The art of creating colors with no dyes - Manteco

The art of creating colors with no dyes

Discover how recycled wool colors are made

When it comes to recycled wool garments and accessories, beautiful and unique colors without added dyes and chemicals

Traditional chemical dyeing processes for wool guarantee an infinite chromatic variety and an easy reproducibility, but they have a significant impact on the environment, especially in terms of water consumption, power usage and chemical pollution. However, this is valid just for virgin wool fabrics, since when it comes to recycled wool fabrics, there’s a fascinating and sustainable way to create colors. Here at Manteco, we call it Recype® – the art of creating wool colors with no dyes and chemicals.

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1) Obtaining colorful fibers from pre- and post-consumer garments

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As explained here, after a meticulous cleaning and sorting process, pre and post consumer wool garments and scraps are divided by color and mechanically shredded to obtain a ‘new’ recycled wool fiber, all of this without using chemicals, but just with a little water. Also, no additional dyes are needed, because garments and scraps come already colored from their former life. For example, here below you can see a bale of knits that were divided by color (in this case yellow), which – after being shredded – have given life to a yellow recycled wool fiber.

2) The recycled wool warehouse as a painter's palette

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Considering that millions of knits, garments and scraps are mechanically shredded every year, recycled wool warehouses are like a huge color archives. They’re filled with hundreds of bales, each one with recycled wool fibers of different colors and tones. Raw material artisans, also called Feltrinisti, draw from these bales just as painter does from his colorboard.

3) The creation of a 'color recipe'

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When brands or designers forward a specific color request for a recycled wool fabric or jersey, the process of creating a new color starts. Raw materials artisans check what they have in the warehouse and choose different recycled colors and mix them in specific percentages, creating an actual ‘color recipe’ on a small scale. This process is a real form of art that no school can teach, but just experience.

4) Carding the 'color recipe' to make a trial felt

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The ‘color recipe’ is carded with a traditional machine ( called Cardina ) to clean, mix and parallelize the fibers, ending up creating a trial felt ( or Feltrino ), a recycled wool puff that shows the new color obtained, with no dyes and chemicals.

5) Checking if the trial felt's color matches the requested color

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Raw material artisans then compare the requested color with the one achieved through the ‘color recipe’ carding. If colors do not match, artisans repeat the whole process until the trial felt’s color perfectly matches the requested color.

6) A new recycled wool color is born

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Once the trial felt’s color is approved, the ‘color recipe’ is archived and officially becomes a new recycled wool color. The latters are usually multiplied by the kgs of yarns that must be produced and prepared to be sent to the spinning mill, where it will be carded, spinned and twisted to produce ‘new’ recycled wool yarns.

Ultimately, this way of creating colors has almost no limits, as by mixing different shades of fibers every tone can be achieved

Thanks to our Recype® process, we create beautiful colors while preserving resources and cutting emissions, as every year – on average – we save 19.000 kgs of dyestuff, 11.000 kgs of chemical auxiliaries, 722.127 kgs of CO2-eq. Emissions, 10.641.878 MJ of energy, 122.707.000 liters of water. All resources that would have been used if colors were made with chemical dyeing.

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About Manteco, Italian premium textiles and circularity since 1943

After decades in the fashion world, in 2018, we have created the Manteco Academy project, through which we  give webinars, in-person lessons and workshops on eco-design, circular economy and sustainability to numerous fashion schools, technical universities and brands worldwide. Thanks to this educative commitment and our heritage, we are often invited as guest speaker at events, panels, podcasts and conferences about sustainable fashion and circular economy.

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