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Dyeing Silk Fabric

Here at Beckford Silk all the dyeing and colour processes are done on site. Whether it’s colour testing for a silk print or dyeing silk fabric to be sold on the roll. Everything is created in-house, which makes the process quicker to get to the end product.

Colour Matching for Printing

Before a textile printer can start in business he must make his own colour library. This is his “Recipe Book” and may run to several thousand different colours and shades. For digital printing, we use Pantone references as a starting point for colour matching. We have a printed out library on to silk to see what the colours are like, as computer screens vary in colour depth. So it’s easier to see the exact colour on the silk.

When we are working with an outside designer they may help us by choosing the colours to be printed from our pantone colour library. However, we often have to match colours supplied and this usually entails making new colour files within photoshop.

Each new colour must be digitally printed on to silk, steamed, washed and dried before the designer knows whether she has found the right colour for the design. Since the human eye is said to be able to differentiate between some three million colours and shades, you can appreciated the skill required to achieve a perfect match.


When we first started dyeing cloth we were told by a dyer from the north of England that “Dyeing is not so much a science but more a black art”.

If colour matching for print is difficult, then for dyeing it is doubly difficult.

At Beckford we dye on winch dye machines. The cloth is sewn end to end, into the batch and over the paddle, in lengths of about 20 meters.

When the paddle turns, the cloth continually moves in the water, assuring even colour distribution.

The water, with the dye, is raised slowly in temperature by injecting steam. To reach 90c it may take nearly an hour. This temperature is held for another hour and then reduced, before draining and rinsing. Throughout the process the dyer will cut small swatches off the end or edge of the fabric, to check the colour take-up.

Any Devoré silk fabric (a technique previously described in this BLOG) is dyed using two dye groups. Because the fabric is made up of two different fibres.

A liquor is made up containing two separate colours. When the devoré fabric passes through, the viscose is attracted to one colour recipe and the silk to the other. This is called cross-dyeing and can result in some stunning colour combinations.

Once the silk fabric has been dyed, it is then dried on the stenter and put on a roll. Ready to go into our onsite shop. We keep 81 colours in stock which comes in a variety of different silks. Do visit our website to see our whole range. www.beckfordsilk.co.uk

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