Visit To Adamley Silk Printing Factory
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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