Not so plain and simple - Customising Colour

We asked Stephanie and Annie from the Mokum Studio to share a behind the scenes look into their bespoke colour development process when creating plain upholstery textiles.

“Our unique environment impacts on our lifestyle and shapes the way we live. Kiwis and Aussies are often regarded as relaxed and “easy going” – there’s a casualness to how we live, speak and design and this is reflected in our preferred colour palettes too.” - Stephanie Moffitt, Mokum Design Director

Pantone colour references

Where we come from shapes our point of view. Annie and I are both New Zealanders, living in Australia, and this mix of culture impacts on our design process as we very much design with a New Zealand and Australian perspective. 

There’s a contemporary yet casual sophistication to Australasian interior decorating, we have a shared love of inherent simplicity, quality and craftsmanship and people often gravitate to colour palettes with organic, earthen shades. 
We have extremely clean, clear light in this part of the world which impacts on the way we see colour, the light almost amplifies it. So to compensate we grey off colours to create more muted, paired back hues. 
When travelling to European trade fairs, we often find constructions and colour palettes which look beautifully appropriate in Europe’s diffused light, but often find that when we return to Sydney and review these products in the bright natural light of our studio, the colours often look too saturated and need refining or “greying off”. 
Like many designers, we are inspired by nature’s flora and fauna and colour borrowed from natural landscapes. We regard Mother Nature as the ultimate designer. 

Using colours naturally found in nature and bringing these palettes indoors, helps to create a relaxing, grounding atmosphere within the home. Providing a sanctuary from the overwhelming digital world that dominates daily life. In Australia, Eucalypt and Banksia leaf greens are so important, as are warm desert tones like clay and terracotta. In New Zealand, greyed off mineral tones are crucial to any palette, often paired with blues and greens emulating mountainous landscapes and ruggered coastline.


The two most popular ways to add colour to a plain woven textile is either via yarn dyeing or piece dyeing.
Is where the spun yarns are dyed first and then woven into fabric. Textiles featuring multi-coloured yarns are yarn dyed.
When developing yarn dyed textiles, the studio send the mill colour instructions, specifying their chosen warp yarn colours and weft yarn colours. These yarn colours will either be from the mills ‘yarn bank’ (the library of yarn colours stocked at the mill) or they will be custom colours dyed exclusively for the Mokum studio. The Mokum supply chain are willing to custom colour yarns as they understand our need for creating nuanced colours appropriate for Australia and New Zealand. 
The loom is then set up with all the coloured warp yarns and then the different weft yarns are trialed one after another on the loom. The result is a giant ‘blanket’ that looks like a patch work quilt. Back in the studio we cut the blanket up and separate into colour groups then laboriously start the process of elimination until we have whittled the piles down to our final curated colourline. 

Yarn dyed colour blanket

“The magic of yarn dyeing and creating these colour blankets is that sometimes we come across a beautiful mistake – where a combination of warp and weft come together that we hadn’t specifically requested but that is absolutely stunning and ends up making it into our final colourline.” - Annie Moir, Mokum Product Developer
The following upholstery designs are examples of popular Mokum yarn dyed textiles.
Sahel - A luminous Italian chenille upholstery, woven in a blend of natural and synthetic fibres for enhanced performance, with the added benefit of a stain repellent finish. With its soft handle and timeless colour palette, Sahel is a true Mokum classic.

Sahel, yarned dyed upholstery

Nirvana uses multi coloured yarns to create thoughtful colour combinations within its comprehensive palette. Peaceful pastels sit amongst mid-century combinations, balanced by core neutrals and rich autumnal hues. With a Teflon finish, Nirvana reaches practical perfection; being both beautiful and durable.

Nirvana, yarned dyed upholstery

Strata illustrates yarn dyeing in a dimensional structure. This tactile upholstery is woven in Italy in both tonal and contrasting colour combinations. Strata is highly durable, being suitable for commercial upholstery whilst maintaining stunning residential appeal.

