An Architect told me in passing a couple weeks ago, ” all carpet is the same, right?”

Well…it’s not. It may all be used primarily on the floor and all be somewhat fuzzy and soft, but carpet is not all the same. Yarn DNA, dyes, production methods and durability…are some of the ways that soft product under foot vary. It’s important to know some of these things when you select carpet and get the right product in the right locations. It shouldn’t always be just about “pretty.” It should be about “EDD” (Educated Design Decisions. ) For this purpose I, with a couple fellow designers did a fast, overnight trip to L.A. California to be educated about the type of carpet flooring Bentley Carpet Mills manufactures.  I have used their product for some time, because they provide product that one of my clients really likes to use. But recently we haven’t been getting good results from our design requests. So we went to their plant to be better educated how to communicate our design intents and to see how they crank out all the great stuff that they do. Below are some highlights from the trip:

We landed in LA and got to our hotel in Santa Monica just in time to walk the boardwalk as the sun set on the pier.

The next morning we started the day with seeing their show room and learning about what makes Bentley tick.

One of the things I re-learned on this trip is how carpet is really all about science. The first picture below shows plastic materials that represent the 4 types of yarn shapes manufactured by Invista. Without getting into all the details, the main two types of yarn DNA is type  6 and type 6,6. The most durable on the market is type 6,6. The square shape below is called “four hole hollow filament,” and is the 6,6 yarn. The second image shows a microscopic view of that yarn. If you can see little black dots in between these yarns, they are carbon filaments that are purposely placed there to keep the carpet users/owners from getting a shock – they draw the electric charge away from those that walk on it.

Bentley is the only place in the West that can put the carpet through their own ASTM testing. All others have to send it out for testing.  One of the tests is to take this 8.4 pound ball that stimulates foot traffic. To see the video look for the Instagram video below. They run this ball and the carpet in a machine that works like a clothes dryer. It constantly turns the carpet under the contraption’s weight for 12,000 rotations. The test isn’t to see if the color fades – though it does do that – it is to see how the carpet mats and holds up. Below are some comparisons of carpets that have all been tested with the same carpet that is brand new without testing. Some you can see the wear, and some you can’t.

We saw two types of yarn goods:

1. Griege Dyed goods that are all dyed after the carpet is tufted and Solution Dyed goods, where the color is in the yarns and then tufted. Below are some images of the different processes. To see some actual tufting go to my Instagram page.

One of the things I liked the most about the trip was learning how patterns and designs get that way through their dyeing process. In greige goods, the yarns have characters or traits (“the affinity of the yarn”) that take dyes differently. There are also Acid base dyes and Cationic dyes. And these combined in carpets create and achieve the simple or complex design patterns. The second picture below is a computer system to systematically dispense the dyes into a dye bath for the perfect color formula. The third picture is where they are testing the color formulas on carpet samples. There is an Instagram video showing it in more detail.

It was a great trip…fast, but great. But wanna know my favorite part? … Getting up at 5 AM and going running on the beach and boardwalks around Santa Monica. It renewed my soul!

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