Cegin floor rug by Blodwen, all images courtesy of Blodwen
By Jo-ann Fortune
It’s been a year since I caught the Welsh tapestry bug from Blodwen General Stores founder Denise Lewis, and the Caernarfon blanket now proudly draped over my own settee is a constant reminder of the infectious enthusiasm she exudes for her country’s heritage crafts.
Blodwen Welsh blankets: patterns and colour
In fact the designs brought back to life through Blodwen’s Heritage Blanket Collection date not from the technological 20th Century but a 1700s pattern book Denise, a former communications strategist, found in a Welsh Public Records Office.
“The timeless appeal of the traditional Welsh blanket is, in my view, down to the fact that the patterns and colours are so unusual and striking”, she tells me as I admire the contemporary geometric black and white Cegin rug. “Bold, stark colours, as those found in our new Carthenni and Heritage Blanket Collections, work well with modern interiors. And our 1950s vintage Welsh blankets – a riot of some fairly unconventional colour combinations – are still wonderful additions to any home.”
Blodwen Welsh blankets: origins of the Caernarfon design
The Caernarfon (or Portcullis) design of Blodwen’s Cegin (‘kitchen’) floor rug is among the most iconic Welsh patterns and one that MidCentury textile lovers will likely be familiar with thanks to its mass production in the 1950s and ‘60s. In fact so synonymous are they with the mid-century period that Denise recounts how a Japanese buyer at a trade show asked if the pattern was inspired by the 1970s space invaders arcade game! Yet Denise explains that these patterns go back much further. “Some experts believe them to be the progenitor of many of the North American folk art textile traditions, largely as a result of widespread Welsh emigration during the 1790s onwards. In areas such as Pennsylvania, where the Welsh settled in significant numbers, the quilts and blankets of the neighbouring Amish are almost identical to Welsh tapestry blankets.”
Blodwen: A vision for Welsh craft
Though the provenance of the patterns may be hazy, there’s nothing ambiguous about Denise’s vision for Blodwen, the proud Welsh business she set up in 2010.With the passion of a woman on a very personal mission, she explains that Blodwen aims to help bring about real regeneration, “contributing to rural communities as they maintain their way of life and livelihood, and rewarding artisans for their skill in producing heirloom purchases that are treasured forever.”
Using original 1930s Dobcross looms to achieve a traditional double weave on the Cegin floor rug is, she says: “intrinsic both to the quality and the narrative of the product”. And the production of this timeless design in one of the last surviving Welsh woollen mills is a perfect example of the way Blodwen marries traditional craft and modern aesthetics. “Of course we need to ensure that our products meet the expectations of today’s market and we do so by fusing age-old skills with contemporary style and utility.”
Blodwen: A General Store for all the family
To me, the traditions inherent in the products Denise brings to market speak as much of a family history as an economic one. Denise remembers from her own childhood that tapestry blankets were handed down to mark birthdays and weddings – it’s this sense of occasion, as well as the every-day, that Blodwen’s General Store caters for, with goods ranging from farmhouse trestle tables and benches, through wood and enamel tableware, to aprons and linens featuring the archetypal Welsh matriarch Blodwen herself. All are sourced and crafted with the land outside the window considered an extension of the family. “We’re dedicated to celebrating the countryside and country ways and only sell products that are locally made, because we are always mindful of reducing our carbon footprint” Denise says. “We also source products that are wherever possible organically grown and all our packaging is made from recycled materials, made in Wales.”
Blodwen: stylish interior design
For the buyer, it’s stylish, feel-good shopping in every respect. Even more so if, like me, you’re keen on sleek and simple interior design schemes that are based around a common theme. And they fit so well with the mid-century aesthetic – the patterns could almost originate from the Bauhaus!
Visit the Blodwen General Store
Find out more about how Blodwen came to be, in The Welsh Blanket: a best-seller at Blodwen
To see British interiors featuring the Welsh blanket, check out our articles
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