Amgueddfa Blog: National Wool Museum

Many industrial processes are inspired by nature, and can be seen as a mechanised extension of a traditional hand process using tools from the natural world. The Teasel Gig is one such invention. Here's a little about this extraordinary machine which is a mixture of the natural and man made.

Teasels were traditionally used to ‘comb’ the surface of damp woollen cloth by hand to

Teasel Gig

make it soft and fluffy. This process is called ‘raising the nap’.

The Teasel Gig machine was invented to make this process faster and more efficient. The teasel gig contains 3000 prickly teasels in an iron frame and is powered by electricity. The cloth is passed over the teasels, giving it a more even, fluffy finish.

The Teasel Gig is a curious mix of the natural and man-made. It combined the hand processes of the past with precision engineering – the future of the textile industry

Teasel Gig with Teasels at The National Wool Museum, Drefach Felindre

A ‘Teasel Man’ travelled from mill to mill renewing the teasels in the gigs. It was a very skilled job as the teasel heads had to be carefully arranged to ensure the cloth was finished evenly. Most of the teasels came from specialist gardens in Somerset

These are unprecedented and challenging times for everyone, and we hope you’re keeping safe and well. Creativity and a sense of community can support us through this difficult time. The Museum therefore has launched the Exhibition of Hope which aims to be a tangible form of Hope for everyone.

People, including Museum Wales staff and volunteers, from across Wales have been taking part in creating squares which will form part of giant rainbow knitted blanket and will be stitched together by our wonderful National Wool Museum volunteers. In addition, we’re also collecting photographs of people’s radiant rainbow creations which have been adorning windows up and down the country. These will then be made into one piece of artwork and displayed alongside the giant rainbow blanket.

Rainbows are often used as a symbol of peace and hope and as we know, they often appear when the sun shines following heavy rainfall. They serve to remind us that following dark times, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Following the Exhibition smaller blankets will be created from the giant blanket and donated to charities.

Everyone can take part in this Exhibition. We’re inviting people to create an 8” or 20cm square in any way they would like, whether that be knitted, woven, felted or crocheted, in any pattern and any rainbow colour. As well as this, participants are invited to send in photographs of their wonderful rainbows. For more information on how to take part please visit our Exhibition of Hope article.

The National Wool Museum has many craft volunteers and gardening volunteers who maintain the Museum’s Natural Dye Garden. They have been busy contributing to the Exhibition. Garden Volunteer, Susan Martin created natural dyed yarn which she spun herself. The rainbow colours are from woad, weld and madder which Susan blended together with white to give a lighter and tweedy effect and all these plants can be found in the National Wool Museum’s Dye Garden.

Ball of wool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some wonderful creations by Cristina, a craft volunteer at the Museum:

 

Row of knitted squares
Multicoloured knitted squares


 

 

 

 

 

 

and by craft volunteer Amanda:

A row of multicoloured knitted squares

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to everyone who is taking part. For the latest information on the National Wool Museum’s Exhibition of Hope and photographs find us on Facebook or Twitter @amgueddfawlan.

Augusta Hall, Lady Llanover (21 March 1802 – 17 January 1896) was a strong advocate and supporter of the Welsh Woollen Industry and Welsh traditions. At the National Eisteddfod in 1834 she submitted an essay titled `The Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costume winning first prize. She took the bardic name "Gwenynen Gwent" 'the bee of Gwent'.

Gwenffrwd Woollen Mill

In 1865 she commissioned the building of Gwenffrwd Woollen Mill on the Llanover estate near Abergavenny. The mill carried out all operations for woollen production and produced heavy flannel cloth that was made into clothes for the house and estate workers to wear.

Harpist's Costume from the Llanover Estate

Material from the mill was also made into clothes for lady Llanover and her friends styled on her own ideas of Welsh traditional Costume. The mill continued in production until the 1950s using equipment installed by Lady Llanover.

Worker at Gwenffrwd Woollen Mill

VE Day Celebrations in London, 8 May 1945

8th May 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of VE Day. Victory in Europe Day in 1945 celebrated the end of World War Two when fighting against Nazi Germany came to an end in Europe. Celebrations erupted throughout the western world, especially in the UK and North America, with more than one million people taking to the streets, village greens and town centres to celebrate across Britain.

