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The beauty of Welsh Blankets

As you might have guessed, we’re big fans of being cosy. Our domes are furnished with lovely sheepskins and snuggly feather duvets – and also gorgeous Welsh blankets.

These beautiful blankets are a perfect balance of contemporary and traditional and are perfect to snuggle under on a Welsh evening if it gets a little chilly - so we thought it'd be good to find out a bit more about them.

Welsh blankets (or ‘tapestry blankets’ to give them their technical name)  are made using a traditional double-cloth construction that hasn’t changed much since the mid 1880s. This double-cloth structure creates practical and hard-wearing blankets, as well as allowing for the bold reversible patterns, that Welsh Blankets have become famous for.

You’ve probably heard that Wales has a lot of sheep – in fact around four sheep for every human.  It’s no surprise then that wool was historically one of the largest and most important of Wales’ industries.

Whilst they were originally woven by hand, over the 18th and 19th Centuries wool mills throughout Wales made use of this plentiful supply of wool, producing cloth and flannel that were then sold at home and exported through England.

The earliest blankets were usually made on a single loom and consisted of two narrow widths of fabric joined down the centre by hand. Blankets with this central seam usually date from before 1910.

Range of Melin Tregwynt Welsh Blankets

After this date, wider looms tended to be used – part of a government initiative that relocated technology discarded by the quickly expanding Yorkshire mills to Wales. These new looms allowed each side of the blanket to be made in a single piece.

Early Welsh Blankets had characteristically coarse texture. Harsh environments and irregular diets meant the Welsh sheep produce a comparatively rough fleece which was reflected in the graininess of many blankets.

Today’s blankets have lost their ‘grittiness’ as the quality of fleeces has improved, but the traditional designs, strong colours and traditional manufacturing techniques live on.

The designs used in Welsh blankets are similar in some ways to Scottish tartans. Although the patterns used don’t represent different clans, they are completely unique to Wales and each mill had its own distinct designs. Although the identities of many of the original historic makers of Welsh blankets have been lost, each manufacturer continues to use their own distinct styles, patterns and colours.

There was a surge in interest in Welsh Tapestry during the 1960 and 1970s when the distinctive two-tone cloth was made into a wide range of fashion designs.

The bright geometric designs perfectly fitted the style of the period that loved clashing colours with coats, jackets, skirts, hats, handbags and purses all created in amazingly bright patterns of purple & teal, brown & orange and green & red.

Nothing screams the sixties quite like a Welsh wool tapestry cape, mini skirt and knee-high boots - and Mary Quant was known to make trips to Wales to source cloth for her fashion house.

Demand fell off sharply from that heyday however and the recession of the 1980’s forced many of the mills to close: Of the 300 mills in Cardiganshire in 1895, now just four remain

Demand for traditional Welsh blankets is now on the rise again, So, what’s caused this renewed interest? As well as a renewed interest in Welsh culture, today’s consumers are more and more rejecting the cheap and mass-produced, instead rediscovering the longevity, provenance and craftsmanship that these blankets bring – as well as the range of beautiful designs.

Welsh tapestry in fashion

All of Cosy Under Canvas' domes are furnished with beautiful Melin Tregwynt Welsh blankets to make sure you're always snug, whatever the weather. Why not come and stay and try them out for yourself?

Want one of your own? Well, our sister company, Life Under Canvas, sells a range of beautiful Welsh blankets.