Robert Keyte's Ancient Madder Ties

All-English Tie

Robert Keyte ties are the real English deal. Robert Keyte, the eponymous founder of the company, is steadfast in his refusal to compromise on any aspect of their manufacture or any of the silk accessories to which his name is attached. It's an all-English operation.

The printing and weaving of the silk used to make the ties are trusted only to their own textile mill (RA Smart) in Macclesfield. The ties are made completely by hand — using scissors, needles and thread — in their own workshop at Bodiam in the East Sussex countryside.

The Keyte family has been involved in the silk industry since the 1930s. Robert's approach since founding his own company in 1999 has always been to value craftsmanship over label, supported by a 'unique level of ownership and control over all aspects of manufacturing'.

Blood Madder Tie

When word got around that Robert Keyte had some genuine English madder ties made from archive paisley patterns in their current collection, I felt like a housebound dog that's just heard their owner turn the key in the front door. Keytes is the only remaining producer offering a true madder finish through hand screen printing in a dye and discharge method.

Looking back at my notes, also known as ancient madder, the age-old process involves printing a pattern on the silk, which is then dipped into dye. As the pattern is resistant to the dye, it is left only on the area without the print. The result is deep colours in an unmistakable dusty, matte finish.
British redcoats were dyed with madder
The English/ancient madder name derives from the original natural dye used in the process, which was extracted from the root of the rubia tinctorum or common madder plant. British redcoats were dyed with madder.

Madder ties are simply must-have classics. Case in point the Robert Keyte paisley tie in blood madder below. The tie is made from 36oz silk based on a 1933 pattern.

Boy does it feel good to secure it around the old neck. All that history. The effort that's gone into making it. And look at those colours.

Three hearty cheers to Robert Keyte for keeping the process alive and making these beautiful ties available for us.


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