Welsh Blankets

Welsh blankets have a long history dating back to the 12th century, but today Welsh blankets are a modern-day fashion item. Welsh tapestry blankets are in huge demand, in Wales, the UK and worldwide. These blankets are hand woven on traditional looms in wool by crafts people. They are items of great beauty in any room or home, traditional or contemporary. Nothing says hiraeth more than an iconic Welsh blanket.

Contents Index

  1. Welsh Blankets History
  2. Current Day Welsh Blanket Industry
  3. FelinFach Welsh Blankets
    1. Wool blankets
    2. Tapestry blankets
    3. Wool Throws
  4. Why Wool?
  5. Campaign for Wool
  6. National Museum of Wool, Wales
  7. FelinFach Support the Welsh Blankets Industry
  8. People ask us... Often!
  9. About FelinFach

1. Welsh Blankets History

Early History from 12th Century

Wales is famous for its wool industry and its blankets and throws from its early history to modern times. The Welsh blankets history is a long one! Whilst sheep farming and the spinning of wool appears in Wales in the pre-historic period, it was not until the 12th century that sheep became an important part of the Welsh economy, spurred on by the establishment of the first Cistercian monasteries in south Wales. During the 13th century came the introduction of water powered Water-powered fulling mills which involved the cleansing of the wool to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities, and to make it thicker. The process of spinning and weaving the wool remained a ‘cottage’ industry in the 13th century. It was not until the early 16th century that wool production shifted from south Wales to mid and north Wales. Companies in England began to be involved in the distribution of wool and from the 18th century there was strong demand for cheap, sturdy Welsh material shipped from Bristol, Liverpool, or the Welsh ports to clothe slaves in the British colonies of North America and the West Indies.

Industrial Revolution 19th Century

During the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, the Welsh woollen industry was slow to mechanise compared to the mills of northern England. This became a prime reason for its subsequent downfall. When railways reached mid Wales in the 1860s, they brought a flood of cheap mass-produced products that overwhelmed the local industry. At its peak, there were over three hundred woollen mills in Wales but after World War 1, the industry went into steady decline and today only a few mills continue to operate.

2. CURRENT DAY WELSH BLANKET INDUSTRY

Welsh wool and the Welsh woollen manufacturing industry was historically one of the most important industries in Wales. From ‘o Fôn i Fynwy,’ literally from Anglesey to Monmouth or from North to South Wales, the Welsh wool industry spread to all parts of Wales. However, it was in the Teifi valley and surrounding areas that the wool industry was at its most prolific during the latter parts of the 19th and 20th century. 

Welsh Blankets - National Museum of Wool

For a few hundred years, the Teifi valley was the centre of a thriving woollen industry with dozens of woollen mills in the area and over twenty in neighbouring Pembrokeshire. Today, only a few of these woollen mills are still producing woven Welsh blankets and throws using age old looms together with traditional skills and methods of yesteryear. Sadly, in more recent times, the Welsh wool mills of Derw Woollen Mill and Brynkir Woollen Mill are no longer open.

3. FelinFach Welsh Blankets

Welsh Blankets and Throws

We have a large collection of Welsh blankets ranging from the iconic Welsh Tapestry Blankets to smaller more contemporary throws and knee rugs. Our beautiful, soft and cosy traditional Welsh blankets are hand woven from 100% new wool. They are a fantastic source of warmth and comfort. These wool blankets vary in design, size and weight from heavyweight double weave reversible blankets to the traditional honeycomb (or waffle) weave blankets and knee rugs. All our blankets and throws for sale are made from British wool and are not vintage or used or second-hand blankets.

Welsh Blankets - Hand woven in limited numbers Welsh Blankets - Hand woven in Wales Welsh Blankets - Hand woven in Drefach Wales 

Wool throws - hand woven in Wales Wool throws - Hand woven in Ceredigion Wales Wool Throws in modern colours

 

HAND WOVEN IN LIMITED NUMBERS

All of our blankets and throws are hand woven in Wales in limited numbers. They are designed and woven by with personal care and attention using traditional looms, some of which are over 100 years old. Some blankets and throws are woven on Dobcross 90 inch (2.3 metre) wide looms and others on narrower looms. None of our Welsh blankets for sale are mass produced. A Welsh blanket can be a beautiful addition to any home for many years to come.

Our wool throws are ‘soft to touch’ wool throws made from a blend of Welsh wool and British lambswool. Available in a variety of check or window pane patterns. Our wool throws for sale are available in a variety of colours and sizes including the often referred to "knee rug". If you are looking for wool throws for sofas or beds, these wool throws will fit the bill!

WELSH TAPESTRY BLANKETS - HIRAETH**

Our Welsh tapestry blankets range is named ‘Hiraeth.’ Nothing says Hiraeth more than an iconic Welsh tapestry blanket. Welsh tapestry blankets together with throws, floor rugs and cushions are iconic Welsh products and are stunning additions to any home, traditional or contemporary. They can be used in different rooms of your home from a bedspread to a 'decoration' in your living areas. Looked after well, they will become a family heirloom of the future.

