Research point – Diversity of style and design in textiles

At the beginning of Part 3 there is an interesting research point whereby the idea is to investigate the diversity of style and design in textiles that are available to the consumer.

This is obviously a very broad subject that ranges from contemporary designs with highly innovative techniques (the use of 3D printing in the fashion world immediately comes to mind) to more traditional designs and uses.

As the course material points out sportswear is evolving in the types of fabrics used with the textile technology that is developing at a rapid rate but also home furnishings are changing and it is this latter subject that I decided to concentrate on.

I am not someone who avidly follows fashion and nor am I a sports person although my interest is there but I do love home furnishings.  We live in a time where we have extensive choice and can look back to history for ideas and inspiration or forward to the future.

Unintentionally I based my research around 3 price bands that are available to the consumer – the first being the luxury handmade furniture market (or luxury for our area), the second the middle-of-the-road store and the third the supermarket.  Despite the differences overall the colours available were very similar in some ways – neutrals formed the basis for all 3 and there were combinations reds, duck egg blues/teal, pinks or golds with a good smattering of lime green.  The difference comes in the quality of fabrics – the handmade company was more liable to use more expensive mixes of yarns including 100% cotton.

Technology seems to have less of an impact in this market but I am also aware of the fact that the way the fabrics are made or designed has changed considerably – the manufacturing processes are ever more computerized as are the design processes themselves.

I felt that as colour was coming through as a major interest in Part 2 this would be the starting point for me – which colours or patterns dominated for instance?  the answer was simply ‘none’ from Martin & Parker Handmade Furniture here in Derby.  This company I know because they very kindly did the restoration of the chair I mention in Part 2 (Research Point) and it was to them I first went in search of answers and fabrics.

IMG_3371Martin & Parker felt that there were no predominant colours of patterns – no particular fashion that shouts ‘2016’ but rather customers were choosing a wide variety of colours, patterns and styles of furnishings.  The consumers were choosing anything from traditional floral fabrics to stripes or plain colours – on the latter point I do see a trend of reds, neutrals and duck egg or petrol blues and also black with much less greens and yellows (although this year, like last, lime greens are still ‘on trend).

IMG_3379Very kindly this company gave me several of their sample books which demonstrate the diversity of colours available – I have 6 in total so there are far too many to go in my ‘fabric book’ but all are kept for further use or reference. In some of the books the fabric company’s have colour grouped together fabrics in a story board manner  with photographs so demonstrate the consumer the overall ‘look’ that can be achieved.

The fabric content in the photographs above range from 100% cotton to 83% polyester/17% cotton to 33% viscose/26% cotton/15% polyester/15% linen/9% PC (acrylic) to 70% cotton/30% polyester and with variations in between them all.  It seems there is a huge variety in the different fabric contents with 100% cotton seemingly the most hard wearing (and most expensive!).  From my point of view as a textile student and with a background in quilting and dressmaking the 100% cotton furnishing fabric is very different to the 100% cotton I usually work with – I love what almost strikes as a canvas type texture albeit somewhat softer.

These two first photographs demonstrate two different colour groups but in them they also demonstrate clearly the wide variety of designs and how the colours make a huge difference to the look – both photographs are the same patterns and fabrics contents.

IMG_3370Another company sample book also provided a different ‘look’ for the consumer – one of florals and much more traditional appearance – this photographs also shows some of the furniture that is available to the consumer too and like the fabric it is of very traditional design.  A common mix for this range it seems is 75% viscose and 25% polyester which gives a luxurious feel – pure cotton is has not got the softness that these fabrics have.

IMG_3368 IMG_3369

Both the above photographs are also taken from Martin & Parker’s sample books with the left hand one showing a variety of 100% cotton fabrics and the right hand one showing stripes in a 80% vilene and 20 % polyester mix – my personal preference both in colours and textures is definitely the latter (they are softer in texture and richer in colours).

IMG_3359I also visited Dunelm store here in Derby and they were both very accommodating and helpful but they also seemed to be more concerned about ‘fashionable colours’ which are clearly demanded by the consumer but set by the industry- there is a predominance of neutral colours such as taupes and greys with delicate colours of pinks, duck egg blues and gold with subtle patterns.


However there is a difference in the quality of fabrics with this store – much more 100% polyester or 58% polyester/42% acrylic mixes rather than the 100% cotton seen in Martin & Parker.  Dunelm do group their fabrics into price bands – the 100% polyester is obviously cheaper than the 52% cotton/48% polyester mix and likewise the leather is the most expensive.

IMG_3363What I do note with this store is that like other companies I looked at there is also a contrast with the colours too – deeper reds, teals, aubergine, chocolate are available and create or give the illusion, at least, of luxury.

Dunelm is very much the ‘middle’ company of the ones I chose to look at and this is reflected in the quality available but it also had a variety available – a consumer is able to choose between the cheaper 100% polyester range through to leather.

IMG_3418Finally I decided to look at George at Asda online and after some difficulty with their website found some free samples I was able to order – their range is as you would expect at the cheaper end of the consumer market and predominantly 100% polyester or 50% polyester/50% viscose mix.  The colours however are very similar to before – neutrals but with much stronger teal, pink and olive colours contrasting.

However, very usefully, Asda’s catalogue also shows the trends that are available this year – ranging from jungle/island, sailor themes, Tuscan (brighter teals, golds and peuters), tranquil (the duck egg blues and greys) and through to landscape with soft pinks, greens (limes) and again the underlying neutrals. There is also an additional trend of folk art or bohemian colours which could effectively come under the jungle/island theme too.

Having a quick look online I found an article with 2016 trends in the Daily Mail which echoes all I have written and discovered except for the fact it does contradict Martin & Parker a little – it seems that for the average consumer the trends are important and there is a wide enough diversity for individualistic style but for the consumer who is able to afford it there is the choice of following the fashion or choosing whatever their individual tastes prefer from the modern to the traditional as I mentioned at the beginning.

The diversity also applies to the mixes of the yarns used in the furnishing fabrics – the aforesaid 100% cotton to the 100% polyester and the variety of  man-made yarns.  I was not able to obtain specific manufacturing techniques but all are factory made as opposed to hand-crafted.

In the course material the question is asked which of the above items I have collected do I prefer or are there any textile techniques peculiar to where I live?  the answer to the latter is sadly not any more – in the early part of the 1700’s the silk mill was built and became the first factory in UK and is part of a Unesco World Heritage site.  Obviously silk was a vitally important part of the local economy at the time but sadly this is no longer the case.

Of the fabrics I have collected my favourites are the pinks, greys and aubergines I found In Dunelm which were at the higher end of their prices – one in particular with a bloom pattern was a mix of 43% cotton/33% polyester/18% viscose and in fact matches the colours in my sewing room!  Of the trends though at the moment I have no particular favourite, other than the sea theme (bathroom decorated in that theme end of last year!) and have in fact used the lime and pea greens that are still around as a basis for a Japanese themed living room – my fabrics are soft throws (mix unknown and label annoyingly too faded to read) and 100% cotton Japanese patterned fabrics for cushions and wall hangings.

Finally I am due to visit a Historic house in my area in the next month for my History of Art course  and will make a note to look at the fabrics and discover whether they are original or reproduction and update this blog post at that point – irregardless of this research post this fascinates me as it contributes to the overall effect of the house and if the fabrics are reproduction is this due to the wear and tear of the original or have the originals been  lost in the midst of time.


Greenaway, N. 2016.  The Interior trends you’ll be lusting after in 2016. Daily Mail [online] [Date accessed 2 May 2016]. Available from:




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