At Nirvana, we spend a lot of time looking forward. Our ever-expanding materials library is regularly updated with samples that reflect general trends in the design and manufacture of products and their packaging, so it’s vitally important that we keep up with the pace of change. Part of what makes the world of Creative Production so varied and exciting, however, is an enduring appreciation of the traditional – materials and processes from yesteryear, reimagined and re-appropriated for the modern world, that help to drive future innovation and creativity.
So far in 2016, our Material Monday posts have looked to explore these two complimentary aspects of our industry. Infinergy, a material born of a joint venture between German giants BASF and adidas, is the futuristic building block for some of the world’s most advanced commercially-available sports footwear, while ExpandOS and Remake offer examples of the ways in which cardboard and paper, two of the world’s most ubiquitous materials, are being thought about in less traditional terms, with environmental sustainability firmly in mind.
Today, though, we are going to take things way back, to look at a fabric that, back in 2008, celebrated its 200th birthday as an industrially-produced material.
Bobbinet tulle – or genuine tulle, as it is sometimes known – is a type of netting best known for its use in garment manufacture, and is an almost ever-present component of wedding dresses up and down the country. Constructed from fibres including Egyptian cotton, Lycra, polyamide, polyester, silk and polypropylene, it’s a tear-resistant, near-transparent and extremely versatile material that is also used widely in embroidery, medical and theatrical prostheses, and interior furnishings.
Part of bobbinet’s appeal in such a diverse range of settings is its impressive strength to weight ratio, which belies the fact that it is extremely light. Its durability and flexibility are derived from the weaving process, which loops weft yarns diagonally around vertical warp yarns to create an instantly recognisable hexagonal pattern that is deceivingly delicate.
The man responsible for mechanising the bobbinet production process was John Heathcoat, who, in 1808, succeeded in reproducing the actions of manual lace makers in a roller-locker machine. So inspired were the designs of his machinery that even now, more than two centuries after the first one was fired up and used to replicate the intricate work of manual weavers, they remain practically unchanged. Moreover, much of the world’s bobbinet production still takes place in the United Kingdom, with Swisstulle continuing to churn out netting from their factory in the picturesque village of Chard, in Somerset. All of which goes to prove that it’s not always about being the newest, the fanciest, or the most technical, but just about sticking to a winning formula.
Bobbinet Tulle machines, based on John Heathcoat’s original designs (Source: YouTube)