The duvet has a lot to answer for. Much as it revolutionised middle-class life, it also meant blankets, and the blanket box, ceased to be essential items, disappearing as we de-cluttered our households and embraced our continental lifestyles.
On the plus side, once something is no longer “essential” we can start to appreciate its finer qualities and move it into the category of items classed “object of desire”. On that basis, it’s time to stand back and appreciate the work of craft that is the traditional Welsh blanket.
You’ll be vaguely familiar with the pattern: a checked arrangement of fuzzy squares and lozenges – currently being replicated on tea trays and lampshades by admiring designers – and the slightly coarse texture of the thick, woven wool. These are heavy-duty blankets for a pre-central heating world.
Over in Pembrokeshire, Melin Tregwynt is wooing the design shop market with some contemporary patterns and mid-century modern crossovers, while Trefriw Woollen Mills in the Conwy Valley stick so closely to tradition that they even spin their own wool. But today we are heading to Rock Mill at the heart of Welsh blanket country on the Ceredigion/Carmarthenshire border. Not only is it the last water-driven woollen mill in Wales (check out the water wheel), but the low stone mill was built by the present owner’s great-grandfather.