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Crew Shirt: Fabric


Reference Pictures
(all from TrekCore.com)

One for show:

Links to the rest:
Spock, head and shoulders.

Super-high res of Spock. Click for bigger.

Lots of related information to this in my entry "Adventures with the Real McCoy" where I examine a costume sample piece from the real movie fabric.

Heavyweight aka Jumbo Spandex

Sources: Marjorie Galas article, and a post on the SF1701st forum by James Cawley, and a post on the ST Uniforms forum by CommAdorable that says he spoke to an extra.

The online stores I've found that sell "jumbo spandex", if they mention the fibre content, describe it as 4-way stretch, 90% or 80% nylon, 10% or 20% spandex (note, spandex has other names, like lycra and elastane) and heavyweight. I've also seen it called "super stretch" and "super spandex".

It has a shiny and a matte/dull side. The matte side would be used as the "right" side of the crew shirt, while the shiny side appears to be used for the seam details.

I compared a McCoy costume card sample to samples of Jumbo Spandex from Spandex World (see "Adventures with the Real McCoy"). They didn't have the right colour, but it looks indistinguishable to me from their "Jumbo Spandex" which is 90% nylon, 10% spandex, 2-way stretch, 10 oz.


Much as I hate to say this, the best source for determining colour is going to be the costume cards from Rittenhouse collectibles and comparing them to an objective colour source like paint cards or pantone colours. There's enough weasely words on the back of the costume cards to hope that they are cutting up scraps rather than costumes to sell.

The Blue Fabric (from the McCoy sample) has a base colour that is closest to CIL/Glidden Paint chip "Regal Wave":

(Again, more colour studies of the blue sample in "Adventures with the Real McCoy.")

If anyone else ever gets another colour, please share the colour information on it to limit the destruction :-).

That said, I happen to personally like dressing as the character in the universe, not the actor on a set, so I'll always gravitate to what the colours looked like on film if they're different from the real costume.

I've not been able to find a blue jumbo spandex that's close to the sample - I've had samples of the Royal and Navy blues from Spandex World and looked at local fabric stores to no avail.

Since it's nylon/spandex, it might be possible to dye white fabric too. I'll discuss dyeing a bit more below.

Delta Design

Nerts! Dreamt up by someone who didn't want fans replicating these, I'm sure.

The design is described as having been achieved through Dye Sublimation.

Sources: James Cawley in a post on SF1701st, and the Marjorie Galas article alludes to it.

It would make sense for the dark portions of the pattern (the outline of the delta) to be the printed portions, with the lighter base colour of the fabric showing through. However, if I understand the process correctly, it might also be done with both shades being printed on white/neutral fabric. It occurs to me that the shiny side being used for the seam details is one solid colour, which leads me to believe the fabric used was already that colour, ie. the light colour was not printed onto the fabric along with the dark.

What I've read on the web about dye sublimation on textiles usually mentions polyester. Polyester/spandex blends do exist, but nylon can still be dye sublimated, along with most other synthetic fibres. One problem with dye sublimation is that it apparently requires high heat which can be damaging especially to spandex, but also to nylon.

The nice thing about nylon as opposed to polyester is that it can be more easily dyed at home with Acid Dyes. However, the same cautions about temperature apply: nylon requires heat for the dye to set, and spandex will start to de-form around 105F.

(There's some good information on dyeing spandex blends here at Paula Birch's site.)

The Design itself

Some very industrious people have worked on this and continue to. Here's my sketch based on the McCoy sample:

It looks to me like the design is essentially two vertical bars, one darker and one lighter) beneath the light deltas.

If you look carefully at some of the scans of uniform cards on sale on ebay the design does sometimes looks more or less clear, here's a sample:

Some very nice high res captures:

Click for bigger.

Click for bigger

So: How to Make the Delta Design

Honestly, I do not know at this point. But these are my thoughts:

1. Commercial Dye Sublimation

I googled "dye sublimation hometown name", also "custom fabric hometown" works well too.
Some of them are promotional product people who don't really print on fabric. Try sign printers, promotional products, graphics places.

I found one local company who is enthusiastically offering to do this for $650 for 5 yards for me, plus $100 if we have to ship the fabric from the US as a import fee. Nice. This is WAY out of my budget and I'm not interested in becoming a middle man in distributing this stuff to other fans.

