Pure Cornish wool blankets on all bedsCornwall bed and breakfast we decided to provide wool blankets and sheets instead of duvets in our bedrooms. We prefer the flexibility and tactile comfort that they offer.
The natural attributes of wool can promote a healthier, better quality of sleep. It is breathable, has the ability to wick away moisture, and allows the body to maintain a constant temperature, keeping you cool in the summer, and warm in the winter.
The first blankets that we bought were manufactured in Italy, good quality we thought, but after six years they were starting to look a little tired, the wool was bobbling, they were thinning in places, and so we started to consider replacing a few.
The year before, in 2010, we had noticed that a specialist mill just five miles from us in Launceston, The Natural Fibre Company, were selling blankets made from the yarn that they produce. At the time we had no real need for them, although it was very difficult to resist the temptation to buy a couple on impulse.
Going back to Blacker Design's website in Spring 2011 we noticed that the blankets were no longer being offered, and so called to find out when more would be coming into stock. We were told that small runs of blankets are expensive to produce, consequently expensive, and difficult to sell, and so they would not be producing any more. However, it was suggested that they could produce a special order for us if required.
We went to chat about what we might need, and to show them what we were using at the time. It quickly became very apparent that there is a reason why real blankets, woven by skilled craftsmen, last for many many years, and are passed down as family heirlooms.
We were shown around the processing areas, from the point at which the raw fleece is separated into different grades and colours, then passed through the scouring and carding machines, and finally on to the huge spinners that create the finished yarn. It was fascinating, mesmerising and exciting.
Yarn made from a 50/50 Jacob and mohair mix was recommended. Jacob are native to Cornwall, an ancient breed of horned sheep with a distinctive dark brown and white fleece, which produces a hard-wearing fibre. Mohair comes from the angora goat, is also very hard-wearing, but is smoother, and so is blended with wool for softness; it also has a lustre which enhances the appearance of textiles.
A total of 68kg of yarn ( 39kg dark, 11.75kg mid and 17.25kg pale ) was sent to Melin Teifi in Wales to be woven as a single fifty metre length on a wide loom; apparently there are no looms large enough in Cornwall. The company continue a tradition of very fine craft weaving, operating from the site of the Museum of the Welsh Woollen Industry in the Teifi Valley, which has been the centre of the Welsh woollen trade since the nineteenth century.
Once woven, the complete piece was sent to a large Yorkshire mill for finishing, a process that involves further washing, and brushing to lift the pile a little to accentuate the softness. The finished cloth was then returned to Wales, as a complete piece, for cutting and blanket stitching to our required dimensions.
After several months we received the finished articles. There is something immensely satisfying in the mix of the regularity of the weave and the subtle irregularity of shading of undyed wool. The individual strands of greys and browns form a shifting grey/green colour of great richness, and there is little as comforting as the feel and scent of soft pure wool.
The commissioning process was a lot more involving than choosing a colour on a computer screen, clicking submit and receiving the goods the following week, but the sense of satisfaction is incomparable.