There is joy in textiles…..

I have been in the textile industry since 1988 and in that time I have seen The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of this sector.

On the dyehouse floor, I have often spent my time troubleshooting:  correcting off-shade fibres,  checking fastness problems , reducing customer rejects etc., as well as working in more challenging and high profile areas where, unfortunately, bad practices are still alive and kicking.  Along with working with clients to improve their processes, I have been very much aware of the bigger picture stories: in recent times the industry has been shocked by the events at Rana Plaza and with tales of worker abuse in Bangladesh and Cambodia.

Facing this barrage of bad news and general gloom and doom,  it is difficult sometimes to remember why we got into textiles in the first place and the wonderful satisfaction of producing textiles.

The joy and fun was rediscovered somewhat, on Saturday,  when we visited the Open Day of the Kent Guild of Spinners Dyers and Weavers, a group who meet monthly to talk about and learn more about  textiles.  Being an “industrial” dyer,  I was very interested to see the craft dyeing side of the industry.

Whether using synthetic dyes – in this case acid dyes, or natural dyes made from onion skins, coreopsis & chamomile etc, the members of the Guild are able to produce a range of colours and combination effects on yarns to produce high quality products.  It isFullSizeRender also interesting to see how substrate that would be rejected in the production environment can be taken and worked in the craft arena.  To hear someone talking about sprinkling powdered dye onto the fibre and just leaving it, would leave some of my colleagues open mouthed in horror, and any apprentice dyer trying that would probably have been shown the door.  But taking loose fibre and then working with it through the process gives an effect that would surely sell with some of the top knitwear producers.

Unfortunately we only arrived very late at the open day so did not have an opportunity for a long chat but what we did talk about was fascinating and to meet people who enjoyed being in textiles and were not worried about the issues that affect the business environment, was a real pleasure.

Mrs Windsor, one of the ladies we spoke to,  has a son who is a photographer and you can see beautiful images of her workspace at his Grandma’s Loft Flikr account. Thank you to both Mrs Windsor and Mrs Stewart for their insight into the world of craft dyeing.

Seeing how dyeing is achieved on a small scale, using equipment to hand, is a thought provoking experience and one that allows you to see beyond the large scale standard practices behind production dyeing and see what wonderful results can still be achieved in the humble household kitchen.


Ian Smith is a textile consultant and managing director of Textile Consult Ltd,  a business consultancy practice that services the textile industry, offering training, consultancy and project management.


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