If you live in Canada and want to contact them, ask me and I'll give you their information. If you live outside of Canada you would be out of your mind to look for a Canadian company to do this for you, textiles are subject to huge duties and fees.

I suggest following the Star Trek forums at the Dewback Wing ASAP site (http://propreplicas.yuku.com), that seems to me to be the most active place for discussion of getting a place to make this for us.

Also - it's rumoured that Roddenberry.com will eventually offer this fabric for sale.

There's precedent in the superhero costuming community for finding local commercial dye sublimation, but either they are lucky or have deep pockets.

2. Airbrushing

I googled "airbrush hometown name". (Wow, I'm giving away all my tricks here ;-) )
I've now sent off a couple emails to people with names like "Pain Inc", one Party/Makeup person and one jack of all trades/interior designer type. Believe it or not, it was the interior designer who has replied first, asking me for more info, so we'll see how that goes.

The idea would be to create a stencil of the Delta outlines that you could tile together and spray through the stencil to the fabric.

I imagine if an airbrush artist agrees to paint my fabric I'll defer to their expertise. But things to consider:

- paint usually stands on top of fabric (dye actually chemically changes the fabric). For a stretchy fabric this might be particularly troublesome as it could lead to cracking or peeling.

- I found a slightly silly little thread on airbrushing spandex on an AirbrushTech forum here. It mentions using something called Createx and heat setting it with a heat gun (I bet you could use a low iron too). There's also Jacquard's Airbrush Colors which looks like it's a thin paint.

- My own brainwave is to use Acid Dyes in the airbrush, which will dye the nylon at least. I've done something similar with silk scarves, where I soaked the silk in vinegar/water, mixed the dye up and then sprayed the dye onto the wet fabric. I'm not sure such an approach would work - it certainly might cause the dye to run if the fabric is wet. But you can also paint dry silk with this stuff and without any vinegar added. It would need to be heat-set. Obviously tests would be important.

- Liz at Dharma Trading, in her infinite patience with my questions, wrote to me:
"Airbrushing with a stencil is also possible but you will also have to test it out. I cannot say there will be no bleeding because it all depends on the painters skill and the paint. I don't think acid dyes will work you have to boil the fabric with the dye to make it work. I suggest a opaque airbrushing paint as your best bet, it will have to be heat set. To airbrush you have to get the kit and the compressor or canned air. It also can be a costly project."

The professional airbrushers I've talked to generally turned down or ignored this commission. The one guy who I've pestered into agreeing he could try it has never done a textile before and has no idea whether the paint will stick, nor how long the project would take, but he's quoting me their usual shop rate of $75/hour plus materials.

A problem with Airbrushing:
You can't make a stencil with cut-outs (for painting, airbrushing, what have you) that cut-out the dark blue portions of the pattern (the outlines of the delta) because the lighter delta portions don't connect. The deltas can't just float there. And it's way harder to paint light on dark than dark on light.

I suppose you could add thin little lines connecting them, then after painting go back over and fill them in.

When I saw that the design has the two bars of colour behind the deltas this actually makes a stencil more attainable, by making two stencils, one for each "colour bar" and then aligning them:

fairegoddess writes with the idea:
"freezer paper irons on to fabric at a relatively low temperature and sticks until you peel it off. I'd be worried about how well it would stand up to liquid-based dyes or airbrushing paints, but it might be possible to cut out hundreds of tiny deltas and iron them on as a resist to color the background... Maybe?"

Very very finicky work.

3. Using a Resist (like Batik)

roguesparker asks whether a method like batik might work. Batik uses wax as a "resist", but there are other types of resists out there too. I also have used resists for silk painting (it runs alot though - it would be hard to make such a small design).

You could potentially get the shaded background by first purchasing or dyeing the fabric the colour of the deltas. Then you'd put a resist on the Starfleet deltas and dye it a medium colour. Then put more resist on, this time over the "medium" bars in the background, and dye it the darkest colour. Then remove the resist.

I'm not certain it would work on a stretchy knit fabric like this nylon-spandex blend, it's usually done on woven cotton.

Traditional batik also has cracks and wrinkles (where the dye seeps in), so the overall appearance would probably be more organic and less crisp than the original Trek fabric.

4. Screen Printing

drhaggis describes it as a 110 mesh of silk/nylon with the pattern burned on with a light sensitive emulsion.

