Posted on October 20, 2017
Felt is a highly diverse fabric, used in applications from clothing to children’s toys to automotive and interior design and many more. Just ask Lucy Sparrow. The artist recently opened 8 ‘Til Late, a bodega near Manhattan’s High Line stocked from floor to ceiling with replica products made entirely of felt, from peanut butter to pickles, burritos to breakfast cereals. So what attracted Sparrow to felt? “Pure practicality,” she says. “It doesn’t fray, and also it’s available in more colors than you can possibly imagine. The color-matching capabilities are absolutely awesome. I like that the whole art practice comes down to one material.” 1
Indeed, color is perhaps the most attractive quality felt, regardless of who is using it. Whether felt is to be part of a greater design or used on its own, felt manufacturers must ensure their products are consistently colored.
Felt Manufacturers Require Color Control
Felt products must be color consistent both for general production and for customer orders. In general production, standard cuts and colors of felt are produced in bulk and purchased by designers as is. Designers and other shoppers who buy general production felt often are seeking to replicate patterns over a large amount of product and need their felt to always be the same color to fit their pattern. If the felt products they have to choose from vary over time or over a single sheet, they may choose to seek felt from a more dependable source.
For custom felt production, where designers order specific cuts and colors from felt manufacturers, color quality control is even more essential. When designers place their orders, they have a clear idea of what color their felt needs to be. They’re paying more for a custom order over generally produced felt for the purpose of ensuring that their felt product will be exactly the color they desire. For these customers, who often represent large orders and have continuing business relationships, manufacturers must be able to produce the proper felt color without deviation or error.
Numerical Color Definition Is Essential for Communication
In either bulk or custom applications, the process of color quality control begins with communication. Specific shades of colors are difficult to communicate because the human language lacks clearly defined words for the myriad potential shades. So, when dyeing felt to meet the same bulk standard or a customer’s specific request, simply dyeing it “maroon” or “cerulean” isn’t enough to guarantee that it will be the same color as last time, or the color the customer desire. For this reason, manufacturers must define colors using CIE L*a*b*, the numerical scale used by spectrophotometers. By assigning colors specific numerical values, manufacturers can replicate any color with decimal precision. Both standard production colors and customer orders can be rendered numerically, ensuring that dyeing process is always working towards the correct end goal.
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