** Hiraeth is a Welsh concept of longing for home, which can be loosely translated as 'nostalgia', or, more commonly, 'homesickness'. Many of us Welsh claim 'hiraeth' is a word which cannot be translated, meaning more than solely "missing something" or "missing home."

Welsh tapestry blankets, hand woven in Wales Welsh tapestry blankets - hand woven in west Wales Welsh tapestry blankets - hand woven in west Wales...

Carthen or Carthenni (in plural) is the Welsh word for traditional Welsh blankets. In earlier days there were woven on narrow looms but subsequently on wider looms in traditional double weave patterns and colours. They are blankets made with several colours to produce a check design. They normally have fringes and are sometimes known as a Fringed Quilt.

Each blanket is woven on 1930's Dobcross looms. Each warp is threaded through the heddles by hand using the skills and processes of the last one hundred years. The traditional ‘double weave’ patterns produce reversible blankets that are practical, hard-wearing, and genuinely warm. In sizes ranging from Baby Blankets to Throws and King sizes, these blankets are suitable for use in living rooms as well as bedspreads. Our range of tapestry cushions complement each of these beautiful Welsh tapestry blankets 

Although these blankets are universally known as Welsh tapestry blankets, they are not really tapestries at all. They are two layers of cloth, often known as a ‘double-weave’ cloth, each in a different colour and usually with a geometric pattern. The weaving itself requires a complicated stitching together of the two layers of cloth to produce one double-weave blanket. This double-cloth structure creates practical, hard-wearing, large, and heavy blankets with bold reversible patterns. For all these reasons, Welsh tapestry blankets have become famous the world over and are almost guaranteed to keep you warm in all weathers and will give an iconic reversible patterned blanket to decorate any home.

They are as popular today as they have been for over one hundred years. Traditionally they would have been given as wedding gifts to be handed down from generation to generation. They are long wearing blankets and if cared from well, they could be part of your family heritage to pass on to your future generations. 

4. WHY WOOL?

NATURAL

Wool is a protein fibre formed in the skin of sheep, and is thus one hundred percent natural, not synthetic. Since the Stone Age, it has been appreciated as one of the most effective forms of all-weather protection known to man, and science is yet to produce a fibre which matches its unique properties.

RENEWABLE

As long as there is grass to graze on, every year sheep will produce a new fleece, making wool a renewable fibre source. Wool growers actively work to safeguard the environment and improve efficiency, endeavouring to make the wool industry sustainable for future generations.

BIODEGRADABLE

At the end of its useful life, wool can be returned to the soil, where it decomposes, releasing valuable nutrients into the ground. When a natural wool fibre is disposed of in soil, it takes a very short time to break down, whereas most synthetics are extremely slow to degrade.

NATURAL INSULATOR

Wool is a hygroscopic fibre. As the humidity of the surrounding air rises and falls, the fibre absorbs and releases water vapour. Heat is generated and retained during the absorption phase, which makes wool a natural insulator. Used in the home, wool insulation helps to reduce energy costs and prevents the loss of energy to the external environment,
thus reducing carbon emissions.

BREATHABLE

Wool fibres are crimped, and when tightly packed together, form millions of tiny pockets of air. This unique structure allows it to absorb and release moisture—either in the atmosphere or perspiration from the wearer—without compromising its thermal efficiency. Wool has a large capacity to absorb moisture vapour (up to 30 per cent of its own weight) next to the skin, making it extremely breathable.

RESILIENT & ELASTIC

Wool fibres resist tearing and can be bent back on themselves over 20,000 times without breaking. Due to its crimped structure, wool is also naturally elastic, and so wool garments can stretch comfortably with the wearer but are then able to return to their natural shape, making them resistant to wrinkling and sagging. Wool therefore maintains its appearance in the longer term, adding value to the product and its lifespan. Wool is also hydrophilic—it is highly absorbent and retains liquids—and so dyes richly while remaining colourfast, without the use of chemicals.

MULTI-CLIMATIC/ TRANS-SEASONAL

Thanks to its hygroscopic abilities, wool constantly reacts to changes in body temperature, maintaining its wearer’s thermophysical comfort in both cold and warm weather.

EASY CARE

The protective waxy coating on wool fibres makes wool products resistant to staining and they also pick up less dust as wool is naturally anti-static. Recent innovations mean wool items are no longer hand-wash only. Many wool products can now be machine-washed and tumble dried.

ODOUR RESISTANT

Wool is far more efficient than other textiles at absorbing sweat and releasing it into the air before bacteria has a chance to develop and produce unpleasant body odour.

A SAFE SOLUTION

Wool is naturally safe. It is not known to cause allergies and does not promote the growth of bacteria. It can even reduce floating dust in the atmosphere, as the fibre’s microscopic scales are able to trap and hold dust in the top layers until vacuumed away. Thanks to its high water and nitrogen content, wool is naturally flame-retardant, and has a far higher ignition threshold than many other fibres, will not melt and stick to the skin causing burns, and produces less noxious fumes that cause death in fire situations. Finally, wool also has a naturally high level of UV protection, which is much higher than most synthetics and cotton.