Liz at Dharma was optimistic about screening:
"All you need is one screen, an emulsion sheet, squeegee, paint and your image those are the necessities everything else just helps make it easier. What you would do is take the one image you have but burn it (depending on its size) 5 or 6 times on the screen. Do one section of the fabric let it dry then repeat the process until the fabric has the all over print. Check out the screen printing kits on our web site they are more then enough for what you are doing and probably less then $50."

I've been talking to some professional screen printers (I've emailed 11 of them), and the three issues they have: they don't think the ink/paint will take very well, they don't have large enough screens and repeating the design is very difficult.

Some of them recommended trying to talk a Sign printing place to take the commission because their screens are big. The 5 sign printers I've contacted have all either said they can't do it or have ignored the request.

The one lone screen printer who I've cajoled along into agreeing this would be possible cautions me that even using the ink (and special additives) they use for stretchy athletic material may not be stretchy or handless enough. His screens are limited to 20"x14" sections, but the price is reasonable: about $20 to set-up, then $2.50 per press (with a minimum 12 to 24 presses depending).

A thought I had about the limitations of screen size: You could cut fabric to fit whatever screen they are using and cut the pattern pieces from it (hopefully all your pattern pieces would be small enough to at least fit one per screen), instead of trying to repeat the pattern all over your yardage.

4b. Yudu Personal Screen Printing Machine

Suggested by westcoastgirl77, this computerized home-use screen printer would at least allow you to mess around and test screen-printing on your time and in your own house. Learn more about the Yudu here. Michael's craft store sells them.

5. Transfer Paper

The usual t-shirt transfer paper, like Avery, that you get at the local stationary store might leave too much of a stiff coating, that's also prone to cracking, to be useful. But I am intrigued by a product called SuperSoft Inkjet Paper that claims to work without leaving a change to the hand of stretch knits.

The kind that Dharma carries (in that link) is for light material. I've seen it for dark material too, but it's more expensive and Dharma (which has the best prices I've found) doesn't have it.

Liz from Dharma's advice about this paper:

"[The Supersoft] will leave a slightly visible out line but its not white like the opaque paper it is clear. Which means you do not have to cut exactly perfect around the image but it will have a slight feel and plasticy look to it. I would suggest buying a ten pack and seeing if it is do able for you. Also keep in mind it is transparent so that the color underneeth will show through, but for you I dont think its going to be a problem because it is the same color just darker. Using the transfer paper will be the easiest way to do it but there are issues that come along with it that only you can learn by testing it. Such as cracking, the wear and tear of the paper such as fading etc. Painting really is the only way to do it and have it stay on the fabric with out fading."

I actually did a bunch of math for the Dharma sheets, to cover 2 yards of 45" spandex:
11x17 sheets:
2 yds - 20 sheets - 2 packs of 10 for $27.60, or 3 packs of 10 for $41.40 USD
8.5x11 sheets:
2 yds - 42 sheets - pack of 50 for $30.95 USD

To compare, there's a local source of these sheets for dark fabric, but SO expensive:
11x17 sheets:
2 yds - 20 sheets - pack of 25 for $95.00 Cdn
8.5x11 sheets:
2 yds - 42 sheets - 2 packs of 25 for $110 Cdn

6. Stamping

Especially since a stencil for airbrushing would be difficult, this is essentially the reverse. It would be hard to get the background details, but this would be a way to add light coloured deltas to a darker background.

7. Fade/Bleach the Deltas on Dark Fabric/

Inspired by a question from drhaggis:

I have to say the scans/pictures of the costume cards don't really look like the deltas were bleached, and since the seam binding looks so much like it was the original base (light) colour of the fabric used, and it would just make so much sense to use it that way, that I think the original is dyed to be darker, not bleached to be lighter.

That said, for a reproduction, maybe bleaching or discharging could be tried. You'd need something thick and that doesn't creep outside the design or run. Synthetics are notoriously resistant to bleach or discharging.

This discharge paste, designed to stay in place on a design, for instance:
is only for natural fibers.

