Textile Trivia: 31 Things You Never Knew About “Unmeasurable” Materials
Color measurement instruments
Want to Get Color Right?
Get on the Right Color Management Wavelength with Monthly Insights from 10,000+ Color Professionals Around the World.
These days, shoppers are used to seeing the latest trends go from the runway to their local mall in record time. But the average consumer doesn’t think about how it all happens so fast.
Brands and textile mills, however, know the magic ingredients well: Digital color management tools: Spectrophotometers for digitally measuring the color of a material, quality control software, and lightboxes for evaluating colors under different light sources all lead to a more objective, less expensive and faster process.
… for solid colors, anyway.
More than half of all materials—things like patterns, lace, yarn and trim (zippers, buttons, etc.)—don’t get this special treatment. The color accuracy of this material group (referred to as the “unmeasurables”) relies on a color team’s eyesight. And trained as these color experts may be, we all see color differently—not just person to person, but day to day and hour to hour.
So, you can probably understand why we’re so excited about the launch of SpectraVision, our answer to measuring the “unmeasurables”. In honor of their transition into the “measurable” category, we rounded up some of the most fascinating facts about these tricky materials. But first, here’s a video that explains why SpectraVision is such a big deal:
2. Back in 1978, archeologists found a Celtic man’s mummified body in a Chinese cemetery. He was wearing a twill top and tartan leggings. They estimated that he died about 1000 BCE—back then, you could probably count the types of plaid on one hand.
3. Have you heard of Buffalo Check Plaid before? Woolrich Woolen Mills, a Pennsylvania company, started producing it in the mid-1900s. Rumor has it, the person who designed it had a herd of buffalo. Hence the name.
4. Unmeasurables in space: When the Apollo 12 flew to the moon in 1969, one of the astronauts, Alan Bean, brought along some extra baggage: a half yard of his family’s tartan fabric.
5. You’d be hard-pressed to find a pre-industrial polka dot garment. That’s because these patterns relied on machines to perfectly space the dots. Our eyes hurt thinking about what it would take to do this manually.
6. Bet you didn’t know that Minnie Mouse was such a trendsetter. We owe the polka dot’s long-lasting popularity to Walt Disney, who outfitted the iconic mouse in a dress with red polka dots.
12. No one is 100 percent sure when lace was invented, but it’s likely this intricate fabric got its start in the early sixteenth century.
13. Lace was first made by a machine at the end of the eighteenth century. But if you tried to cut wide net lace fabric before 1809, it would unravel in the process. That’s the year a man named John Heathcoat stopped lace fabric (and people’s nerves) from unraveling by producing a more stable version of the fabric.
14. How old is the oldest yarn? Samples found in Switzerland were estimated to be almost 7,000 years old.
15. Tripping hazard: When is five hours, 48 minutes and 27 seconds a winning marathon time? When someone knits a scarf at the same time. That’s the feat that earned a runner named David Babcock a Guinness World Record at the Kansas City marathon. He crossed the finish line with a 12-foot-long scarf.
17. Yarn might seem simple on the surface, but it takes about 15 different fiber types to make this knit-worthy textile—a mix of synthetic and natural. No wonder it’s so hard to measure the color!
18. To make matters more complicated, yarn also comes in varieties like heathered or tweed (flecks of different colors), ombre (light and dark shades of one color) or marled (different yarn strands twisted together)
24. Things got a little more advanced when a man named Whitcomb Judson created something called a “clasp locker” and debuted it at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.
25. Finally, Gideon Sunback improved upon those past designs in 1913. His version was so useful that the military used the “separable fastener” for money belts and flying suits.
26. Twenty years later, the zipper made its way onto a pair of boots thanks to the company B.F. Goodrich. Talk about a footwear game-changer.
27. So how did we go from the phrase “separable fastener” to “zipper”? That’s apparently the work of B.F. Goodrich, too. As the story goes, an executive used the phrase “zip ‘er up,” inspired by the sound of, well, zipping up a zipper. The name stuck.
28. Buttons have truly stood the test of time. The earliest ones are from prehistoric times.