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Visit To Adamley Silk Printing Factory

28/02/2012
Hand-Printed Silk Tie by Adamley

Hand-Printed Silk Tie by Adamley

It all started with a tie – a rather lovely silk tie which I found by pure chance in a local charity shop. It was the richness of colour, printed design and fabric quality that really caught my attention. In addition, I’m a real sucker for an unfamiliar label, so there was nothing to do but to bring it home for further investigation. As you can see, the label reads ‘Adamley, Macclesfield, Hand-Printed in England’.  You can read all about my find here – but shortly after my article was published, I was contacted by Joanne Ratcliffe, the Design Director at Adamley. She found my blog, liked it (presumably!), and kindly invited me along to visit their factory. How fortunate!

Adamley are situated in the pretty village of Langley, two miles outside Macclesfield, Cheshire. They have produced hand-printed silks on this site for the past fifty years, by way of a complex process using water sourced from their own reservoir.

First light at Bottoms Reservoir, Langley

First light at Bottoms Reservoir, Langley, courtesy of Ed Rhodes Photography.

The mill houses an extensive archive of designs dating back to the 1800′s. This incredible archive is a constant source of inspiration for the design team and customers alike. Their design collection also includes the internationally renowned David Evans library, available to Adamley under license. The company employs thirty people including the design team, office staff and printing employees who are responsible for producing up to 250 metres of fabric per day.

A fraction of the Adamley archive

A fraction of the Adamley design archive.

Mood board

One of the many mood boards . . .

Printed Silk Fabric by Adamley

Printed Silk Fabric by Adamley

Adamley’s reputation for quality and design are renowned worldwide, with customers from the United Kingdom and Italy to Japan and beyond! They work closely with their customers to produce the most exquisite silk fabrics for the world’s finest establishments such as the ones found on Saville Row. Merchandise ranges from clothing and accessories such as ties and scarves to handbags and dressing gowns with prints coveted by the world’s top fashion designers. This gorgeous paisley print for example, was used in the Spring/Summer 2012 collection for J W Anderson.

J W Anderson uses Adamley fabric

J W Anderson uses Adamley fabric for Spring/Summer 2012 collection

As mentioned, the silk printing process is a complex one. The basic fabric arrives from China and Adamley then work their magic by putting the fabric through various stages to achieve the finished result. First of all, the fabric must be straightened using a machine called a weft straightener. It’s imperative that the silk lies perfectly straight so the fabric doesn’t twist when made up – especially important with ties.

The printing process takes place upstairs in the factory, where an assortment of huge tables can be found. A semi-automated table can be worked by one person for printing such things as handkerchiefs and head-squares (scarves). The main print room includes two tables which are fully automated. They are called Gali tables. The final table is used to print ladies wear fabric at a width of 140cm. The printers engrave about twenty frames per day and recycle some of them. Each frame is kept in a huge storage room.

Colours are made specially for each individual design, depending on the customer’s requirements. Stored in lidded containers, each colour is then labelled with the customer’s name, reference number and the nature and quality of the fabric. The reference number includes details such as the level of discharge agent used; a higher discharge agent for darker colours; a lower discharge agent for lighter colours such as yellow.

The fabric goes through a steaming process after it has been printed, which activates the discharging agent.

And finally, the stenter machine puts the finish on the fabric.

Adamly introduced computers for the design team around twelve years ago. Before that, all designs were hand-painted so computer technology has literally cut out weeks of labour intensive work.

Computers cut out weeks of intensive labour.

Computers cut out weeks of intensive labour.

Five years ago the company was bought out and is now known as ‘Medaax’ and collectively owned by managing director, Tro Manoukian, Steve Clayton (Sales Director), Pat Scott (Human Resources Manager), Mike Hawthorn (Production Manager), and Joanne Ratcliffe (Design Director). Medaax also have a shop on Berwick Street, London, called ‘Biddle Silks‘, and a sister company in Manchester called ‘Biddle Sawyer‘, that sells silk to designers.

Printing block

Traditional printing block by Adamley.

Weff straightener

Steamer

One of the many printing frames

Printing frames are recycled at Adamley.

Each unique colour is stored with reference numbers

Joanne explains the unique reference numbers labelled on each container.

Silk heaven

I think I died and went to silk heaven!

The printing process in action

Nice man demonstrates the printing process . . . . thank you!

Huge tables used for printing.

The printing room . . . also where the fabric hangs out to dry before the next printing stage.

In goes the paint

In goes the paint . . .

Hand printing process

Hand printing process . . .

Details of the fabric are written on the border

Details of the print are written on the border - and sealed with a kiss . . . Aw! Sweet!

The storage room

The storage room.

These rollers are used to break threads

'Spiky' rollers are used to break silk threads, a process used to soften the fabric.

The fabric is treated with a special coating

The stenter machine puts the final finish on the fabric.

Customers can choose any colour under the sun!

One of the many processes the fabric goes through.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Adamley factory. The place is full of character, set in the most gorgeous countryside. If you’re ever in the area, perhaps you’d like to visit the Adamley Silk Sale which is usually held twice a year. For the first time, Adamley are holding the sale at the Silk Heritage Centre, Macclesfield (another recommended place to visit), although the date is yet to be confirmed. Visit the Adamley website to find out more.

And finally, a big thank you to all the staff at Adamley, in particular the Design Director Joanne, for taking time out of her busy schedule to show us around.

Outside Adamley fabrics

Here I am outside Adamley fabrics, Macclesfield.

Adamley website: http://www.adamley.com/index.html
Address: Adamley, River Mills, Langley, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK11 0ER
Telephone: 01260 252483
Fax: 01260 253 394
Design Director: Joanne Ratcliffe – JRatcliffe@adamley.co.uk

With sincerest thanks to Ed Rhodes of Ed Rhodes Photography for kindly allowing me to use his wonderful image, ‘First Light’, taken at Bottoms Reservoir, Langley, Macclesfield.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. 28/02/2012 7:20 pm

    Wow! How fascinating Louise. A wonderful write-up. You never fail to impress with the amount of detail. Well done x

  2. Bridgette permalink
    28/02/2012 8:29 pm

    What a fabulous Blog and great memory of a fascinating visit – Joanne really brought the whole process to life and made us appreciate the depth of detail and hard work which goes into making such fine quality British goods! Thankyou for taking me along! xxx

  3. 29/02/2012 7:43 pm

    Great Blog, Louise. All too often we take for granted the talent and work that goes into producing the necessities of life. Your visit and report are an apt appreciation of a beautiful craft and product.
    The blog? Smooth as…

  4. 29/02/2012 11:10 pm

    Thank you very much. :-) xxx

  5. 02/03/2012 8:47 pm

    Oh, but I enjoyed visiting this factory through your eyes, Louise! Thanks so much for taking your blog readers along.

  6. paul s permalink
    09/03/2012 6:55 am

    very interesting visit , its great to hear we have a traditional factory still here in england producing great products which are world leaders in quality!

    • 09/03/2012 7:26 am

      Thank you Paul. Yes I agree – it’s wonderful to find a traditional factory like this in England. And great to know that the current economic climate hasn’t affected them in the slightest. People will always resonate towards quality products and Adamley do it so well. :-)

      Thanks for stopping by!

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