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Art & Mystery of Making Wallpaper: Craftsmanship of Wall Coverings

The art and mystery of making wallpaper


Wallpaper, a familiar element of our living spaces, holds a captivating history and intricate manufacturing processes that often go unnoticed. The V&A has a Brief History of wallpaper article that serves and a good introduction. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of wallpaper production and explore the methods employed by the artisans at Messrs. Chas. Knowles & Co., Ltd. Discover the significance of understanding the manufacturing process to make informed choices when selecting wallpapers for your home.

Visiting The Manufactory of Messrs. Chas. Knowles & Co., Ltd.

Manufacturing wallpaper is a fascinating technology. I have written an interesting article on Exploring Different Wallpaper Techniques, from block printing to digital printing. Step inside the walls of Messrs. Chas. Knowles & Co., Ltd., and you'll witness a mesmerizing display of craftsmanship. The journey begins in a room where machines create tinted paper, while adjacent tall rooms facilitate the even drying of the freshly colored sheets. Moving on, we encounter the skilled artisans engaged in block-printing, wearing their traditional paper stainers' hats. Here, wooden machines and carefully carved blocks bring intricate patterns to life on wallpaper strips.

1902 wallpaper decoration with floral pattern
image  wallpaper decoration with floral pattern

The Block-Printing Technique

Within this specialized section, the artisans employ blocks made of deal boards, each intricately carved to represent a specific part of the design. Whether it's red roses, green leaves, or yellow ribbons, multiple blocks are utilized, each dedicated to a distinct color. The process involves skillfully applying the color to the block, pressing it onto the paper strip using a wooden arm and a treadle. The precise registration of the blocks ensures a seamless alignment of the intricate design elements, resulting in exquisite wallpapers.

The Artistry of Stencilling

In another section, stencillers showcase their expertise in creating multicolored designs using large zinc stencilled plates. With each plate assigned to a different color, the stencillers deftly blend pigments and apply them using circular brushes. The mastery lies in achieving shaded effects through careful blending while the pigments are still wet.

1902 wallpaper decoration with geometric pattern
image  wallpaper decoration with geometric patterm

Exploring Flock Printing

Flock printing adds a unique touch to wallpapers, creating soft textures and depth. Instead of paint, adhesive is applied to the paper using blocks. Then, dyed flock powder is gently dusted over the adhesive, creating a low-relief pattern that exudes elegance. The interplay of light on the flock-printed paper enhances its aesthetic appeal, making it a captivating choice for wall coverings.

From Hand Printing to Machine Rooms

The article takes us through several rooms where experts in block printing showcase their skills, including the precise mixing of colors—a critical aspect of wallpaper production. Transitioning into the machine rooms, we encounter large drums adorned with rollers bearing different parts of the pattern. The use of felt and copper outlines ensures consistent and detailed designs, as strips of flannel continuously apply color to the paper as it passes around the drum. This automated process allows for the application of up to twelve colors, creating mesmerizing patterns.

Fun Fact…  The world's largest roll of wallpaper was unveiled in 2010, measuring an astonishing 4.5 meters wide and 38 meters long. It could cover an entire wall in one go!


The artistry and engineering behind wallpaper production are truly remarkable. As you gaze upon the various wallpaper types, from intricately block-printed designs to the soft textures of flock printing, you can appreciate the meticulous craftsmanship involved. It's a testament to the skill and dedication of the artisans at Messrs. Chas. Knowles & Co., Ltd. Wallpaper continues to be an integral part of our homes, and understanding its manufacturing processes enriches our appreciation for this everyday article. We extend our gratitude to Messrs. Charles Knowles & Co., Ltd. for granting us this enlightening and inspiring study.

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About this article

This article is a heritage reprint from the title publication. It is the intent of this website to present this article in human and machine readable form. Format and content changes have been made. This article is provided for the purpose of entertainment only. Statements in this article were relevant to the published period and may not be applicable in current times.