About Empress Mills

about empress mills

The story began nearly 100 years ago when John Ball (my 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 her husband John until the 1970s when the weaving trade in the UK collapsed.

A New Chapter Begins...

By this time my brother Winston & I 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!

We invested heavily in the latest machinery and for 30 years we manufactured sewing threads that could be sewn at simply amazing speeds. The UK was still a textile powerhouse and to give some idea of scale, Empress was producing enough meterage weekly to wrap around the world several times over!

In the middle of all this high-tech production came another change. At our mill in Lancashire people kept popping 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 afield which resulted in us sending threads to their homes if they simply couldn’t get over to us – the Mail Order Service began.

What's Next...

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.

More than anything though our website has grown meaning we can reach out to more textile enthusiasts than ever before! Primarily through customer requests, we have added all sorts of categories from Dressmaking & Quilting Fabrics through to Textile Dyes & more! We encourage you to Contact Us if there is something you can't see and would like us to stock!

Welcome To The Family...

There has been some natural divergence over the years but I have had the pleasure of working with four nieces and nephews. My son Charles joined the company full-time in 2011 and his wife Victoria works in the business also.

Visit Empress today and I am sure you will instantly soak up the family feel - their daughter Sophie (my Grandaughter) is in work daily (yes she is only 4 but we like to 'start them young'). Joking aside family means a lot at Empress and we have, over the years, had the good fortune to have been able to consider many of our customer's friends and indeed extended family - a tradition we absolutely intend to continue long into the future. 

To finish let me just say Welcome To Empress Mills! Whether we get the chance to meet in person or not, know that we appreciate you even taking the time to browse the site and massively appreciate each and every customer who chooses to order from us.

Best Wishes,