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Dye Lab

All of our tapestries are created from wool and cotton yarn that is dyed at our South Melbourne workshop by master dyer Tony Stefanovski.

We have a base palette consisting of 368 colours. Each colour range consists of approximately seven tones, which are produced using different concentrations of the same dyes within a standard formula. Tony may alter these standards to accommodate changes in dye composition and to produce additional colours for major projects.

Materials

We use 100% Border Leicester/Merino cross wool sourced through Geelong Textile Mills from Victorian farms, which is environmentally sustainable. The wool is combed in a carding process to remove short and brittle fibres, and longer fibres are spun into a smooth yarn.

All our wools carry an EU eco label certification.

Our mercerized cotton (treated under tension with a caustic soda alkali to increase its strength and give it a shiny, luminous appearance) is sourced from Kyungbang, Korea, where it is also grown. It is shipped to Australia and sent to Geelong Textiles Mill where it is spun onto the dye packs. It is then sent back to ATW ready for dyeing.

Lanasol/Lanaset wool dyestuffs, and Novacron/Cibacron cotton dyestuffs are chosen for their high colour and light fastness properties. They are produced by Ciba Geigy.

The Dyeing Process

Wools and cottons are bleached or scoured in house before dyeing to provide a cleaner base. This is done lightly and gently to preserve the integrity of the wool and cotton fibres. After the bleaching and scouring process the wool still carries a subtle yellow hue while the cotton is a brighter white.

Dyeing occurs within a Galvanin machine (made in Italy). This machine has two drums that can be operated separately. Each drum can accommodate two packages of wool (1.25kg each) or a package of cotton (500g each) at a time. It is important that these packages are relatively loosely spun in order for the dye to penetrate through the pack evenly. Each stage of the dyeing process is programmed on the Galvanin machine so that the rise and drop in temperature can be carefully monitored.

Interpretation

The relationship between the weavers and the dyer is critical during the weaving process. At the beginning of each commissioned project, our dyer will look at the artwork to get an idea of what kinds of colour challenges may arise.

Our dyer then collaborates with the weavers during the colour test strips and sampling phase of the project. Colour test strips give the weavers a chance to see what colours they can achieve before they embark on the sampling process.

All 368 base palette colours of wool are available for sale on 25gm cones through the ATW store and website.