National Clothesline
National Clothesline
How to blow it with blown sleeves
I was somewhat of a late adopter to the blown sleeve method of shirt pressing.
The concept has been around
for much longer than you might
think. I first heard of blown
sleeves on a shirt in 1988. There
was a little known shirt press
called Silver Star, if my memory
serves. That was more than 25
years ago! Yikes!
It is a clear fact that the shirts pressed on a blown sleeve shirt are excellent. The removal of
the sleeve press from the equation improved overall shirt press quality, at least partly because
the sleever press itself caused a cornucopia of pressing defects.
Do you remember the shirts that had sharp, pressed-in wrinkles radiating from the sleeve
seam towards the front of the shirt because either the sleeve measuring device was out of
adjustment or the employee needed reprogramming.
These wrinkles often remained evident, even after a hardy touch-up effort. Sleeves were often
under-pressed too, leaving an unpressed area near the cuffs and/or around the shoulder.
And it was easy to make a mess around the sleeve gusset. The oft broken cuff clamp was
usually the culprit, but regardless of the cause, quality suffered and customers were left
Enter the blown sleeve. It was a golden opportunity to significantly improve the quality of your
shirt, without needing to try all that much. The forced hot air that was blown into the sleeves
found its way into every nook and cranny of the shirt, in effect doing the touch-up before it was
actually needed. This is great!
But, you know, just like
everything else, management,
training, equipment care,
employee supervision and follow-
up are all vital parts of doing the
best possible job and I sincerely
doubt that there will ever be an
improvement to any piece of
equipment that will replace even
one of those things.
A good quality press job is not
an accident, it is not a given, it is
not automatic. It requires an
ongoing effort and probably will
require more of your time than
you wish it did. That is just the
way it is.
What I am finding lately is
distressing. Brand new types of
pressing that you never saw back
in the sleeve press days and, I’m
sorry to say, much uglier! Take a
look at Photo 1.
Some shirt units accomplish the
pressing of the sleeve pleats on
the collar/cuff machine, others
blow-dry them and others have a
separate press plate to cinch those
pleats in.
The shirt in Photo 1 is a mess,
and one that could easily have
been avoided.
On some machines, there is
what is called a scoop; a curvy
piece of metal that is designed to
keep the sleeve pleats intact,
sleeve pleats that were pressed on
a collar/cuff machine that is
designed to press those out. The
scoop must be in place when the
pleats have been pressed in, but
must be folded and out of the way
when this part of the shirt has yet
to be pressed and is still wet.
What has happened here is that
really unsightly part of the sleeve
was wet because it was not
pressed on the collar/cuff
machine. Then the shirt was
placed on the body press. The
entire length of the sleeve was
wet, but the scoop was in the
wrong position, covering the wet
It is impossible to properly dry a
sleeve in this manner. The hot air
forces the moisture out of the
fabric, but the moisture cannot be
released into the atmosphere
because the scoop is in the way!
The moisture beads up on the
underside of the scoop and is
immediately reabsorbed into the cotton.
Result: mess.
This shirt would have looked fine if the presser had folded the scoop away. The sleeve would
have been filled with air, the moisture released into the atmosphere and the shirt properly
pressed. Pressers often fold down the cuffs so that hot air is deflected away from them. Quality
is significantly reduced.
Some people say that a customer will evaluate the quality of your press job by the way the
collar and the front of the shirt look.
Maybe. If I look at my wristwatch I will have a hard time not seeing a mess on the cuff and
the sleeve.
But wait, we can do much worse: look at Photo 2:
There are so many flaws in this one sleeve that it is hard to list them. This shirt was pressed
incorrectly on the collar/cuff machine.
See the tip of the cuff is pressed folded. The cuff was carelessly placed into the cuff clamp.
See the fold in the cuff and the twist in the sleeve. The sleeve pleats are so poorly pressed
that they take carelessness to a new level.
Did I say “careless” enough times? This is completely devoid of anything that resembles
“pride” in the work that you do. There is no amount of touch-up that could turn this into a
quality product. I’m embarrassed to show you this, but not as embarrassed as you will be if you
see this in your plant.
And finally Photo 3, another look at the same shirt.
Pepto-Bismol anyone?
“If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got!” ‚Äč

Don Desrosiers has been in the drycleaning and shirt laundering