Welsh Wool Tourists
Being of the textile ilk, I could not ignore wool (and blankets) while we were in Wales. Just opening the curtains every morning to several hundred girls and their lambs was a reminder that this fibre is part of the landscape so I sought out two places that had 'must visit' written all over them.
The first place we went to was the National Wool Museum (above). It was a bit of a trek from where we were staying, but I found a distillery tour nearby for the non-textile family members so they could go and learn all about gin and sample spirits, while me and my daughter could walk around looking at looms (I love a loom, particularly an industrial one).
The museum is located in Llandysul, in a village right at the heart of the traditional wool industry. It is free to get into, which coming from a place where it feels like everything is monetised made me feel a huge amount of respect at what the Welsh are is doing to preserve the history of the wool industry. The site used to be run by Cambrian Mills and some areas are still in use producing cloth so you can watch the weavers at work. We followed the trail which is designed to take you through the mill, following the production of wool - from field to clothing. I really enjoyed the last room where they had a clothing/accessory manufacturing area set up, a dummy shop and examples of how wool has been used in homes and fashion. I completely fell in love with the tapestry designs - which look perfect to adapt as a patchwork pattern. There are lots of warm reminders about the buildings former role as a mill, such as this lovely window frame (below right). The names written on the wall are of staff who were getting married, and next to it there was a typed display with their names, the date and the name of the church. I think the weddings were in the 1930s and 40s and it gave a sense of what a community there must have been.
Although I didn't have any toddlers in tow, I did very much admire the way it was family-friendly. The cafe had a great area for little ones, and there were warnings about which areas were noisy. The cafe was good, and there are two shops, one to do with the museum, then another to do with the mill (I think - it sold cloth and finished items).
The museum visit put us in good stead for our trip two days later to Jane Beck Welsh Blankets. It was not too far from where were staying, and the drive there was perfect - from stopping for sheep to seeing a dog just having a little kip by the side of the road it had lots from the rural 'I Spy' list. I had read it was based in a tin building but nothing prepared me for what is the prettiest shop in Wales.
Beautifully styled with vintage signs, it is not all style and no substance - Jane is known for her blankets, weaves, eras and is the go-to person for anything related to Welsh blankets. I have to confess, I did not know too much about them before our visit but whilst the museum made me understand them and put them into context in the area, a visit to Jane Beck's made me fall in love with them. She talked us through them, noting details such as the differences between the areas they were made.
Jane has the kettle on, so we sat outside and took in the lovely countryside. She gave us tips about where to go, and we got a rather good table at our dinner on the last night as she told us what table to ask for. I couldn't quite push the budget to buying one, but one day I hope to treat myself - the old ones looks as good as the new so it is an investment. Thankfully, there are smaller items so I stocked up on a some presents. I am now also lusting after a 1960s stye welsh wool blanket cape - sure I would look fab in one. There were also some quilts for sale, which meant more oohing and ahhing. Do visit if you are in Wales.