Shade Lots & Fabric Color Variances
Fashion Terms

What is a shade variance?  Same as color variance.  Essentially a variation or change in color that effects fabric and fashion.

When printing or dyeing fabric, the production run can have color shade issues on a single roll of fabric or from one bolt of fabric to the next.  Shade variances can occur due to a number of issues.  The amount of dye stuff, machinery, time, fabric quality, employee error, etc., are a few of the many possible issues that can contribute to color problems.  Shade variation can take place during a printing or dyeing processes.  It is most common when a new batch of dyes or inks are mixed when attempting to create or re-create a desired color.  Using good technology, high quality inks & dyes and appropriate fiber content & fabric quality is beneficial but does not guarantee 100% success.

Fabric shade variance is the variation of shade (depth of color or hue) in one roll of fabric or separate pieces of fabric that were intended to match.  In dyed fabric, shade variation is often found.  Shade variation may occur selvage to selvage (side to side) or from one end of the fabric roll to another end (or anywhere in between).  

Shading or shade variation is considered to be a critical problem in fabric.  Most quality assurance managers would have the topic of checking fabric color variances as an important step in their inspection process.

If color is not adequate it will negatively affect the consumption of fabric (learn about fabric utilization).  It has an effect on fabric utilization because the poor color section may need to be cut out of the fabric rolls to avoid being used during garment production.  This will reduce the number of finished garments the factory can get out of the roll of fabric.  Fashion brands that want to maintain top quality should absolutely remove unsatisfactory color shade issues from the fabric.  If the incorrect fabric is not removed there is a strong possibility of having defective garment in the finished production.

Garment manufacturing factories use a standard practice to help monitor shade variances affecting garment production.  The mill often must submit shade bands (fabric swatch samples) for each fabric lot produced.  The buyer can review the shade ban reference between fabric lots to make sure the variance is slight to non-existent.  If the variance between lots is too much, they can reject the fabric.  They carefully number and record the fabric lots to avoid possible mix up of fabric lots.

What is a dye lot?  A dye lot can be done to yarn, fabric, or piece dyed garments.

The fabric lot is the “batch” of fabric.   For example, if fabric is being dyed in a vat (equipment to dye fabric) only a particular amount of fabric will fit in the vat at a time.  The fabric is dyed at the same time and then is pulled out of the vat when the dyeing is completed, is considered to be one batch.

A dye lot is a record taken during the dyeing of yarn, fabric, or garments to identify which has received its coloration in the same vat or other coloring process at the same time.   For example when dyeing yarn, yarn manufacturers assign each lot a unique identification number and stamp it on the label before shipping. Slight differences in temperature, dyeing time, and other factors can result in different shades of the same color between different dye lots of otherwise identical production. Although the component elements of a dye lot number are of interest only for internal business recordkeeping, retail yarn consumers have an interest in ensuring that they purchase a given color of yarn from identical dye lots.  Again, each dye lot is basically one “batch”.  Think about it like you are cooking cookies.  You want to use the same recipe with the hopes that second batch of cookies you make taste just as amazing as the first batch (the goal is to make them the exact same).   It is important to use the exact same ingredients and cook at the exact same heat and for the same exact length of time.  As you know, it is easier said than done.

When printing, it can be called a “print lot” rather than a dye lot.

Variations in garments:

Garment are made by stitching number of fabric parts together.  As mentioned above, garment making factory may receive fabric with varied shades of the same color.  If precaution is not taken in cutting department and sewing floor, fabric lot can mixed easily and as a result you will garment with varied shade in between garment components.  When shade variation is found in between garment parts, is called shade variation in garments.

There are method to help make sure the clothing factory sews fabric from the same lot into one garment.  Numbered stickers are attached to all “garment parts” (cut pieces) to ensure that sewing operators stitch a garment from same fabric layer.  It is best to use the same fabric lot for the garment.  For example, if the body of a shirt is taken from a first lot of dyed fabric but the sleeve portion is taken from a 3rd lot of dyed fabric there is a greater chance that the body and sleeve will have a color variance.  It is better that both the sleeves and body for the same garment come from the same dye lot of fabric.

Similar concept holds true for dyeing and printing.

When discussing fabric shade variance we should consider the question, “Does shade variance matter?”.  Possibly the more important question is how much variance is acceptable.

Shade Lot Color Variance

Learn about apparel quality testing, quality testing standards, and fabric defects.   Shade variance problems are definitely considered to be fabric defects.  The severity of the differences determines if the color is acceptable or not.  This is a decision that a fabric or clothing buyer would need to determine.  They can also receive guidance from the fabric testing labs.  You may want to also learn about crocking and color fastness.

If you are searching for textiles for producing clothing, you can review our fabric mill directory or visit the Fabric Search section in our textile industry guide.

Learn more about fashion colors and fashion color cues and why they are important to the apparel & textile industry.

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