CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cheshire Life today CLICK HERE

The vintage silk trail starts at Macclesfield Silk Museum

00:17 17 December 2011

The Edith Buxton dress

The Edith Buxton dress

How a museum in Macclesfield is linked to the latest design trends WORDS BY RACHAEL HOGG PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Fact file

Macclesfield was once the worlds biggest producer of finished silk.

During the uprising of 1745, the mayor of Macclesfield was forced to officially welcome Charles Stuart and his army as they marched through the town on their way to London. This event is commemorated on one of the towns famous silk tapestries.

Paradise Mill is still in working condition and now demonstrates the art of silk weaving to the public.

The design and production of silk neckwear has been one of Macclesfields most abiding industries.

Silk was still popular during the Second World War and was used to create parachutes, maps and powder bags.

The Silk Museums vast archive includes working power looms, a huge collection of pattern books dating back to the 1800s, machine embroidery, silk fabrics, plain and intricately decorated and embroidered couture clothing and everyday fashion.

The print version of this article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Cheshire Life

We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here

While casually flicking through a recent issue of Cheshire Life, Annabel Wills, curator of the Silk Museum in Macclesfield, was stopped in her tracks. She spotted a dress in a feature about new collections in local boutiques that bore a design which looked quite familiar. The summer dress was a painterly floral by the designer, Suzannah. Annabel realised the pattern was based on an original silk design from the 1940s, designed by Edith Buxton, and housed in the Silk Museum.

Annabel said: I managed to get hold of the original dress at a vintage textiles sale at the Armitage Centre in Bollington. Most of our collection here at the Silk Museum has come from kind donations, but sometimes we can stumble across great and important finds.

Annabel has been working at the Silk Museum since 1985 when she joined as a conservator and she clearly loves the mix of local history and textiles.

Edith Buxton was originally an embroidery designer, but she trained at the School of Art which had opened in Macclesfield in 1877 and there she won many prizes. As Edith worked in the mill during the day she had to study in the evening.

Annabel says: It was from the 1920s onwards that female designers played a significant role in Macclesfield. Edith worked at Barracks, where she designed and screen-printed silk. Fortunately, unlike many other companies, Barracks production did not suffer during the Second World War.

The 2011 dress - incidentally one of which was worn by BBC presenter Alex Jones when she covered the royal wedding in April - is designed by Suzannah, a label inspired by vintage and print designs.

The original print does date from the 1940s. There is photographic evidence of it and one report speaks of the design and of a female designer: After light silks and rayons came.... the tulip, the auricula and such old-fashioned flowers were used for these lovely fabrics. In a 1956 article, the same fabric is shown being printed at Barracks, but Edith is not mentioned specifically.

As floral designs are popular now with the resurgence of all things vintage, the Edith Buxton design was also very popular in its time and ran for many years.

Therefore, many scarves and dresses would certainly be in existence. It is also likely that many pattern books originating in Macclesfield, now reside in Italy. The original silk design was screen-printed, a technique that uses an ink-blocking stencil supported by a woven mesh. Each colour has to be printed separately, and up to 20 colours could be used on one fabric.

The collection at the Silk Museum stretches far beyond the displays: numerous pattern books dating back to the 1800s mostly in storage are fascinating. Annabel said: Obviously we could never put the entire collection on show, but the Silk Museum is a wonderful and vastly underused resource for aspiring designers and artists.

The Silk Museum has recently joined the United Nations World Tourist Organisation. This will enable Macclesfield to appear at the end of the silk trail, traceable all the way from China. Many visitors to the Silk Museum are from overseas rather than locals, as people almost seem to take for granted that they live in and around such an important historical town


Shop with us at Great British Life

More from Style

Friday, November 20, 2015
Joanne Cooper and Annabel Naylor

Leading London fashion designer Caroline Charles presented her A/W 2015 collection at her Wilmslow store.

Read more
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Ellen Tracy womenswear

Brand new to the UK, womenswear brand Ellen Tracy has opened a concession within fashion emporium, House of Fraser. To mark the launch, Cheshire Life and House of Fraser are giving one lucky reader the opportunity to win £500 to spend on the brand in the Manchester store.

Read more
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
10 Christmas party dresses

Festive dressing is all about getting noticed, says Style Editor Janet Reeder

Read more
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Perfect for party looks, Ciaté Liquid chrome is a longwearing metallic liquid eyeliner that creates a wash of gem-like colour, £15

Preen your peepers in time for the party season

Read more
Friday, October 9, 2015
Studying fashion....Chelsea Slater (blond hair), Marketing Manager, and customer, Amy Brownley  at REX in the Metquarter

Liverpool is a city full of culture and heritage and now it has undergone a retail renaissance, which is all the more reason to visit. If you haven’t been there for a while there’s lots to discover as Janet Reeder found out when she hit the fabulous stores

Read more
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Celebrate Buy British Day

Did you know October 3rd is Buy British Day? To celebrate we have picked our favourite 9 British-made fashion gifts for every member of the family, for every budget, from girlie princess bags to cuff links

Read more
Saturday, September 26, 2015
The Spa at the Midland

Beatrice Tetteh takes a relaxing break at the tranquil new spa at the Midland Hotel, in Manchester

Read more
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
How much water should you be drinking?

We’re all told to drink lots of water and cut down on coffee, cola and alcohol. But why should we drink water and how much do we really need?

Read more
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Handmade bouquet ring,18 ct gold, pink and white diamonds

Cheshire’s countryside inspires many, including award-winning local jeweller Claire Troughton, writes Heidi Nagaitis

Read more
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Autumnal fashion by Seasalt Cornwall

Seasalt Cornwall creates beautiful and useful women’s clothing and homeware that reflects their life by the sea.

Read more
Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Today more of us are turning to gentler and newer ways to get a younger look, with incredible results. Sun, stress, pollution and smoking can all contribute to your skin not looking its best.

Read more
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Health & Fitness coach, Colin Ayliffe, at Stockton Heath

Work your rear at this time of year

Read more
Monday, June 8, 2015
Mrs Andrea Thatcher, Mrs Julie Sadler, Mrs Sarah Mensner

Bra-vo! Celebrations are in order as Congleton gets a new lingerie store

Read more
Stella McCartney powder top £645; Stella McCartney powder skirt £715;  Serenity small hoop earrings £175; Serenity opera necklace, £200

Beautifully cut investment pieces in white and pastels mean we can all be pale and interesting this summer

Read more

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Cheshire's trusted business finder

Job Search in the Cotswolds

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search