Written by Alys Bryan
On the way home from a cycling trip with friends I received a call from Megan Collinge to tell me that I was the winner of Ian Mankin’s Fabric Competition 2015, I was absolutely thrilled!
I developed my design for Formation by considering many of the current and emerging trends I had seen in my work as a furniture designer. Formation was the first pattern for fabric I had designed so receiving Megan’s call was a huge surprise, of course we immediately brought Prosecco to celebrate with our friends.
Part of my prize was to visit the Ian Mankin factory (there is nothing more inspirational than seeing high quality UK manufacturing in person) and to meet their excellent design team. Director Megan welcomed me warmly and introduced me to the Ian Mankin team, we were quickly joined by Managing Director David Collinge who showed me around the factory, starting with warping over 2000 threads.
Ian Mankin fabrics are predominantly produced using dobby looms, David explained the limitations of this process and how Ian Mankin push for creative designs which show perfection in every detail, he used the points of their herringbone designs as an example. Below shows the complexity of threading the warp onto the dobby loom.
From my experience I know that not every manufacturing process is faultless, I suspected that when handling over 2000 threads in the warp alone breaking threads must be a problem. David explained the instant feedback triggers on the machines which halt production to enable efficient repair. He also showed me the difference between a standard and a weavers knot.
We continued through the factory to see the looms in action, the weft being threaded and handed from left to right through the warp. I particularly enjoyed learning that the space created between the warp threads, enabling the weft to pass through, is known as the ‘shed’. The weft passes through the shed at great speed, 424 times a minute.
Of course I was keen to see Formation on the loom, actually in production! Formation is produced on Ian Mankin’s latest purchase, a pair of jacquard looms. This process offers enormous opportunity for the development of complex patterns, Ian Mankin Designer, Deborah, took me through the digital design process and the refinement they had completed (thank you) to my pattern in order to make it ready to weave.
The versatility of the jacquard loom allows me to select not only the colour of the fabric I receive as my prize but also the fabric weight and the pattern scale. Perhaps I will select a smaller scale, thicker fabric for the re-upholstery of my lounge chairs and a lighter weight, larger scale for curtains but the choice is endless. What would you suggest?
Read more of Alys’ blog posts on her website here http://www.oliveliving.co.uk/ or follow her on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Olive-Living/214022175319542 ‘
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