5. Campaign for wool

Campaign for Wool

WOOL SHEEP FIBRE - NATURAL, RENEWABLE, BIODEGRADABLE

FelinFach has been an official supporter of the worldwide Campaign for Wool for many years and is listed on the Campaign's official supporter's web page. FelinFach is committed to the responsible sourcing of British wool, always looking for environmentally friendly yarn, which is the principal reason we support the Campaign for Wool. Sheep wool is a fantastic resource for all wool clothing. Because of the properties of wool, it can be used in other ways, such as sheep wool insulation for buildings, duvets and bed covers.

CAMPAIGN FOR WOOL, LAUNCH DATE 2010

The Campaign aims to promote wool generally and focuses on the sustainable attributes of wool as a natural fibre that meets an international environmental agenda. The Campaign's mission aims to raise awareness of the unique benefits offered by wool, a 100% natural fibre.

The Campaign officially began in October 2010 with a launch event that saw London’s historic tailoring street Saville Row transformed into a pasture upon which fifty sheep grazed - a major impact indeed in central London! Over one hundred companies participated in Wool Week and thousands of consumers took part in activities such as knitting and felting. Yellow sheep were even spotted queuing outside Selfridge's department store on Oxford Street.

6. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOOL, WALES

The Welsh woollen industry today is showcased in the National Wool Museum of Wales, in Drefach Felindre, Carmarthenshire, West Wales. The Museum is in the Teifi Valley in the former Cambrian Mills and the museum and the town of Drefach Felindre is a National Heritage Site. It is part of the National Museum for Wales. The museum not only traces the history of the Welsh woollen industry, but it also has a working mill producing blankets, tapestry blankets throws, cushions and many other products, all for sale in the museum.

National Museum Wool Wales - Drefach

7. FELINFACH SUPPORTS THE WELSH BLANKETS INDUSTRY

At FelinFach, we aim to source our Welsh fabrics from these remaining mills not only because they are local but also to support the Welsh woollen industry. We can design our own Welsh blankets and throws and they are woven for us on traditional looms. We also source wool fabrics from these mills and use the wool to make handmade cushions, quilts, and throws.

Today traditionally woven Welsh wool blankets and throws are very popular not only in the UK but also across the world and are supported by national and international campaigns such as the Campaign for Wool. Sustainability has become an important issue for consumers and wool is the natural source of sustainable materials. Each year, sheep produce a new fleece making yarn a 100% renewable fibre source. Wool is a 100% natural fibre and has evolved to become one of the most effective natural forms of all-weather protection known to man.

8. People Ask Us... Often!

What are Welsh blankets made of?

At FelinFach, all our blankets and throws are made form 100% new wool. Wool is a sustainable, environmentally friendly product and fits with our ethos of 'Natural, Traditional, Handmade'.

Are Welsh blankets warm?

Yes they are warm, in particular the larger and heavier blankets and the tapestry blankets.

What is a Carthen?

This is the word (Carthenni as plural) for traditional Welsh blankets and in more modern times, specifically Welsh tapestry blankets.

What makes a Welsh blanket?

Two things. Firstly wool, there are no synthetics materials in a traditional Welsh blanket. Secondly, skilled crafts people who can operate age old looms to weave these beautiful blankets.

Are your blankets second hand?

Our FelinFach blankets are made with pure new wool. There are other businesses that specialise in vintage blankets.

What's the difference between a Welsh blanket and a throw?

These two names are often used to describe the similar products. At FelinFach, we believe that blankets are generally larger and heavier than throws. Blankets are a little more traditional, in particular tapestry blankets. Our throws are woven in many different colours and patterns.

Both our blankets and throws are a perfect balance of traditional and contemporary and are suitable for any room or home.

Are Welsh Blankets traditional and old fashioned?

We don't think so! Whist our blankets are often in traditional patterns we also have many in modern colours. Our throws, in particular are designed in contemporary colours and patterns - a perfect addition to any room or home, traditional or contemporary.

9. About FelinFach

Our company, FelinFach Natural Textiles is located in the heart of the Preseli area of Pembrokeshire near to Boncath. We design Welsh blankets and the iconic Welsh Tapestry blankets which are traditionally woven at Welsh mills. We also design and make natural hand dyed yarn, cotton, silk and wool scarves and other handmade products, all available in our yarn store and shop. We also offer Welsh tartansSheepskin Rugs, Gift Cards and tools and books for crafters and knitters - Cocoknits, Laine, Amirisu and Making to name a few! Lastly, craft courses on hand dyeing with 100% natural dyes in the purpose designed FelinFach Dye Studio. We are a proud supporter of the Campaign for Wool, All Things Wales and Global Welsh.

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Last update 29th December 2021