Meet the Maker: Hand & Lock

If the first thing that springs to mind when we say “embroidery” is a home-sweet-home pillow knitted by your grandmother, we’ve got someone to introduce you to. Founded in 1767, Hand & Lock have been embroidering for longer than the United States has been a country, and in that time, they’ve embroidered for the Royal Family, the Royal Armed Forces, Savile Row and some of the continent’s finest fashion houses.

Since its formation, the London-based firm has had a military bent. M. Hand, the French Huguenot refugee who founded what would become Lock & Co, kick-started the company by creating goldwork military badges and accoutrements that could be sold to military tailors. According to Hand & Lock production designer Jessica Jane Pile, the military side of its operation today is smaller than what it had been before, but still represents around 25% of its business.   

It’s also goldwork that remains the Hand & Lock specialty. “We have continued this tradition for the last 253 years and are now one of the oldest goldwork embroidery companies left in the UK,” Pile says. “The technique requires a lot of skill from the embroiderer and designer to understand the materials and stitches, and our long history and access to our extensive archive has allowed us to keep this type of embroidery alive.”

To create its embroidery, Hand & Lock works with materials ranging from luxurious 25-karat gold thread to simple black bin liners and paint brush bristles. New clients will first attend a meeting with Hand & Lock’s production team to discuss the materials, colors and techniques that will be involved, and once approved the commission is passed on to an in-house design team before making its way to the embroideries themselves.

Our selection of Hand & Lock bullion blazer crests are a testament to the firm’s history and craftsmanship. Among the selection are sigils of famed British regiments including the silver bullion “Death or Glory” patch announcing the 17th Lancers, Saint George’s defeat of the dragon rendered in gold bullion, and the Waterman’s Royal Arms in gold and silver bullion.

In addition, we’ve collaborated with Hand & Lock to make a little history of our own. Our freshly released hand-embroidered baseball caps, made by Ebbets Field Flannel in Seattle, are marked by a gold bullion patch spelling out “The Kings Own,” in tribute to a legendary line infantry regiment of the Royal Army that served from 1680 to 1959—including both World Wars—before its amalgamation.

Though a living piece of history itself, Hand & Lock is committed to passing on its craft to the next generation. Each year the maker operates The Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery, which encourages young artists to purse an embroidering career, and runs classes on a regular basis to help keep interest and knowledge in the craft alive. If it’s past is any indicator, we expect that Hand & Lock will continue to keep fingers busy with bullion for centuries to come.

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