You could add thickener to plain old bleach to apply it, but Dharma implies it too can only be used on Cellulose fibres (rayon, cotton, linen) with success:

This iDye color Remover claims to remove dyes from almost anything (super cool) but it looks like it's designed to put in wash with whole fabric, not applied in a design:

8. Sharpie Pens, or painting by hand

Don't laugh! scotia_sammyjo mentioned this and I'm seriously thinking about it.

westcoastgirl77 writes:

"I tried a sharpie (black) and it was waaay too dark. I tried a black fabric pen (from Michael's) and it also was too dark and does bleed. I tried a gray fabric pen and had better results, especially when I used a very light touch.

So, at this point I currently intend to freehand the design on the fabric with the gray fabric pen, oversizing the symbol to allow for the bleeding. It does go through to the other side (the iron-on did not) so I will need to cut the pattern out before I start drawing on the pattern, so I can leave enough fabric to keep the seams plain and shiny."

9. Cannibalize a Rubies Costume.

The regular. Shirt, dickie.
The "deluxe". Shirt, dickie and emblem pin.
The "Grand Heritage" Shirt (with shoulder seam detail), complete undershirt and emblem. The GH release dates range from July 31 and ~$140 Cdn to October and ~$80.00 Cdn. The others are out now.

Goodness knows what this is on buycostumes.com.

The above claims to be a GH, but doesn't have the shoulder seam details. Confusing the issue, however, is that some pictures of the GH costumes have the special shoulder seams (like on the actual Rubies site) while most others don't. It's possible Rubies has changed the design (for the better) and added the shoulder seams and those sellers haven't updated their images yet.

At any rate, I find the buycostumes link interesting because it describes the costume (and, in fact, all levels and colours of the ST 2009 Crew Uniform costumes on their site) as "100% polyester" and "jersey". Not nylon-spandex. Though again, the GH hasn't been produced yet and might change, and the site might simply have the material listed incorrectly. I'd believe it though. It looks like polyester jersey to me, though the GH pictures do look like a heavier and shinier version than the other regular/deluxe.

I try on and look at a basic level Rubies costume here at "Adventures with the Real McCoy"

(Edited on June 5)
Oh, and I wanted to point out that if one didn't care about the material, one could SO easily get this blasted design on quilting cotton or shower curtains!!

Print custom fabric on demand:

Custom shower curtains:

(Edited June 7, June 12, June 22)


Are they deliberately trying to frustrate us?
Yes. Yes they are :-)
So you got me looking at these too with your first post... I was thinking of making a stencil and using a[50] sharpie[s]. Or setacolor transparent fabric paint.... hahahahaaaa. Seriously. And then I decided I like Spocks black uniform with all the weird piping better. I might still try to do a blue one in jersey and do the sharpie thing....
a[50] sharpie[s]

Is this some particular kind of sharpie, or do you think we might need 50 sharpies per shirt? :-)

Y'know, it's not a bad idea, and I've been thinking of trying one of thin paints like setacolour or dye-na-flow too (would you airbush that through a stencil?)

I hit a roadblock with anything involving a stencil... you'd want to colour the dark onto a light fabric, which means doing the delta outlines, not the deltas themselves, which - if the light delta areas are not connected to each other - that you can't make a stencil... *whimper* Any ideas on this? Make a stencil with connectors and then go back and sharpie it in???

50 sharpies. Yeah, I didn't think all the way through the stencil making idea.... What if you made the stencil, but then inked IT lightly with I don't know what, and did it like a block printer, then perhaps would have to go back with the sharpie and colour it properly? Or what about making some sort of roller... You could make your stencil [by printing that sample - possibly duplicating it to make a bigger piece in photoshop and then painstakingly - because you have endless patience - cut out the deltas], then lay it on a sheet of fun foam, and try to etch in the deltas with something that eats into the foam] - THAT wouldn't be that difficult. Then the only hard part would be lining up the blocks as you print. Thinly painting setacolour on a stamp works OK, with patience I think you could make the fabric. Of course, this idea is coming from someone who hung 11 yards of embroidered linen over a fence once and painted all the individual flowers red with a paintbrush.... I have been called crazy before....
The transfer paper idea - the only time I tried doing that, it was with the kind from office depot - and it cracked when I wore the shirt. Do the kinds you were talking about not crack?
LOL! I have to laugh, because otherwise I would cry... earlier I was convinced the idea of making a stencil would be the way to do this, since I'm having no luck finding a commercial place to do printing/airbrushing 914 email inquiries out and counting), and now my head is whirling again.

