So, What’s All the Fuss About Welsh Blankets?

Welsh blankets, Welsh woollen mills, Welsh tapestry blankets

Once you’ve seen the incredible craft of Welsh blankets, you’ll never forget it. You’ll be “oohing” and “aahing” at the reversible blankets that are used as wedding presents and handed down through generations. Especially given the recent trend of purchasing products from local vendors with stories behind them, Welsh blankets have experienced a revival internationally, even as far and wide as Japan. The history and heritage that accompany them can’t be beat. Keep reading to learn what all the fuss is about Welsh blankets and why they’re the perfect gift for your family!

Welsh blankets background

Just as their name suggests, Welsh blankets are made in Wales, which is located in the United Kingdom. The Welsh woollen industry is a living industry to this day. While there used to be more than 300 mills throughout the region, there are now just a handful of Welsh woollen mills that still produce the same cloth. Throughout history, they have sustained and continued to create the fabric that makes these priceless items. At points throughout history, the woollen industry has been instrumental for the country’s economy. Welsh woollen products have a constant demand due to their known quality and aesthetically pleasing nature.

Welsh Woollen mill at St Fagan's history museum
Welsh Woollen mill at St Fagan’s history museum

Blanket making in Wales is a tradition and thus lends itself to a long history. Welsh blanket history dates back many centuries as that’s when sheep farming began. Sheep farming is instrumental to the process of creating Welsh blankets as that’s where the wool originates.

In the past, sheep shearing has been a major social spectacle on farms in Wales. The sheep’s wool would create the fleece that would be sorted depending on quality. Once sorted, the raw wool would be soaked in a solution and passed through textile machines that wove it into rolls of wool, which would then be spun into yarn. The yarn would then be made into cloth and dyed throughout the process.

The importance of Welsh wool has ranged throughout history. While sheep were always a significant resource in Wales, they weren’t always used for their wool. Depending on the century and needs of the population, they would be used for milk, meat or wool. Due to this, Welsh woollen mills fluctuated in their use according to the time. For example, during the Age of Exploration, the use of the mills was especially high with wool making up two-third of Welsh exports.

Today, there are just nine Welsh woollen mills still operating throughout Wales. These are often family-owned shops who are still producing high-quality items like Welsh blankets and Welsh tapestries. Although Welsh woollen mills may not be as common as they once were, Welsh blankets still represent what the local culture can produce, and they have grown as a symbol of the region worldwide.

Welsh tapestry blankets

In general, Welsh blankets are known for having a variety of unusual colors and patterns, which make them all the more unique. The word tapestry refers to the technique of double-cloth construction which creates reversible patterns. Today, most identify Welsh blankets off of this feature alone. The double-sided feature means that the two sides are often bright and colorful with attractive patterns while still being different and appealing to the eye.

welsh tapestry blankets
Welsh tapestry blankets

One example of a popular tapestry pattern, and perhaps the most recognizable of all Welsh tapestries, is Caernarfon. The subtle grid-like pattern is one that has become synonymous with Welsh blankets in the modern era.

What makes Welsh blankets special

If you’re still wondering, “But, what’s all the fuss about these Welsh blankets?” Then you likely just need to see more yourself. The tradition of blanket making in Wales goes back centuries and brings families together. The Welsh woollen industry is so instrumental in this region that individuals often seek to learn more once they learn that their family once owned a mill. Tracing ancestry to a mill can be a powerful way to reconnect with the family that you never knew you had.

Since Welsh blankets are so integrally tied to family, they’re still often given as wedding presents. These wedding presents then become family heirlooms. While you might be thinking, “How on Earth does a blanket last for centuries? Doesn’t it get gross or fall apart?” It truly just speaks to the quality of these Welsh blankets.

There also a number of other benefits that come with Welsh blankets because they’re so natural. As a material, wool is incredibly valuable compared to synthetic fabrics. Its insulating even when wet and naturally flame, soil, and stain resistant. Your blanket will be perfect for outdoors or indoors because you don’t have to worry about any of the above. It’s also nontoxic, breathable, and durable. Just beware of moths, who love the nitrogen found in wool, and you’ll be good to go in allowing your blanket to last for years and years to come.

Finals thoughts

Overall, Welsh blankets are the perfect addition to your home if you’re looking for a statement piece or a quality item that will withstand the test of time. These blankets have a history that dates back centuries and brings with them the hard work of an entire people and the full force of a country’s economy. Although Welsh woollen mills have significantly dwindled over the course of history, there are still several up and running today that are able to produce these incredible pieces. If you’re looking for a one of a kind wedding present to a family member that can stay in your family line, you should absolutely consider a Welsh blanket or tapestry as a gift. There’s no better route than something this thoughtful and unique.

Welsh gifts are our specialty. If you’re in need of something beautiful and traditional that your friend or family member could pass down for generations, be sure to browse our site!

If you would like to learn more you can also view our visitors’ guide to seven Welsh working mills

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