Textile Design Research and Practice: Shadow Tissue: A Woven and print Collaboration through Practice-led Research

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Shadow tissue is a fabric developed from printed warp yarns, followed by weaving with weft yarns, that can be various in nature, the weaving allows a shift in the printed pattern creating a so-called shadow effect. The process was perfected by Lancashire-based company Turnbull and Stockdale in the 1920s. Recently, the successor firm Turnbull Design has productively brought this style into the contemporary context by digitally printing the warps. The main evidence of the hands-on past experimentation with the technique survives in the Turnbull and Stockdale archives, taking the form of sample books and short lengths of fabric. As a textile print practitioner I was interested in the process, but did not have the historical background to dig deeper and understand more behind the evolution of the process. Consequently I sought out the assistance of Dr Philip A.Sykas (Manchester Metropolitan University) a textile historian with a particular interest in design archives. Our collaborative proposal “Experimental archaeology meets textile design: the rediscovery of shadow tissues” received a research grant from The Leverhulme Trust. The project was envisaged as a discovery of the lost technique of shadow tissues. Historical facts were uncovered and communicated by Sykas, plus practice-based responses presented at occasional meetings. Both of us worked in an archaeological manner; literally and metaphorically excavating the archives, digging amongst ledgers, designs, annual reports and samples. Practical work began with an experimental and responsive approach to testing techniques, reported back from initial findings by Skyas. My intention was to work, methodically, systematically and analytically to gradually understand from another perspective the workings behind the process in order to generate new ideas from an organic knowledge of past modes of investigation. This article will chart the development of this 2-year research project, from the archival information, through initial investigations to finally understanding the possibilities of innovation through thinking and making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-132
JournalJournal of Textile Design Research and Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Nov 2014


  • Print Weave Archive Warp Printing Shadow Tissue


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