explain what and what cannot be accomplished. We have several methods of decoration other than embroidery for designs that are too complicated to do. Digital and Screen Printing are other options.

Once we have achieved art work approval we move to the next step and that is to provide our customer with a working sample of the finished product. When we provide a working sample we know we will get it right. Our goal is to do it right the first time.

Once everything is approved we move forward with the manufacturing process. We pull the product from our inventory or we pull from our vendors who have gigantic warehouses filled with product. We generally receive our goods in one to three days.

We check in and inspect, then embroider. Volei, order is done we have another satisfied customer.
This was a simple explanation of our internal process to make a new client comfortable with us.

How to present your t-shirt brand online

The way you promote your garments should mirror the brand’s image and style. If you take a flick through the lookbooks of successful t-shirt brands, the style and tone of the images go further than just a picture of a t-shirt. They are selling a lifestyle, an image, and if you intend on being successful, you should do so too. The best brands and designers have a clear idea of themselves and market directly to their captive audience through their promotional images.

distressed logo
NW Custom Apparel

Create an Environment

Shooting images of your custom clothing in the environment that you think represents how they should be worn is a no brainer. Here are a few tips on how to create your brand’s “look and feel”.

As the first step of the process, a mood board will help you visualize and put on paper the ideas you have in your head. Then go up to your family and friends and ask them how they see your clothing brand. In next step you need to do some research to find out your target audience.

779803Focus on the Models

Clearly one of the biggest of deciding how to promote your t-shirt designs revolves around the choice of whether to use models or not. Just like the environment you carefully selected, the models you choose have to represent the right image for your t-shirt designs. Tattoos or no tattoos, muscular or skinny. These are questions you need to ask yourself before you start the selection process so don’t be afraid to go all Simon Cowell on your modelling hopefuls. After all, it’s your brand.

Let the T-shirt do the Talking

If all that sounds like too much to handle then maybe the best option for you is to make things simple. Often times less is more and, when done well, minimalism can be the epitome of elegance. Sometimes it is better to just let the t-shirts do the talking and present them in the most simple, but effective way. This could be laid out onto a table or other surface, or on a hanger.


referralShoot a Promotional Video

A picture can speak a thousand words, but many pictures will help you sell t-shirts. Putting together a promotional video may seem a little out of reach for small brands, but with the technology currently at your disposal and a little bit of creativity there are no limits on what you can achieve. If you have the budget for it, the contacting a production company would be the best idea.

Get in touch with trendsetters and influencers 

Look for the influencers in your industry. Once you’ve identified them, it’s time to get in touch with them. A good ol’ fashioned email should do, but if you don’t get a reply or can’t get your hands on an address, social media is also a good way to go about it. Take the time to draw up a well-written message. It needs to explain your brand, why you’re contacting them and what you’d expect from a future collaboration. Don’t send anything too long or you’ll run the risk of boring the reader – and have them click away halfway through.

Amazing Moisture Wicking apparel

Performance wear vs. active wear

Historically athletic shirts were made of cotton interlock material. This was a material which was able to absorb moisture but did not have good evaporation qualities. It was comfortable when first put on but became slightly uncomfortable as the perspiration was absorbed into the cotton. Perspiration was visibly noticeable when an athlete began performing at a intense level.

New fabrics called performance wear.

Enter the new fabrics referred to as performance wear. Performance wear is apparel specifically designed for the active market.  It offers extra comfort in all type of climate. It is made from synthetic fabrics.  Synthetic fabrics is the market than the apparel manufacturers are directing their engineering and research to perfect.

The material used starts out as a basic polyester yarn which is blended with other fibers such as cotton, flax, wool etc. The polyester give the fabric is performance qualities.  It gives the garment its body. It delivers a fabric that offers style, comfort, appearance, flexibility and utility.

Drywicking is an advanced material

Drywicking is a take off of moisture wicking. It is actually is a two tier fabric that breaks the surface tension of sweat and moves it away from the body to be evaporated leaving your skin dry. This fabric can be made into golf shirts, sports bras, running shirts and any garment worn for physical activity.

Performance wear is the fabric that is being improved on every day in the labs of Nike and Under Armour. These two companies are becoming the dominant suppliers of performance fabrics.

New fabrics are amazing

It is simply amazing that we now have a fabric which will block ultraviolet rays, repel bugs and mosquitoes and allows moisture to escape the body. Who knows what future uses are coming.

This fabric is starting to crossover to casual wear. This is the market that Under Armour has taken the lead in. The market is better, no hassle customers, and margins are better.

Northwest Custom Apparel is the number one supplier of Nike and Under Armour in the Seattle area