In 2022 we began working on a complex restoration project at The Henry Ford Estate. Follow the journey here.
This prestigious restoration involved recreating the original design from archive photographs, selecting the appropriate colour and weaving custom dyed samples. For this exciting project we collaborated with the specialist team at The Henry Ford Estate in Michigan, while weaving the fabric at our studio and mill in Suffolk in England.
The Henry Ford Estate, also known as Fair Lane, was the beloved home of Clara and Henry Ford from 1915 until their deaths in 1950 and 1947. The 56-room mansion served as their sanctuary and as their laboratory. Henry Ford was the founder of the Ford Automobile company, and among his most celebrated innovations include building the world’s first auto assembly line. This paved the way for large-scale industrial production of Ford Motors, a popular car brand seen throughout the world to this day.
Humphries Weaving were commissioned to supply historically accurate fabric to the walling of the main bedroom. This was dated to 1915 when a receipt shows the purchase of a bolt of “Walnut Brocatelle”. In 2022 there was no surviving fabric left in the bedroom and the only other piece of valuable evidence was the archive photographs as seen above. These were in black and white, blurred and pixelated, obscuring much of the detail.
Over the first few month’s account manager Alex Daniels analysed these photographs, redrawing the original design by hand. Several versions were created and refined using CAD technology, before samples were woven for the team at The Henry Ford Estates approval. The fabric was woven as a silk and linen brocatelle, which features two or more wefts with extra binder warp, in high relief on a Jacquard loom. This makes the warp satin figure of the design pouted and 3-dimensional. It is an expensive and highly desirable fabric today, and was originally designed as a more cost effective way to imitate the appearance of figured velvet.
Once the design had been recreated, the next step was to choose the colour. For this, the team focused on the “Walnut” reference listed on the receipt. Alex dived into the Humphries Weaving colour archive to find shades referenced as Walnut throughout history. She also looked at Pantone references and our stock silk shades, before sending recommendations to the team in Michigan.
Several combinations were reviewed through a custom dyed bobbin trial with a dark brown figure and varying brown ground shades. A contrasting palette was selected, and the production order could be sent to weave on our state of the art Jacquard looms.
Many metres of new fabric were woven by our team of talented weavers at the mill. Every inch was inspected by hand, before being sent to America.