November 03, 2019 6 min read

Welsh Blankets - Weaving History in Wales

The weaving of Welsh Blankets and throws and the Welsh woolen blankets manufacturing industry in general was historically one of the most important industries in all parts of 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 in what is now Ceredigion and its neighbouring counties of north Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire that the wool industry was at its most prolific during the latter parts of the 19th and 20th century. 

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Early history of the Welsh Woolen Blankets Industry

The Welsh wool and yarn industry together with its designs for Welsh woollen blankets and throws, the iconic Welsh tapestry blankets and nursing shawls has a very long history dating from early history to modern times.

There is plenty of historical evidence of sheep farming and the spinning and weaving of wool in the pre-historic period, but it wasn’t until the 12th century that wool became an important part of the Welsh economy. It was the establishment of the first Cistercian monasteries in south Wales such as Margam, Neath and Tintern that kick-started this new industry. Subsequently in the 13th century, the introduction of water wheel powered finishing mills by the Flemings enabled the processes of cleaning and thickening the wool to thrive. However, whilst the finishing of wool products benefited from water wheel power, the processes of spinning and weaving the wool remained a ‘cottage’ industry for the next few centuries. It was during the latter part of the 18th century that water wheel power was used to operate the carding and spinning machines for the first time. 

During the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, Welsh woollen industry was slow to mechanise compared to the mills of northern England which became a prime reason for their subsequent downfall. In addition, in the late 19th century when the new railways reached mid Wales, cheap mass-produced products destroyed the local woollen industry. In the prime of the Welsh woollen industry, there were over 300 woollen mills in Wales.  It was in the Teifi valley in what is now Ceredigion and its neighbouring counties of north Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire that the wool industry was at its most prolific during the latter parts of the 19th and 20th century. Sadly, after World War 1, the industry went into steady decline and today only a few mills continue to operate.

See below for a real traditional loom in action (and make sure to turn up your sound) with real people in charge and not a computer program!!!  
 

Teifi Valley and Pembrokeshire Mills

The river Teifi valley became the centre of the Welsh woollen industry for a period of two or three hundred years with many different woollen mills. Between 1860 and the end of the century, there were over twenty woollen mills within a five-mile radius of Drefach Felindre. In addition, there were a further twenty plus woollen mills in neighbouring north Pembrokeshire. In times gone by, Drefach Felindre was known as the "Huddersfield of Wales" at it was at the heart of the woollen industry in Wales, similar to Huddersfield in England. In the early part of the twentieth century, competition from the north of England in the wool industry increased significantly and the industry in Wales began to decline. By the end of the depression in the coal industry in the 1920s and 1930s, few woollen mills remained. Today, sadly there are only a few mills remaining in working order using age old looms together with traditional skills and methods of yesteryear.

National Museum of Wool, Wales

Drefach Felindre is now the location of the National Museum of Wool for Wales. The Cambrian Woollen Mill at Drefach Felindre was acquired by the Welsh Government in 1976 for the Museum of the Welsh Woollen Industry and subsequently changed its name to the National Museum of Wool for Wales. This museum has a working mill on site using traditional looms, methods and processes. The mill weaves blankets, tapestry blankets throws, cushions and many other products, all for sale in the museum. It also records the history of Welsh woollen industry from its beginnings 200 years ago to current day weaving.

FelinFach supports the Welsh Woollen Industry

At FelinFach, we aim to source our wool or yarn from Welsh or British farms and our fabrics from these remaining mills. We aim to be a supporter not only of the Welsh weaving and woollen industries but also of the Welsh and British farming industry. We design our own traditional Welsh blankets and throws and they are woven for us on traditional looms. The wool fabrics from these mills is used to make handmade cushions, quilts and throws and so cosy outdoor blankets. 

Today traditionally woven Welsh woollen blankets and throws are popular in the UK and internationally. The woollen industry is supported by national and international campaigns such as the Campaign for Wool. Sustainability has become an important consumer issue and wool is a natural source of sustainable materials. Wool is a classical renewable resource, a 100% natural fibre; each year, every living sheep produces a new fleece, come rain or shine!.

FelinFach Welsh Blankets

Our Welsh wool blankets and throws, including baby blankets, picnic blankets, cosy throws and tapestry blankets are woven in limited numbers on traditional looms and are created and made with personal care and attention. They are handmade by 'people' using traditional looms and not computer programs! 'Welsh blankets vintage', is a vague phrase often used in the context of Welsh blankets - all our Welsh blankets are made from new wool and are not vintage, recycled, used or second hand blankets

Welsh Tapestry Blankets

We aim to have a wide selection of Welsh blankets for sale and also throws, cushion, scarves and other hand dyed products which will include

  • Rare Breed, Alpaca and Organic Certified Welsh Blankets.
    These currently include rare breeds such as Jacob, Ryeland, Herdwick, Welsh Mountain Black and also Alpaca wool. When available, we have a very limited selection of organically certified wool blankets.
  • Welsh tapestry blankets and Baby blankets
    Our Collection of Welsh Tapestry is called Hiraeth and nothing says Hiraeth more than an iconic Welsh tapestry blanket. Guaranteed to keep you warm in all weathers, these iconic tapestry blankets are made using a traditional double-cloth construction that hasn’t changed much since the mid-1880s. We also have a selection of Welsh tapestry baby blankets for children.
  • Welsh tapestry and other wool cushions
    We have a large number of different cushions and all are handmade, including grey throws for sofas
  •  Welsh wool blankets and throws
    We have a range of different blankets and throws from Enfys Fach [Approx. size: 150 x 110 cms - [60 x 40 inches]  to Tal y Bont [Approx. size: 265 x 245 cms - [100 x 95 inches] and most sizes in between! We also have the classic and traditional Welsh honeycomb blanket, sometimes known as the  waffle weave pattern, named Gelert [Approx size: 190 x 145 cms - [75 x 57 inches] that are just so cosy 😁

Blankets for your Bed Sizes - How large do you need?

Thinking of using a blanket for bedding? Need to know how large should a blanket be to drape over the sides of a single, double or king-sized bed?

Then check out our UK Bed Sizes for Blankets page to help you choose the correct size. It will depend on whether you want your blanket to drape over the sides of the bed or simply to 'sit' or 'lie' on top of the bed. Tapestry blankets sizes range from throw size up to king size - see this size guide, Tapestry blanket sizes

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, Welsh woollen blankets and throws 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. We are a proud supporter of the Campaign for Wool, Global Welsh and Wales International.

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