Silks and Snow

As I mentioned a few weeks ago my friend Gill from Paisley Pedlar http://paisleypedlar.wordpress. and I had planned a trip to visit the Whitchurch Silk Mill and yesterday was the day. We were a bit apprehensive before the trip as the weather has been very disruptive with the snow and ice but once again fortune smiled on us and we set off on clear roads. Gill was driving and she decided to take the scenic route which goes through some lovely countryside up the Downs if you get my drift. Completely to our delight we came across this fabulous winter wonderland of trees completely covered in snow, looking ever so much as if a huge dredger of icing sugar had been liberally sprinkled. I have never seen anything like it before.

We arrived in good time at the mill and made our first call at the shop which is at the entrance. We became enraptured by the beautiful celebration silk which was produced last year as part of a feasibility study. The mill had not been in production for several months and now with a new board of directors it is hoped it will start producing again very soon. The shop has some lovely examples of the luxurious and high quality silks produced made into items such as table runners and very elegant doorstops as well as a delightful needlebooks and rosette ruffles.

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The mill was built in 1815 and in its past wove the linings for Burberry’s based in nearby  Alton, it was weaving right up until 1985 when The Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust bought it to preserve and restore it. In 1990 the mill was opened to the public under the management of  The Whitchurch Silk Mill Trust.

The silk produced at the mill has been in demand in the recent past, by theatrical costumers and the cafe walls are lined with photos of the period production pieces as well as the many films and television productions which have featured Whitchurch Mill silks.

Organza, georgette, crepe, chiffon, dupion these names conjure up the variety and richness of texture into which silk thread is woven. The silk comes from all over the world as Britain is unable to produce any due to the climate. Although several of the looms were threaded up there were no weavers working that day. This was a disappointment to me as I would have loved to see the mechanised looms in action. But not to be outdone I had a go on a manual loom set up for visitors to try, complete with instructions. I have always loved silk fabric, the lustre of it gives the colours an eloquence and depth unrivalled by any other thread. The colours are gorgeous.

The river that runs by the mill was in full torrent due to the recent rainfall and a very large group of ducks were struggling against the flow. It certainly is a very picturesque spot and I hope they will continue weaving that fabulous silk very far into the future.


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