A History of Stripes

Whitchurch silk millNicola here. A couple of weeks ago I visited the Whitchurch Silk Mill. Built in 1813, on land owned by Winchester Cathedral, it was built by the Hayter family and then developed by William Maddick. Through the 19th and early 20th century it produced silk, providing work for the local populace and going through some hard times and some good like many small businesses. From 1911 the mill wove silk for Burberry, producing 22 different colours of silk lining for their famous raincoats. In the 1980s after falling into disrepair it was restored as a working museum using traditional machinery and methods.

Visiting the museum was completely fascinating. Weaving silk is a very complicated business but it was so much easier to understand when you could follow IMG_1082 (002) the different steps in the process and even have a go on the silk looms yourself. It was also a real insight to see what working conditions were like in the Victorian age – some of the child workers started at nine years old!

The Whitchurch mill has always specialised in stripes and there was a very interesting exhibition on show about striped designs and their history. Stripes in
nature have long been an inspiration for designers. Stripes can be used as both camouflage and as warning. Both prey – zebras, for example – and predators such as tigers, have stripes that allow them to blend in. Snakes, various insects and even badgers have them to scare the predators away.

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