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eye on the tiger - behind the scenes at Shaw

Written by Amy Bleier Long

I’m kind of a geek, so I was very into the heavy-on-the-science tour of the Shaw headquarters. It was cool to see the process from start to finish, and it really illustrated the advantages of Tigressá SoftStyle carpet.

We started where most things do: inspiration. We briefly discussed the colors, research, home and fashion trends, and qualities (strength, beauty, protection) that influenced the Shaw designers. Regional inspiration boards and displays showing national and regional sales of existing products by color were interesting to study.

The group was paired off to create our own inspiration boards. The Shaw team wanted to see what we were inspired by and what we were seeing in the market. I worked with the fabulous Carmen Natschke from The Decorating Diva. Here’s our board (including some pieces you may already recognize from past TH issues):

If you want to hear me discuss our board, here's a video. More of what I've been seeing in the market will be in our pages soon!

While explaining his board during this exercise, environmental lifestyle expert Danny Seo gave great advice that you may have heard before, even from your own interior designer, but I wanted to reiterate:  If you aren’t sure how you want to decorate a room, use your closet as inspiration. Look at the colors and textures you’re drawn to. Chances are if you are always happy wearing it, you’ll always be happy living in it.

Following that exercise we toured Shaw's pilot factory, which is a super-scaled down working version of their larger plants. Here they can innovate, experiment, and do quality control without interrupting the workflow at the factories making carpet for sale.

We saw the machines involved in tufting, which stitches yarn into the backing material either as loops or cut pile, with patterns, textures, and pile heights controlled by computers.

We also observed the dye range that continuously applies red, yellow, and blue in various formulations to create the colors in which the rugs are offered, and a gravimetric dye dispenser, which carefully measures the exact amounts needed for each color.

Even with their recycled Nylon 6, Shaw is able to achieve bright colors because they go all the way back to the raw materials. The other way of recycling carpets is to shear the fibers off and melt them down, often creating muddy colors.

Before we left research and development, we participated in the stain resistance experiments I mentioned previously. Another point illustrated by that demo: Because Tigressá carpet stays clean and dry, it’s more hypoallergenic, which is great news for allergy sufferers.

At the previously top-secret technical center we got to see the real science in action.

The editors and bloggers. Yes, I'm wearing my safety goggles.

There were several laboratories, each dedicated to a specific function or test of the product. Some highlights:

A humidity-controlled lab lets Shaw check how the carpet and backing fare in real applications in different environments. While we were there, a carpet that had been installed was curling so they were going to send it back for more work. A tip: a warm installation helps to avoid re-stretch problems.

In the cleaning and maintenance lab we tested out Shaw’s patented R2X spot treatment product. You may remember this is also the formula that the carpet is produced with, but it’s also available as a stand-alone spot treatment. Another tip learned: agitate a stain lightly from the outside in, do not rub.

In the microscopy lab, college interns were observing Tigressá fibers. The strength and softness come from high-tensile denier filaments, which are thinner than human hair, and are shaped like distorted triangles or Ys.  Because they are so fine, they are soft and can be tightly packed together for added strength.

Can you see the fibers on the computer screen? The larger oval-shaped one is a human hair.

What that essentially means for you is that it takes a lot of stress before the filaments wear down, and because so many fibers can be twisted together, the pressure of daily wear is spread out (similar to how laying on a bed of nails doesn’t hurt because of the large surface area). So it will take an extremely long time before your Tigressá carpet ever looks worn.

Other grueling tests the carpet endures before it’s ready for you to purchase include: its backing being torn off to check yarn strength, a roll test to check for backing separation, a tumbler that simulates human foot traffic, and a chamber that approximates the exposure to light, heat, and ozone that a carpet experiences in its useful lifetime testing for color fastness and any degradation.

If you’re buying carpet, interested in more of the science, or want to find out about the health and environmental impact of carpets, check out the Carpet & Rug institute’s website. And if you’re interested in Tigressá carpet, don’t forget to Tweet to Save the Tigers!




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