One of the United Kingdom’s great ceremonies of pomp is the parade on The Queens Official Birthday, also known as the “trooping the colour” This ceremony takes place on Horse Guards Parade in the centre of London and this year will be on June 13th 2015.
The Queen’s colours have been woven in pure silk for generations and since 1971 the Humphries weaving company have accurately woven the highly specified plain banner silk. Making the cloth requires the utmost care in handling nature’s most delicate of fibers. The silk is produced thousands of miles away in China where for centuries the ancient art of sericulture has continued to thrive to supply the worlds demand for the precious thread.
The raw silk arrives in Sudbury in its raw state where up to 25% of its weight is due to its natural gum. From here we wash away the gum and dye the deepest of crimson shades to match the standards issued. Each process requires careful checking to make sure the match for shade and quality is exact. Before weaving can commence the silk must pass tests for light fastness, wet and dry fastness and also a perspiration test to make sure the colour is fast. The pre- weaving processes to get the job to loom involves winding, warping and knotting before commencement of production can begin.
Images: Further banner cloths in Yellow and Blue
The warp threads are of the finest organzine to ensure a perfect even face cloth. The actual weaving process is where the weaver must be most careful to keep the weave free from all blemishes, which is the most difficult thing on a plain cloth so rich in silk content. The finished cloth is then inspected with great attention to detail. No additional finishes or chemicals are needed or necessary to complete the plain banner cloth; the weaver’s job is complete. But this is just the beginning for the making of the colour as now the decoration must be embroidered upon the surface.
You may be forgiven in expecting the work to be carried out in some far and distant land to take advantage of a cheap price, however the true art of embroidery is alive and flourishing at the Essex workshops of Hobson and Sons Ltd where for generations teams well versed in the art of “through embroidery” spend an average of 1200 hours of work to create the colour. This year’s colour will be for the Welsh Guards and features no less than 21 of their 47 battle honours. It is the eighth set of colours to be presented to the 1st Battalion in their 100 year history, and once issued will be required to last twenty years of service.
Humphries weaving are proud to have supplied all the banner silk since 1971 for the Ministry of Defence.