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Ancient Madder

A historic art

Ancient Madder is a printed silk that uses traditional hand-printing and dyeing techniques to produce subtle yet intensely coloured designs. The natural dyes and finishing methods provide a distinctively deep colour palette and a dry, almost chalky texture quite unlike other printed ties.


It’s rare to find true Ancient Madder because production is demanding, and only one small mill in Britain sustains the practice. You start with heavyweight silk and natural pigments such as indigo (from the woad plant) and madder (from the rose madder plant). The colouring process has two parts. First the silk is screen printed by hand, typically with a small repeated motif or a paisley pattern. After that, it’s coloured in the oldest of ways: dip dyed by hand. Submerged in dye, the printed silk resists the pigment, while the unprinted portions take the colour. From there, the silk is washed and finished with gum Arabic.

Since the nineteenth century, synthetic dyes have offered an explosion of new colours. Working with older, natural dyes means putting aside the electric blues and yellows in favour of an organic palette of complementary tones: deep indigos, mossy greens, burnt oranges and reds. Like ingredients in the hands of a good chef, these colours are rich and distinctive but fit together effortlessly.

The comparison might seem surprising, but ancient madder is the neckwear equivalent of heritage denim: coloured using an ancient dye, working with, rather than against, the natural qualities of the materials. Befitting an old English craft, our madder ties are constructed and finished in England with the same patient attention and skill: cut and sewn by hand, using a single slip stitch to provide elasticity, and either self-tipped with another layer of madder silk or neatly hand-rolled.

These ties are richly coloured and yet restrained. Their warm tones and matte finish make them versatile pieces. They are the classic choice with winter jackets in wool flannel and tweed, but ancient madder is at home with anything from a suit to a button-down shirt and a Shetland sweater, in the office or at the pub. And like a good beer, they’re a reminder that traditional methods are worth preserving.