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About Empress Mills


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The story began over 90 years ago when John Ball (our Grandfather) moved ‘over the border’ from Yorkshire to Lancashire to manage a mill producing yarns for the then thriving weaving trade. Ownership was in the hands of a few textile magnates whose idea was to have control of their own mills yarn supplies. Human nature got in the way – profit sharing was a huge issue – the mill faced failure!

At a meeting of creditors in 1927 John scraped together enough resources to buy the business which continued successfully with his daughter Kathleen and husband John until the 1970s when the weaving trade in the UK collapsed.

By this time we were involved – very young, very enthusiastic, absolutely steeped in textiles. Our thinking was – the cloth isn’t woven here anymore but it is still ‘made-up’ – let’s make thread!

For 20 years we manufactured sewing threads which could be sewn at simply amazing speeds.

In the middle of all this high tech production there came another change. At our mill in Lancashire people kept wandering in asking for threads for domestic machines – for quilting – for appliqué – for overlocking – for tailoring. No longer was sewing an economic necessity – it was a creative hobby – a lifestyle.

We started a tiny shop. Word spread and customers arrived from further a field which resulted in us sending threads to their homes if they simply couldn’t get over to us – the Mail Order Service began.

Then along came the next generation with even more enthusiasm for textiles! We take stands at national shows, we travel the length & breadth of the country presenting talks & products to stitching groups, we run an in-house demonstration programme, we supply cutting edge Fashion Colleges and our products are supplied to individuals, businesses & institutions worldwide.

– Christine

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