The Silk Walls of Humphries Weaving

The Silk Walls of Humphries Weaving
June 30, 2021 humphriesweaving

We have supplied thousands of metres of fabric for silk walling since our inception in 1972, in a vast rainbow of colours. As we near our 50th anniversary we reflect on some of our most prestigious and recognisable silk walling projects we are proud to have been involved with.

When you step inside some of the worlds most renowned Historic Houses, Royal Palaces and Private Homes, you often find yourself in rooms full of fabric used for the upholstery, curtains and even the walling. Silk is often used for wall coverings because of its reputation as one of the most noble of fibres. In the world of upholstery there are 2 different types of silk walling methods:

Silk Wallpaper

Silk wallpaper refers to a fabric that is paper backed on the reverse. It is installed using the same method as a normal wall paper. Installers often use PVA wall covering adhesive to fix the paper to the wall. In addition to silk wallpaper, other compositions incorporating cotton or linen are frequently used.

 

Silk Wall coverings

“Silk wall coverings” refer to silk which is stretched around a usually wooden frame and attached to the walls. It is similar to the method of  “wall hangings,” another traditional technique in which silk is loose hung on rails from the top of the walling and draped.  The majority of our silk fabric has been installed using these methods.

 

Silk Wall Paper

Silk fabric hung by Hesp & Jones 

in the Ante Room of Alnwick Castle.

The finished pure silk damask walling at Alnwick Castle.

Here the fabric is hung from the top of the wall panels and left to climatize to the temperature of the room. During this process the silk can contract and shrink, or relax and become longer.

The fabric is next stretched around wooden frames often with an interlinear. Once taught the fabric lies flat, and offers an neat and sophisticated finish. 

 

Windsor Castle

We regularly work with the historic houses and textiles experts to restore original fabric that is hundreds of years old. These services are utilised by clients who want to recreate the most authentic fabric to give the room a new lease of life. Our textiles research and consultancy helps to unlock the hidden mystery of the cloth, and we passionately investigate the original colour and designs that are present. This collaborative approach has been widely used at Windsor Castle, where our fabric hangs in a variety of rooms. Some of these are pictured below, however you can also view more on the project page. To explore this click here.

 

Green Silk Wallpaper

Pure silk for upholstery & walling in The Green Drawing Room, Windsor Castle

Silk Wallpaper

Pure silk for upholstery & walling in The Crimson Drawing Room, Windsor Castle

Silk & Cotton damask for the Kings Drawing Room, Windsor Castle

Kedleston Hall

As seen at Kedleston Hall, one of the traditional interiors trends was to use the same fabric for all elements of a scheme. This building features the work of the prestigious 18th century designer, Robert Adam. The magnificent scheme uses rich silk fabric as wall coverings, in addition to bed drapes and furnishings.

During this restoration we supplied fabric for the State Apartment, which consists of a number of rooms in a procession.  The design was re-drawn from fragments of the original hangings and expertly pieced back together. The length of the design is unusual due to the loom technology available to an 18th Century weaver, and a design of this magnitude would have been not only time consuming to make but also very costly. It is woven here in a pale blue shade, in a combination of pure silk and silk & wool.

Kedleston Hall, State Bedchamber, Ref 2075

The State Bed at Kedleston Hall,

adorned with pale blue pure silk damask.

The State Appartement, Kedleston Hall

The State Apartment, Kedleston Hall.

Charlecote Park

Another notable National Trust property is Charlecote Park, where Humphries supplied pure silk damask for restoration of the Saloon. The original walling was removed from the house to recreate and was found to have been woven on a faulty loom. The faults were faithfully reapplied to our weaving of the distinctive marigold fabric. There is another version of this design held in the Warner Textile Archive.

The Saloon, Charlecote Park

Private house, Netherlands

Another project we have worked in collaboration on recently involved our Perquisite Damask woven in cotton & silk. The design was chosen to match the period of the building & the colour sympathetic to the room. This was a particularly memorable restoration as the whole project was carried out by the family themselves. This first involved selecting the colour and design, before we wove the unique combination at our mill in Sudbury. The family then worked together to hem all of the individual fabric panels together before hanging the fabric in the room to climatize to the environment. Finally, they carefully stretched the damask into place. The fabric is complimented here with the beautiful flowers surrounding the room.

 

Cotton & Silk Damask hung at the top of the walling, before being adjusted and stretched into place

The finished room with the wall panels pulled taught and secured in place.

Moiré Walling

As well as patterned damask, another fabric frequently used for silk wallpaper and silk walling is Moiré.

“Moiré” is a French word that means watered. Humphries Weaving are one of the only weavers in the UK who are still able to perform this finishing process, and do this on a calander machine Richard Humphries built himself several years ago. During the finishing process the cloth is passed through 2 rollers under immence pressure and steam, which  creates an organic and uncontrolled a wavy or rippling pattern. Below are examples of our moiré fabrics being installed for silk walling at London’s Charter House.

Charterhouse backing
Charterhouse loose hang
Finished view of Charter House Great Room doorway

Firstly Hesp & Jones are pictured preparing the interlinear. This sits behind the green silk & linen moiré fabric.

 

Next the fabric was hung and allowed to climatize to the room.

 

Finally the fabric was stretched into place to complete the magnificent Great Chamber at Charter House.

 

Another example is our vibrant blue moiré at the Cumberland Art Gallery, Hampton Court Palace.

 

The Cumberland Art Gallery, Moire Finish Ref 2399

Vibrant blue moiré passing through the calendaring machine

Cumberland Suite Moire

The finished Cumberland suite at Hampton Court Palace.

Rijks Museum

Other fibres have also been used alongside silk wallpaper, coverings and wall hangings. This can be seen in the Beuning Room at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam. Here you can find our green wool damask used for walling.

The Rijks Museum is a Dutch national museum dating to the 19th Century. The building is a national heritage site dedicated to Dutch arts and history, and the collection contains more than 1 million objects dating from the years 1200–2000. Humphries Weaving supplied narrow all Wool glazed damask for wall coverings in the restored museum to detail the appearance of an early 18th century fashionable interior. The green shade was taken from the Rangers House , (English Heritage,) in the Campania damask pattern. Originally the property of Keizersgracht, it is typically a Rocco style room with mahogany panelling and a stucco ceiling.

Rijks museum Beuning Room

Image credited to the RijksMuseum.

 

In addition to Royal Palaces and National Trust properties we have worked with a variety of other buildings. These include British Embassies abroad, museums and private homes. To see more examples of the projects we have worked on click here. You can also read about the Great Beds we have supplied fabric for. Simply click here.

For behind the scenes images of current projects make sure you follow us on Instagram @humphriesweaving.