John, Head Colourist at John Smedley from 1979 to 2008 shows us his unique skill of hand blending Merino fibres to create the perfect shade

John has worked at John Smedley for over 37 years, starting here in 1979, taking retirement from his role as Head Colourist in 2008. During that time John became the resident expert on all things colour, developing his own unique hues.

Working with the design team John would develop new Merino shades combining base colours to establish a “recipe” for a brand new shade. The first stage of this required John to blend Merino fibres by hand to create a sample for review, to create this, strands of Merino fibre would be separated out at very specific quantities. For example, to create John’s highly popular charcoal grey he

would take 5 strands of black, 4 strands of ecru and 1 strand of navy which he would then hand blend by repeatedly pulling the Merino stands until they were eventually mixed into grey. John would take note of the percentages of the shades used to ensure he would be able to replicate the final colour exactly. Each shade used to create the blend would be weighed on scales and then sent to be spun on a sample machine in the factory where it would create 100 grams of yarn that could be knitted to create a small sample for the design team to approve. John would also oversee tests on each new shade to ensure it stayed true to the original sample after washing, wear etc.

One of John’s favourite shades which he developed himself is “Brown Lovat”, it’s a blend of 5 colours (black, ecru, red, blue and yellow) making a beautiful brown base with subtle colourful flecks. This unique Merino shade proved to be very popular and was one of our best selling for 8 years.

John is still an essential part of the John Smedley team, using his extensive and invaluable knowledge he takes factory tours and helps to oversee the vast archives.


John demonstrates hand blending 5 colours to make his favourite shade, Brown Lovat