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Colour at Gainsborough #Spectrum

October 2016  |  General

Here at Gainsborough, Colour plays as much of a roll in the final fabric, as the yarns selected and the weaves we apply. In fact all three influence one another, so it is vital that each of these factors is processed with precision, time and care.


Producing a colour in a woven fabric has four main processes:

  1. Designing
  2. Dyeing
  3. Weaving
  4. Recording

Each of these steps come with its own challenges and each is as crucial as the other.

Colour in Design:

One of the key parts of designing is achieving specific colours. If the right colours are combined it can make for a breathtaking design, but if the wrong colours are put together, a design can look washed out and lifeless.

Thanks to CAD (computer aided design), we can see how a design is going to look once it is woven. This helps immensely as it enables us to see what a design will look like before any production work has taken place. Our CAD software allows us to develop a ‘simulation’ and with our calibrated printers, we can get an accurate hard copy to send to the client. We change a weave here or tweak a colour there, and in minutes we are able to see a different version of our design.

Colour in weaving is subject to what is best described as ‘colour pollution’.  This occurs when the weft colour intersects with the warp colour.  How these colours interact is determined by the weave and we have to design with the final colour in mind. For instance if we use a yellow cotton warp and a blue cotton weft with a tabby weave, we will achieve a green overall fabric.  Due to this ‘colour pollution’, we often have to use a far more vivid colour in warp and weft, to achieve the correct final outcome.


   An example of a simulation

Considerations of Dyeing:

We are often asked to reproduce historical pieces of fabric that have weathered over time, The client will ask us to replicate the fabric either to its original condition (usually with surprisingly bright colours), or in the condition it has become (faded and comparatively dull). It is vital that we reproduce the colour exactly; if not, when the original and restored fabric are placed side by side, they will look entirely different.

For reproduction fabrics, we will usually ask to remove warp and weft yarns from a concealed area to dye to.  With new designs we use pantone, or our extensive archive of yarns, to match to the simulation.  In both instances the Dye House will use the selected colour to generate a ‘recipe’. We do this by using a spectrophotometre which measures the colour of the yarn or fabric swatch.  Once we have a recipe, the yarn is prepared and washed before being dyed. Dye runs over ‘hanks’ of yarn on a continuous hot flow for a number of hours and is then washed through with fixing agents and water.


Colour in Weaving:

The weaves that are applied to a design effect not only the quality of the fabric, but also play a large role in determining the colour of the design.

If we were to take the yellow cotton warp again and the blue cotton weft, and were to change the weaves, we could achieve a fabric where the yellow is more dominant and the blue less so.  Once we have the fabric on the loom, we can alter the weaves to reduce or increase the ‘colour pollution’ to create the final desired effect.

The yarn used as warp and weft will also have an impact.  Silk and Wool for instance have almost opposing qualities. Silk has a lustre and smoothness, making it reflective and creating a greater depth to the colour. Wool on the other hand is fluffy and dense. It also has a slightly deeper tone naturally, even when bleached, so that any colour applied, has to allow for the raw colour inherent in the yarn. Wool is absorbent of light which means colour appears duller and is more suited to soft pastel tones.


Red represents the Weft. White represents the Warp. The dots cause the ‘colour pollution’ and show where warp and weft intersects.


Finally, once the fabric is woven we record the yarns, colours, weaves and any other information that we have on the fabric.  We have an envelope with a swatch of the woven fabric, with a small hank of any yarn specially dyed for that order.


We have recordings of everything we have ever woven at Gainsborough and use the same recording process to this day. These recordings allow us to produce and reproduce designs and colours from the past and provide an excellent resource for our designers and clients.

If you have a special colour, we have the speciality.  For more information on bespoke dyeing and weaving please get in touch via email at