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Trail Stop No 13: 1920s - The Crysede factory opens on the Island

The success of the Crysede Silk factory was due to the beautiful and unique textile designs of Alec Walker, which he began to create following a visit to Paris in 1923. There he met the artist and fabric designer Raoul Dufy. Dufy encouraged Walker to convert his own paintings, many of them local Cornish scenes (for example Zennor Woods and Ding Dong Mine), into textile designs.

Walker also learned how to cut his designs into wood-blocks measuring no more than fifteen inches by twelve inches; how to apply the dyes, and to print the blocks onto the fabric. Most of his designs consisted of several colours; therefore, a separate block had to be created for each one. Many were produced in a wide range of stunning colour-ways. The silk was originally sourced from Yorkshire, then later from Sherborne in Dorset; while the dyes were synthetic. Printing took place on thirty-foot-long tables in the factory. Once the cloth had dried, the dyes would be fixed by putting them into a steam chamber, and then rinsed.  By 1928 the designs were applied not only onto silk and crepe-de-chine, but onto a heavy linen, which was made into popular beach and leisure wear.  

A number of designers were employed at Crysede. As well as dresses and blouses, a more modest line of items such as scarves, ties and handkerchiefs were for sale; while dress fabrics could be bought by the yard for making up at home.

The quality of the clothes was so high, and the designs so beautiful, that Crysede fabrics may still be found today. St. Ives Museum has a fine selection of linen clothes and other materials in a new display for 2024.

Replica Crysede shop front at St. Ives Museum

Production in the factory

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