Grey Cloth

Laboratory at Stead McAlpin | John Lewis Partnership Archives
Laboratory at Stead McAlpin
John Lewis Partnership Archives

Grey Cloth arriving at the Print Works from overseas had to be checked according to the quality standards agreed with the supplier. This was done using a peace glass and counting the number of threads per inch warp and weft of the fabric.

Some times yarn analysis had to be done on the fabric Eg. S and Z twist. The number of twists on the yarn gives added strength to the fabric.

The fabric undergoes a preparation process before going forward for printing.

The preparation process is as follows.

A) Singing where the fabric is run over gas horizontal burners at about 100 meters per minute to get rid of the loose fibers on the surface of the fabric if not removed it will effect the print pattern.

B) D sizing – This is where the beams of fabric is treated with enzymes to digest the starch used during spinning of the yarn.

C) Bleaching – This is when the fabric is run through bleaching solution to make the fabric white ready for printing.

PRINTING – At Steads the printing was done on the following ways.

A) Hand block printing

B) Copper roller printing

C)Flat hand and machine screen printing

D)Rotary screen printing

 DYES – The normal dyes used during 1970 to 1980 was Vat Dyes 

       Reactive Dyes and Pigment Dyes 

Vat Dyes were mainly used for furnishing fabrics which required good fastness for light and washing. Also to give fastness due to wear or abrasion. The final colours tend to be mainly dull.

Reactive Dyes used gave bright colours good fastness to washing but less fastness to light.

Pigment Dyes produced superficial prints with bright colours less abrasion fastness.

Dyes had to be mixed with a thickener suitable for the method of printing.

All printed goods had to undergo wet processing before drying and Finishing to the customer requirements.


All prints leaving the print works had to pass various British Standards for washing, abrasion and light fastness. All testing was the responsibility of the well equipped Laboratory. The prints had to meet the requirements as printed on the selvedge legend. All customer complaints were dealt by the staff in the Laboratory and not the Merchandising and Testing Laboratory in London.

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