No item of mid-century homeware or fashion can represent its country of origin better than Welsh wool tapestry. The material, which is used to create everything from capes to cushions and blankets to blinds, is the result of the gushing mountain streams that powered the hundreds of mills in Wales where workers span the fleece from the abundance of sheep in the countryside and created these beautiful pieces.
While the textile industry in Wales may not be as all-conquering as once it was, there is still a huge desire for Welsh wool. This includes blankets, coats, accessories and anything else that artisans created in this iconic double cloth fabric.
The main features of the most sought after Welsh wool tapestry items are the bright colours, geometric designs and the reversible nature of the material. You can find vintage Welsh wool tapestry in shops, at fairs and here at the Discover Vintage Marketplace too.
Welsh Wool History
It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of the tapestry that we know and love today. However, you can see how its mass popularity comes round in cycles. The founder of Blodwen General Stores, Denise Lewis, claims the bold patterns may have been around since the 1700s. She told Mid Century Magazine that she had found reference to similar sounding designs in a pattern book from the era in the Welsh Public Records Office.
The rich availability of wool made Wales a textile hotspot even before the Industrial Revolution. But with the ability to harness the power of the waterways heading down from the tops of the valleys, it was a prime location for mass building of mills. From the mid-1800s, the Welsh woolen mills were occupied with providing practical clothing to the rest of Britain and the world. However, as tourism became an income earner in the early to mid-20th century, the mills launched themselves into creating the colourful Welsh wool tapestry designs we know and love today.
There were more than 300 Welsh woolen mills operating in the early 1900s. Many of them created their own unique tapestry designs. Some of the most popular include Caernarfon, which is also called the Portcullis design, Pennsylvania and Dyffryn.
There was a huge tapestry resurgence in the 1950s and 60s. Welsh woolen mills mass-produced bold and bright designs. These fit the more hopeful mood of the country as the UK slowly emerged from the greyness of the war years. Local designers like Reseta of Wales created hugely popular pieces and Mary Quant would make special trips to Wales to source materials.
Nowadays, there is a big market for original Welsh wool fabric blankets and other items. In addition, you can find new products made from vintage Welsh wool. There are even modern Welsh wool objects created by the small number of mills still operating.
Welsh Wool Blankets and Vintage Furnishings
Welsh wool blankets are one of the most popular products around today. On the beds of country hotels and boutique B&Bs, draped over sofas in pubs and roof gardens, the blankets are the ultimate stylish way to keep warm. Because they are reversible, you can change the look of the room so easily, just by flipping it over. It’s like buying two blankets in one!
You will also find Welsh wool rugs, tapestry cushions, table runners, furniture coverings and many more uses for these beautiful fabrics around the home.
Welsh Wool Tapestry Coats and Fashion Items
When braving the chill of the British autumn and winter, there are very few better ways to keep warm whilst looking resplendent in vintage than putting on a Welsh wool tapestry coat or cape. Many of them were designed to be worn loose, allowing you to layer up beneath your gorgeous jacket.
There is no end to the list of clothing items you can make from this versatile fabric. From dresses to waistcoats to ties to caps, all of them have received the tapestry treatment.
You will also often find accessories too, with a range of handbags and purses available at vintage retailers across the country.
Welsh Wool Museum
If you want to learn more about the textile industry in Wales and the production of Welsh wool tapestry, there is a Welsh wool museum. The National Wool Museum in Dre-fach Felindre showcases the history of the wool industry and allows you to see how they manufactured products including tapestry.
There are crafters on hand to operate original traditional machines. These include spinning mules, the carding engine and the willower. They can show you the work that went into the production and you can even give it a go yourself if you fancy knocking up your own Welsh wool products!
Buying Welsh Wool Tapestry
You will find Welsh wool items for sale on the Discover Vintage Marketplace. Use the Search box above or browse our list of superb vintage dealers. Ask any questions about the product before buying and they will be more than happy to provide answers. Happy browsing!