As you may have noticed from the influx of social media this past week, the design team set-up shop at the London Transport Museum as part of their Designology exhibition.

It may seem unusual for a ‘traditional’ company, whose origins date back to 1903, to be involved in ‘weavingfurtures’. However, Gainsborough was established as a mill catering to historical restoration as well as current woven design, and when it comes to our bespoke sector of the business, we are wonderfully creative and experimental in our approach.

It is under this mindset that we embarked on our residency at the London Transport Museum.  Designology is a long-term exhibition focusing on all the different aspects of design that make up the TfL brand most of us take for granted.  One of these factors is the moquette fabrics found on all TfL transportation since the 1920’s and which were specifically designed for TfL from the 1930’s.  Weavingfutures is part of the Designology exhibition and for the next few months, companies will be doing short-term residencies all based around a central brief of ‘data’.  With a sampling jacquard loom made available to us for testing out our ideas and designs, we thought it would be a great opportunity to show the world a little more about Gainsborough.

Moquette Fabrics from the London Transport Museum depot in Acton.

So using ‘data’ as our theme, TfL as our focus and Gainsborough as our platform, we came up with three great ideas as our inspiration for a capsule collection:

1 –  ARCHIVE – Like Gainsborough, TfL also have a fabric archive, with moquette fabrics from the 1920’s onwards.  From 1936 London Transport started to invest in its brand identity, employing designers specifically to design the upholstery fabrics used on the buses and tubes.  This brand identity began with the font which London Transport commissioned from Edward Johnston in 1916 and for which TfL are celebrating the 100 year anniversary.  By using the data from the TfL fabric archive we are working in very much the same way that we do with our own archive. We have selected some of our personal favourite designs from the Gainsborough Archive that share the TfL design aesthetic. By combining the two archives to construct a single design, we connect TfL and Gainsborough as two companies working in parallel.

2 –  MIND THE GAP – Our continuing maintenance and use of 1930s Hattersley looms (still based on a punch card system) really sets Gainsborough apart from any other Jacquard weaving mill in the UK.  These cards were an early precursor to the digital and computing revolution on which the world now depends.  Design data is punched into the cards and this is ‘read’ by the jacquard as the cards are fed into the harness, telling the loom what threads to lift and drop to create the woven design.  It is fundamentally no different from the electronic 0’s and 1’s in which today’s information is processed and stored.  Using an adaptation of the traditional design process, we will translate a draft of ‘MIND THE GAP’  digitally to generate an image of what the cards would look like to weave this.  Using the idea and aesthetic of the inner workings of a hard-drive presented in combination with existing tile layouts throughout the underground, we worked on a final design that is ‘card code’.

3 – STEP DOWN – An existing design in the Gainsborough archive and also used in the steps leading down to the underground, we have done an adaptation of this timeless design.

Our palette has been derived from the tube line colours and each design will have its own tube-lines affiliated from the Piccadilly to the Jubiliee line.  The capsule collection will be launched in the early part of next year and stay tuned to our social media channels for more information.

We hope to see you at the Late Debate on 26th January, where our Design Manager will be participating in a PetchaKucha at the London Transport Museum for Weavingfurtures and Designology.  The PetchaKucha will bring together the participants of Weaving Futures in the form of 6 minute presentations to generate insight into our individual practices.

For more information and tickets please visit