Tuesday 17 May 2016

Custom Printed Fabric at Contrado

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to visit the Contrado fabric printing factory in sunny Harlesden, along with fellow bloggers Marie, Janene, Katie, Elena and Charlotte. The visit was kindly organised by Rachel and Kate at The Fold Line. If you haven't come across Contrado before (and I hadn't) they're a family run, UK-based company (hoorah) offering a facility to design and print your own fabric.

There are over 75 different fabric types to choose from, which made picking just one a bit of a nightmare. We were sent swatch packs of fabric beforehand, which are full colour printed to give an idea of how light or bright the final fabrics will look - this was really helpful. At the factory, there were giant swatch packs to play with - even more helpful as you could really feel the fabrics.

I was completely torn between 100% silk satin or (bizarrely) polycotton sheeting. As unsexy as it sounds, the polycotton sheeting was a lovely quality and had an amazing drape. In the end I couldn't pass up the opportunity to own a piece of super luxurious fabric and went for the silk. Here's a tip: check out the care instructions of your chosen fabric type beforehand! Yep, you guessed it, the silk is dry clean only, with strict instructions not to let steam anywhere near it. I'm guessing the polycotton sheeting would have been a lot less hassle! I stand by my choice though, the silk is absolutely beautiful.

The one area I totally struggled with was the design process. Once you've chosen your fabric, there's software on the website for you to lay it out and tile it. This all sounds simple enough, but I have zero technical expertise, and although I had lots of ideas for fabric designs, I had no idea where to start. In the end, Rachel kindly came to my rescue and created my design for me, based on a piece of original 1940's fabric I'd found on Pinterest. Some of the bloggers are experienced designers and even they found some of the software a little confusing, so it was good to have technical staff on hand to make sure everything was the right size and scale. There's an option on the website to print out a test piece of fabric before committing to your design which I'd strongly recommend you utilise. This is not the sort of thing you want to get wrong!

Once we'd sent our designs off to be printed we were given a tour of the factory by owner Chris.


You don't have to print massive quantities of fabric, you can print just a small panel if that's all you need. The full width of the fabric is used for different orders, so there's very little waste.

Custom fabric printing is just one side of the Contrado business, the company also prints designs or images of your choice onto a wide range of homeware or clothing products. Imagine my delight when I came across these custom printed espadrilles!

Finally we were able to see our designs printed hot off the press. This was Charlotte's....

Elena split her order into two different fabrics....

Here's mine on the press!

And on the bolt....

My design was very faithfully reproduced, although the flowers did look a bit darker than I was expecting. I'm not complaining though, this is the only fabric of its kind in the world, and it's all mine! I'll now have to think very, very carefully about what I make with it. Any ideas?!

Thank you very much to Rachel and Kate at The Fold Line for organising such a fabulous day - I found every aspect of it really interesting. Thank you also to Chris and the rest of the Contrado team for giving up your Saturday to accommodate us and for generously allowing us to print our fabric designs for free. x


  1. This is incredible! I would love to give this a try! Well done for creating such a dreamy fabric print!

    1. Thanks Christina, I thought you'd like it! x

  2. I'm a long time luker, but I had to comment this time. I love the fabric you made. It screams of that era before WWII to me. It reminds me very much of a print on a dress my grandmother had that we cut up when I was learning to quilt. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I just know you will come up with a pattern that does it justice.

    1. Aw I hope so, thank you! It's wonderful to be able to bring such a beautiful vintage print back to life. x

  3. Such fun - great to have a local business that offers such a good service.

    1. That's what I thought and it is actually very local to where I live (which may turn out to be slightly dangerous!) X

  4. What an interesting piece, I really enjoyed reading it and great to see a British company like this in action. Your material looks gorgeous and would suit a vintage garment perfectly. Not sure which one! Thank you Jane.

  5. I love your print and colour choice! Deciding on just the right garment to make with it will be fun! I know you'll pick something perfect.



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