Behind the Scenes at Watts & Co: a Q&A with the sewing team

Q: Do you have a favourite signature embroidery or pattern from Watts; what makes it special?

A: I would say the Gothic silk damasks. Our Gothic is one of the oldest Watts fabrics that we have been consistently weaving since the 1870s.  Designed by G. F. Bodley, the pattern was inspired by the rood screen in St Edmund's Southwold created in 1480, which still exists today.

Pictured: Watts & Co.’s Gothic silk damask.

 

Q: Do you have a favourite fabric to work with? Where does it come from?

A: The silks are wonderful to work with. The Rosa in particular is really nice to work with. It’s our most recent weave. As it’s a silk damask, it has a lovely feel and also the pattern repeat is small, which means it’s easier to work with in terms of placing the motifs in the right places. It’s inspired by our Goya fabric, but on a more delicate scale.

 

Q: What are your influences? Are there any historical clerical dress styles, or artistic periods more generally, which you draw from?

A: One of Watts’ founding members, G. F. Bodley, was a leader in the Gothic Revival movement in architecture. So, from the start, Watts has been inspired by Gothic forms, as well as Renaissance art. Up to the present day, the names for some of our fabrics point to their origins, such as ‘Gothic’, ‘Holbein’ and ‘Crevelli’.

 

Q: What is the most difficult item you have worked on, whether entirely new or repurposed?

A: We get a such a variety of projects coming through our workroom. I’d say one of the most challenging ones recently has been some very large banners for a church in the USA, which incorporate a specially woven new velvet and several repurposed hand-embroidered kneelers. The kneelers were originally stitched in wool on a tough canvas, so the combination of the thickness of the different textiles, the velvet pile which never stays still, and the sheer size of the banners made for quite a physical and technical challenge!

 

Q: On average, how many hours goes into making a chasuble?

A: That really depends on the chosen design, which can range from very simple to complex and intricate. So it can range from 6 hours to 36!

 

On metalware and church furnishings:

 

Q: What are the primary materials you work with?

A: For metalware, either solid sterling silver, with gold inlay for chalices, or silver plate, depending on the client’s budget.

For furnishings: usually silks, or a silk mix, and fabrics with metallic threads for lustre. It all depends on what the client would like, where it will be used, and their budget.

 

Q: Is there a bespoke item you are particularly proud of?

A: We’re proud of everything we make! If we had to choose, then our York Minster processional banners, designed by our previous Art Director, David Gazeley, must be one of our most outstanding projects. Entirely hand embroidered, they took 3 years to complete, and are as stunning on the back as on the front. They have to be seen to be believed!

 

Pictured: the banner for York Minster, depicting creation and the garden of Eden, the Crucifixion, and the new Sacramental life of the church.

 

Q: And a general question: If you could summarise the ethos of Watts & Co., what would you say?

 

A: Watts is all about producing the highest quality items in the most beautiful materials, using traditional craftsmanship and the best of modern techniques.  We want our items to last not only a lifetime, but to be passed down the generations. We’re all about quality and beauty.

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