Cooler bags are a popular promotional product for the home, school and office. With many types of cooler bags to consider, how do we decorate them? What do we use? What kind of problems can we expect to see? Let’s start laying this out!
Cooler bags have a unique set of challenges that can be overcome with a bit of planning and education.
- Insulation can be sensitive to heat and pressure as well as difficult or impossible to embroider through.
- Pockets can be small or slim and difficult to get inside of.
- Straps & trim can get in the way of decoration and should be taken into consideration early in the process of deciding on the best decoration technique and location.
There are two main techniques used for decorating cooler bags and each has their own set of challenges to consider.
Embroidery – Many cooler bags have external pockets that are great for embroidery. Some of these pockets can be small or difficult to get into due to the stiff construction of the bag walls or the pocket being tight. I would avoid any pocket or location that you would sew through insulation. Embroidery will puncture holes in this fabric and could cause leaks or the pressure foot could pulverize the insulation and it not rebound. The thickness of the insulation may also make it impossible to hoop or even get a needle through.
- Needle: Most of these bags are soft polyester fabric and a 75/11 sharp point will be perfect. If you are going to try and embroider through a foam padded or insulated panel I would suggest an 80/12 Sharp.
- Backing: This fabric is very easy to embroider and a light-to-medium tearaway will be perfect.
- Thread: Cooler bags are used in many settings and for durability I would suggest using a 40W polyester thread for best results. Polyester is strong and more UV-resistant than other types of thread.
- Hooping: Consider a clamping system for best results. These clamps are very slim and act in a clamshell fashion leaving more room to get the sewing arm inside the pocket. See the how-to video from our friends at Hooptech Products.
Heat Transfer – One the most popular ways of decorating cooler bags. Transfers come in many different finishes, textures and full color. Heat Transfer vinyl also provides and easy avenue for personalization. With the right equipment you can press almost any panel on these bags.
- Transfer Selection: When choosing a transfer there are a couple of things to consider. If you press this insulation at high temperature and pressure it may compress and damage the insulation. Most of these bags are made of a high-Denier polyester – at high heat, dye migration could also come into play. Choose a low temperature transfer with bleed-blocking technology. A temperature of 300 degrees or less is ideal.
- Heat Transfer Accessories: Some of these pockets could be difficult to get into or it may have a trim or hanging accessory like a bottle opener that may be in the way. Using a smaller platen or print perfect pad will raise the press area allowing sensitive trims or accessories to sit lower than the press area. Check out the how-to video from our friends at Heat Transfer Warehouse.