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Vintage silk weaving at Penrose

5 January 2011

The decorative instinct of Mitchell Jacobs, one half of the team behind accessories brand Penrose, is something I’ve written about briefly before. But I had a chance recently to delve further into the craft behind the weaving and finishing of Mitchell’s designs.

I was particularly interested in the Debussy scarf shown above, the blue version of which I often wear with a navy overcoat. While it is silk, the weight of the yarn and the way it is woven create a matte finish and much more substantial handle. It avoids the flyaway, effete look that puts me off many silk scarves.

The silk is woven on vintage, pedal-operated looms, which are all 140 centimetres across. The scarf is cut across from selvedge to selvedge and then folded over and stitched by hand, creating a tubular shape. The pin fringing at the edges is also done by hand, stripping down each individual thread.

The yarn is very dense to begin with and the old-fashioned loom enhances this effect. It and the antique finish were inspired by a 1950s Italian scarf Mitchell wears when touring by motorcycle.

I know the designs, and particularly the colours, are not to everyone’s taste. But for me they are more interesting and original than the traditional paisley and polka dot silks.

The Debussy design here was apparently taken from a medieval book cover Mitchell found in an Antwerp flea market. So I suppose it is traditional in its way too.

Penrose’s website is now much improved and can be found here. But there is still little to browse in terms of product – for that you’ll need to go to Harvey Nicks, Selfridge’s or Liberty in London, or Bloomingdales (New York) and Shrine (Chicago) in the US. Other stockists here.