T-shirts screened

We were super-excited when Traces invited us into their facility to see our shirts being screened! We talked to Tracey Johnston-Aldworth, the owner of Traces, and Niki Endresz.

Traces was started in 1985. Tracey says “I was hand painting designer shirts in Toronto… I was paid $8 per shirt… I went and checked out my work at Holt Renfrew, and they were selling for $125 (1984).” She wanted to make her own line of t’s that were partially printed then finished with painted highlights. But, when financing came through, she opened as a screen printing business and never did her own line.

A manual screening jig with the “organizer” screen on it. These can make 50 or more shirts per hour. They mentioned the challenge to find workers with the skills needed since there is no standard training for textile screen printers… Perhaps they could do a workshop at Maker Expo next year. 😉

A volunteer shirt under one of the automatic screens. This machine is capable of 100 shirts per hour in 7 colors or layers. GH1-18084-argb

The ink remains goopy until cured.

Extra inks are stored for potential future reuse.

Traces is big into environmental safety. The company is completely air, drain, and waste safe. They have worked hard over the years to source materials and develop techniques that meet or exceed California environmental standards. “[We] are proud to say we were the first completely environmentally sustainable screen printer in the area.” Not all printers use chemicals that are safe, customers should ask about this when planning orders. The screens are washed with soap and water to remove the inks, and even power washed to remove the pattern so the screen can be reused.

With all the controversy around human rights within the garment industry, we also asked about it. “We vet out suppliers and ask for paperwork to confirm they are socially responsible.” Tracey indicates.

Many shirts are made in factories over-seas, however they do also work with local makers. Traces does work with an artisan who makes handmade bags in Brussels, Ontario to print designs on these.


Volunteer shirts quickly pile up at the end of the line. The SLF Waterloo Busker Carnival wallpaper is in the background. Traces is a huge supported of this event. Tracey explains enthusiastically “We love to support arts & cultural events of all kinds including the Royal Medieval Faire & SLF Uptown Jazz Festival. In 2015 we added Tri-City Roller Derby & PWA (Pure Wrestling Association) because they are fun & interesting.” GH1-18079-argbUmbrellas are screened for a popular donut shop. What are their most memorable products? Traces collaborated on a computer mouse with inspirational messages, embroidered funeral home body bags & urn bags, and bagpipe cases. There was even a set of souvenir shirts for the “furry” community (this makes me ponder: are dog garments called H-shirts rather than T-shirts?) They used to produce “tats for brats”, a set of temporary tattoos for kids. They coordinate making lots of other items through sub-contractors: mugs, pens, water bottles, magnets, buttons, watches, USB drives, and embroidery for example.


Here is Maker Expo organizer and Tinker Truck co-owner Cam Turner holding up a volunteer t-shirt while one rolls off the curing oven in the background.


Traces is having a sale wed-thur sept 23-24. Choose from samples of various garments in various sizes and colors. This is a great opportunity for makers who want to try putting their own designs on things!

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