I have found that there is a certain mystery surrounding the textile weaving process. This stems from my and my colleagues’ experience working in the contract upholstery fabric industry. I think the mystery lies in the inaccessibility and unfamiliarity of textile mills, especially since a large majority of textile production happens overseas. So, in an effort to continue to educate, I will be shedding some illumination on the design and development process for contract upholstery fabrics.
We start with a sketch or photo, and then we select the mill that will weave the fabric. The main factors in choosing a mill include construction capabilities of the looms at certain mills and available yarns. Some mills are better at particular constructions than others, that is to say that all looms are NOT created equal. For example, one mill may do exquisite jacquard weaves and another mill may do wonderful twill weaves while another may do velvet weaves. The vision of the design dictates the end construction. Mills also have access to different yarns. When designing for the contract upholstery fabric industry, you must start with durable yarns; and then these must be woven into resilient construction.
After we have chosen the mill and sent the design sketch, we get the first strike-off. If the fabric has been woven well and the design is as envisioned, we then send another strike-off that has been finished to a testing lab to ensure that the textile will perform well. We then finish our fabrics with any one of the three following stain resistant finishes: Crypton, NanoTex or Greenshield. All of our fabrics pass the ACT standards for contract upholstery textiles. Once the fabric passes all testing, we then get into the super fun part!
We receive the box-motion from the mill which is a handy guide that shows us which yarns go where. We then start selecting yarns. We develop as many different color ways as possible. As controlled as this design process may seem, it is still hard to predict exactly which colors will look best. There are multiple warp yarn colors to take into consideration.
Once we have selected our yarns, we send the completed box-motion back to the mill; and they weave the first color blanket. This blanket will have every color way we chose on each warp color. As you can see this can be a huge roll of fabric!
We then cut the entire blanket apart to select the color line that we will actually run. Going from literally hundreds of options down to from five to eight colors can be a daunting task. As a designer you can understand the agonizing and analyzing that happens with each and every color. Designer problems, right?
After the color line is finalized, we then send our choices back to the mill; and full rolls are woven and finished. Voila! The new designs are then sampled and sent to our representatives.