We have our coldatnight blanket woven specially for us at a very old water mill near the banks of the River Teifi. The same water that flows through the Teifi, around our camp at fforest farm and past the Pizzatipi on Cambrian Quay in Cardigan, is the very same water that turns the wheel that powers the loom that weaves our blankets.
The woollen industry flourished in South Wales until the end of World War I when it began its decline with high prices during the war. At one time there were more than 300 active woollen mills. During the Industrial Revolution the Teifi Valley between Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire came to employ thousands of weavers, spinners, dyers, knitters, drapers and tailors. The river and its tributaries powered dozens of mills, and sheep in the surrounding grassland supplied fleece to be made into woollen products.
As of 2013 there are just nine commercial woollen mills still in operation, often run by small families producing traditional Welsh cloth on old looms. Melin Teifi is one of the last remaining mills in Wales that continues to manufacture the finest welsh flannel using top-quality materials and local craftsmanship. And this is where the fforest coldatnight blanket was born thanks to the wonderful skill of Raymond and his team.
Our blanket is a traditional Welsh double cloth weave unique to fforest. The pattern is taken from an old blanket I bought years ago at a car boot at Tanygroes. It is a design I love and had never seen before. After days drawing on graph paper trying to create an original fforest weave design to make into our own blanket, I gave up and thought why not recolour this wonderful old design and give it new life. It is originally an early North Wales Rose pattern first introduced more than a century ago by Hannah Jones at Penmachno Woolen Mill, Caernarfonshire.
Many Welsh weaves feature cross designs which represent the flag of St David, Wales's patron saint, and each Welsh mill would develop their own doublecloth patterns to make the mill identifiable by the unique designs. This is what we have tried to achieve with our blankets. By following the patterns and traditions of Welsh wool manufacturing, we produced our own unique design that can always be linked back to fforest.
It is a strong and well thought out simple, balanced design consisting of flower motifs within interlocking circles in a field of colour. We have made a few tweaks and added some new colour to this very old design, giving new life to an old way. Using pure new wool on a 1930's Dobcross loom, each thread is put through the heddles by hand, as it always was.
Each year I like to add a new colourway to keep it fresh, although the red and charcoal seem to be firm favourites.