I'm thinking the fence and 50 sharpies, free-hand, sounds absolutely do-able at this point ;-)

The transfer paper I linked to above claims to not crack on stretch-knits and to leave a soft hand. I'm going to cave and order some just to try it. If it's not suitable, I'll have 50 sheets of transfer paper and I'll know what everybody's getting for Christmas :-)
The stencil for printing is a 110 mesh of silk/nylon with the pattern burned on with a light sensitive emulsion.

However, I would think that the "all over print" of these shirts would make it really fricking hard to do as a silkscreen.
Yeah - a printing stencil would be different, they wouldn't have the problem with the lack of connection between the unprinted spaces that a solid plastic sheet with cut-outs stencil would have.

The screen-printers I've contacted so far indicate they have smaller areas they could print - like about 20"x14" or 17"x17" - but none have volunteered to try and tile those areas together. Actually, most of them just say "no" without any elaboration, and that's even before I reveal that I'm an individual/not a company or show them the design/have their copyright hairs raised :-(

BUT I'm wondering if I cut the pattern pieces first, then print them piece by piece, I might be able to sneak them in under the maximum screen size. Maybe. I just measured one of Dr Smith's t-shirts and it's just over 20" wide.

I really need a renegade art student with a screen press in their basement that they regret buying because it was so expensive and are now happy to take any hard cash they can...


Your ST Movie Uniform Progress

Hi Jen!

Thanks for the invite! I'm liking your documented journey into Trek costume re-creation. And also thanks for your contributions to the "Starfleet 1701st" board too. It's always great when fans help each other in this way in our mutual like for excellent Star Trek outfit recreations!

The use of a stencil to airbrush the dye sounds like a good tactic to try. You may want to confer with pro airbrushers to determine if this can be done satisfactorily, especially those who do the tshirt brushing. Now they brush on cotton/poly-cotton/poly shirts, but they may be able to advise on using airbrushed dyes on spandex. Also the dye sublimators may be able to suggest an alternative as well. Seems like their might be a process that can be employed that is not as costly for individual projects versus large-scale projects (like outfitting a starship crew!)

And don't forget that James Cawley of the "Star Trek: Phase II" fan production and former assistant to Trek costumer Bill Theiss, had a cameo appearance wearing the uniform too. He has helped us with great information about the movie, TOS and other uniforms seen in Star Trek!

Good on ya, Jen! Good luck and to quote Arnold, "I'll be back!"

Starfleet 1701st
The Star Trek Uniform Club

Re: Your ST Movie Uniform Progress

Hi Steve,

I've had two airbrushers respond and they didn't mention it was going to be impossible to make a stencil (like I now think it is...) so maybe they know something about making the design work. Either that, or they didn't catch how it's the dark outlines that need to be inked, not the lighter deltas. I'll update again soon with some of the information I've gotten from them, plus some advice from Dharma Trading (my guides to the world of fabric dyes and paints).

My pleasure, and thank you,

Re: Stenciling

I haven't tried using it on a stretchy and/or spandex material, but freezer paper irons on to fabric at a relatively low temperature and sticks until you peel it off. I'd be worried about how well it would stand up to liquid-based dyes or airbrushing paints, but it might be possible to cut out hundreds of tiny deltas and iron them on as a resist to color the background... Maybe? I don't have any fabric similar to the jumbo spandex to test the theory.

Re: Stenciling

That's a cool technique - thanks for sharing this! I've edited this entry with your idea included and some concepts I've had for stenciling, etc too.

(And welcome! Thank you for commenting!)
That's an interesting idea. Batik uses wax as a "resist", but there are other types of resists out there too. also have used resists for silk painting (it runs alot though - it would be hard to make such a small design).

You could potentially get the shaded background by first purchasing or dyeing the fabric the colour of the deltas. Then you'd put a resist on the Starfleet deltas and dye it a medium colour. Then put more resist on, this time over the "medium" bars in the background, and dye it the darkest colour. Then remove the resist.

I'm not certain it would work on a stretchy knit fabric like this nylon-spandex blend, it's usually done on woven cotton. I

Traditional batik also has cracks and wrinkles (where the dye seeps in), so the overall appearance would probably be more organic and less crisp than the original Trek fabric.

Thanks for posting! I'll add your suggestion above too.