Strata, yarned dyed upholstery

The other popular form of colouring a plain textile is piece dyeing, where the fabric is first woven (referred to as ‘greige’) and then dyed in its piece form. Different finishing techniques will often be used to impact on the surface effect of piece dyed products, but on the whole, piece dyed textiles will result in a singular colour. 

Kanso Stonewash - New piece dyed drapery, launching July 2020

The studio begin the piece dyed colour development process by sending the mill colour instructions, using pantone references or physical cuttings of fabric to match to. The mill’s inhouse laboratory dye small pieces of the chosen greige construction for review. These are referred to as “lab dips” - and are often very small! 

Lab dips of piece dyed velvet upholstery

We can require a number of rounds of colour trials to get the final colourline correct. Again it is a slow process of elimination, debating every shade of beige and meticulously reviewing the piles, time and time again, until we’ve settled on a reduced colourline.  At this point, if possible we ask the mill to dye a reduced colourline in A4 swatches, as colours tend to read differently in a larger piece, particularly if it's a velvet pile or fabric with sheen.

Finishing processes are such an important part of the textile development process. There are so many finishing techniques used after weaving to improve the appearance, handle and performance of a textile. Many finishing techniques have a huge impact on the final colour of the fabric, especially piece dyed productions. 
Due to the nature of piece dyeing, we have far greater flexibility to custom colour special shades. 

The following upholstery designs are examples of popular Mokum yarn dyed textiles.
Eternal - this 100% linen piece dyed plain with an artisan energy finish provides a soft tumbled handle and sophisticated antique surface interest. Eternal has an extensive colour palette including core neutrals, earthen organic hues as well paired back feminine tones. Eternal is a multi-purpose textile, appropriate for both drapery and upholstery and is one of Mokum’s top selling products. 

Eternal, piece dyed drapery and upholstery

Allium is a quintessential Mokum blended composition with a subtle lustre and a stain repellent finish, for enhanced maintenance. Allium also has an extensive colourline of decorative shades plus a comprehensive offering of warm and cool neutrals, and suits casual and highly tailored furniture frames. 

Allium, piece dyed upholstery

Alpaca Velvet is a luxurious wool blend velvet and beautifully illustrates piece dying on a pile textile. The dense, dry pile suits both traditional and very contemporary frames and lends itself perfectly to curvaceous shapes. Alpaca Velvet is a perfect solution for both residential and commercial schemes. 

Alpaca Velvet, piece dyed upholstery

When making the final colour selection in any new development, it’s a balancing act between looking to the past with analysis of sales data on historical product to ensure they have included proven volume colours (generally neutrals), as well as looking to the future, with trend forecasting and driving the Mokum palette forward via fashion tones and thematic shades.
On average, people redecorate their homes every 10 – 15 years so we are always mindful that our textiles, the designs and the colour palettes need to be both timely and timeless. With this in mind, neutrals are always at the core of the Mokum colour developments. Ensuring they have a comprehensive offering of both warm and cool neutrals prioritised, then introducing fashion driven trend tones once the neutrals are resolved. 
Throughout this process we ensure the colourways work back with the plain drapery and upholstery designs within the wider thematic collection as well as previous ranges, offering a holistic and agile textile solution within the Mokum brand.


Choosing the right curtain header

Tips & How To

Curtains can completely transform an interior space, adding impact, privacy and comfort. It’s an age old saying that a window unfurnished is a window unfinished. But when designing custom made curtains there are a lot of decisions to be made throughout the process. The first task is specifying the fabric, this specification needs to be based on aesthetic, performance and budget requirements.

As part of the specification process you need to resolve the appropriate heading style. This is how the fabric is sewn or pleated at the top of the curtain, and it will have a direct impact on the way in which the fabric will drape or hang as well functional characteristics such as stack back (the amount of space a curtain will occupy when fully drawn open).

There are a wide range of heading styles available, not only do they provide functional characteristics but they will also greatly impact the look and feel of the room; whether the space takes on a traditional or more modern sensibility. 

Below we discuss the 6 most popular heading styles across Australia and New Zealand as outlined by our clients and we summarise appropriate fabric choices for each.