This week we have been flooding our social media with our new Renaissance Collection. Launched last week and designed by Karen Beauchamp, the range is available to view online at www.gainborough.co.uk.
Karen’s journey collating the collection is only one aspect of the process for us at Gainsborough, and we thought it might be an idea this week to provide an insight into the nitty gritty of the production process.
The Renaissance Collection consists of 82 individual fabrics… this requires a lot of work and planning just to get initial sampling lengths for launch and marketing. We start with ‘specification sheets’ which detail all the technical information for production. Our Production Manager then has to work out the quantities of yarn involved for each order and produce a ‘making order’ sheet, which will go from the Front Office and through every process until the cloth ends up in Dispatch.
Before warps can be made, yarn has to be dyed. Yarn is wound from cone into hanks in its raw form and disappears into the Dye House. The dye house has to match the colours Karen has chosen exactly and they do this with the help of a spectrophotometer and some other nifty software the Dye House didn’t have 50 years ago; that said, final colour selection and approval remains a question of judgment through the human eye. Colour approved, the hanks go back into the factory to be wound onto bobbins for warping, or cones and pirns for weft, depending on which loom the design is to be woven in.
For the Blazer, Shelley and Mortlake Stripes, winding the bobbins for the warp can be tricky. The winders have to work out how many hanks need to be divided between the number of bobbins that will make up a stripe section. This can involve splitting one hank between several bobbins and the winders do this by eye, judging perfectly how much yarn will be required to do the correct yardage of warp. The bobbins are then placed onto a creel in a specific order that will produce the stripe. The Warper then winds the thread from these bobbins in sections onto a drum to create the warp; it’s a time-consuming and incredibly exact art.
The warp is then ‘knotted in’. This necessitates great patience and concentration, as our weavers use a knotting machine to help knot each thread of the new warp to every thread of the old. For this collection the number of threads across the fabric width ranged from 6,376 to 14,400… with 82 fabrics in the collection, that made for a lot of knotting!
The final stage of the production process is the weaving itself. Weft is put up and fed through accumulators on our Dornier looms, and pirns are placed in shuttles for the Hattersley looms. The weavers then watch the fabric as it is slowly, but surely, woven, looking out for broken warp ends or weft shoots. If one thread breaks, a fault will appear in the fabric. If this happens the weaver has to ‘back pick’ to the broken end or shoot and start again.
The weaving alone can take days… and the process from beginning to end for a single length of cloth will take weeks. All in all, this truly is a labour of love.