Inside Story Behind Our Beautiful Scarves
As we have just recently added another silk scarf to our beautiful collection online, I thought it would be a timely opportunity to explain the fascinating process undertaken with Beckford Silk (Silk Printers & Dyers in Tewkesbury, England) to create these unique items.
The Design Process
The process starts in the same way that all of our bespoke items are developed: we identify which of the Abbey’s iconic features we would like to use to create an authentic product (or range of products) that reflects a visitor’s experience of the Abbey. Our Product Developer and Head of Retail work together to seek inspiration within the building, looking for things that will translate well into fabric, with interesting yet wearable colour choices and a feminine quality. Often a silk scarf will be designed to sit alongside other ladies accessories or jewellery.
It is then the job of Beckford Silk to create a design which will result in a beautiful and fashionable ladies accessory. Anne Hopkins, Sales Director, explains how they are able to “use Photoshop to manipulate images but … also often combine this with hand drawing. Working on a design layout will often take several days of development.” When they are happy with their design they then send it to us as a full size paper artwork so we can approve it. This artwork is much larger than what we might receive from other suppliers, as some of our scarves can measure over 1m²; however it is essential to see how the design will look at the correct scale.
At this stage we may want some changes made, so we send back any comments or amendments we may have. Some scarves have proved more difficult than others, for example our new Rose Window scarf which we felt was too dark when the stonework in the design was kept in its original colour. Thanks to a suggestion by Anne, this area of the design was instead picked out in a rich blue shade which accentuates the stained glass and makes the scarf more vibrant.
The Print and Production Process
Once we have approved the paper design layout, it is sent back to Beckford Silk so they can start working on the print on silk. Anne explains that “this stage is called the proofing stage and again involves a considerable amount of work to achieve the best possible print on silk”. Once they are happy with how this looks, we are sent a finished proof on silk to approve before the scarf goes into production. This stage is exciting as it is the first time you see how the design works with the choice of fabric, whether it be satin, crepe de chine or georgette silk.
The production process involves either screen printing or digitally printing on to a specially coated silk. Both techniques are utilised in producing our scarves; the satin devoré and High Altar navy and gold scarves are screen printed and the other more intricate designs are digitally printed. To learn more about the printing process, there are some wonderful videos on Beckford Silk’s website.
Once the design is printed it is then essential to fix the colours to the silk by using steam. Anne explains how this works: “fabric lengths are loaded onto a star frame and lowered into a pressure steamer for 40 minutes. The fibre of the silk opens up in the steam and the dye molecules enter into the fibre. The gum molecules that hold the colour for printing are much larger and can’t get in so they get left on the outside. Once the colour is fixed we can then wash the silk, washing away all the gum residue so we are left with the colour trapped inside”.
Following this the panels are checked and any that have faults are pulled aside. The good panels are then given to Beckford Silk’s ‘sewing ladies’ who will finish the edges by either hand rolling or machine hemming. Hand rolling is the traditional (and very fiddly!) way of finishing a silk scarf and you can see below, in this fantastic video from Beckford Silk, how you can have a go yourself.
As with the printing methods we have a mixture of hand rolled and machine hemmed finishing depending on the style of the scarf. After the scarves have been finished they are given a quick iron, and then folded neatly into their boxes ready for dispatch.
To find out more about silk scarf production, please visit Beckford Silk’s website which is full of interesting information. If you would like to see our full range of scarves, then please click here.