The National Wool Museum had a VE Tea Party planned to mark this day, but as we’re all staying safe at home, our team would like to share some of their delicious VE Tea recipes with you in the hope that you can create your own celebration to mark this important occasion.

 

LEMON SPONGE

Lemmon Cake

8oz. margarine

8oz. castor sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten

9oz. self - raising flour

1 dessert spoon lemon juice

 

TOPPING

2 Tablespoons caster sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

 

​Preheat oven at 180°C  350° F  Gas mark 4

Grease and line 11" x 7" tin.  Cream butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then beat in the eggs.  Add a tablespoon of flour with the last amount of egg to prevent curdling.  Add the lemon juice.  Fold in the rest of the flour with a metal spoon.

Place in tin and bake for about 45 mins​.

Meanwhile make topping by mixing lemon juice and castor sugar.

Remove from oven, prick all over with a skewer and spoon topping over the hot cake.  Leave to cool in tin until topping is absorbed.

 

SCONES

Scones

1 lb. self- raising flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 oz. butter

2 oz. castor sugar

½ pint milk

beaten egg to glaze

For the filling:

strawberry or raspberry jam

quarter pint double cream, whipped

 

Preheat oven 230° C  450° F  Gas mark 8

Sift flour and salt into a bowl.  Rub in butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add castor sugar and mix to a soft dough with the milk.

Turn onto a lightly floured table, knead quickly, then roll out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut into 20 rounds with a 2½  inch cutter. Place scones on greased baking trays and brush tops with beaten egg or milk. Bake in oven for 8 - 10 minutes.  Cool on a wire tray.

When cold, split and serve with jam and whipped cream.

 

The National Wool Museum in Drefach Felindre is home to a comprehensive collection of tools and machinery involved throughout history in the processing of woollen fleece into cloth. It also holds the national flat textile collection and the best collection of Welsh Woollen blankets with documented providence dating back to the 1850s. These range from large double cloth tapestry blankets that are now very collectable, to plain white single utility blankets from WWII. In this blog, Mark Lucas, Curator of the Woollen Industry Collection for Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, shares his knowledge of the heritage of Welsh blankets and some fine examples from this important collection.

 

Welsh Blankets traditionally formed part of the bottom draw for Welsh brides. A pair of Welsh blankets was also commonly given as a wedding gift. The would have travelled great distances with people moving during the Industrial Revolution looking for work, but wanting to keep a small piece of home with them. Thus, Welsh blankets have found their way across the world, adding a touch of homely aesthetic to a room by day and providing warmth at night.

 

Narrow Width Blankets

Narrow Width Blanket - two narrow lengths stitched together.

Narrow width blankets were the earliest, woven on a single loom. They were made of two narrow widths hand sewn together to form a larger blanket. Single loom blankets of this type were the norm before the turn of the twentieth century when the introduction of the double loom enabled the weaving of broader widths of fabric. However, many of the smaller mills, as well as individual weavers, did not convert to wider looms and, as a result, narrow-loom blankets continued to be produced in significant quantities during the 1920s, 30s and even later.

 

Plaid Blankets

Plaid Blanket

Plaids were popular during the nineteenth century, usually featuring strong colours against a natural cream background. The introduction of synthetic dyes in the late 19th century allowed weavers to mix more coloured yarns into the designs, although some colour combinations were subtle, others could be gaudy. Many smaller mills continued the use of natural dyes well into the 20th century. The natural dyes were made from madder and cochineal for reds, woad and indigo for blues, and various berries and lichens for other shades. The National Wool Museum has its own natural dye garden and hosts courses and talks throughout the year on natural dyeing

 

Tapestry Blankets

Tapestry Blanket

Welsh Tapestry is the term applied to double cloth woven blankets, producing a pattern on both sides that is reversible and is the icon of the Welsh woollen industry. Examples of Welsh tapestry blankets survive from the eighteenth century and a pattern book from 1775 by William Jones of Holt in Denbighshire, shows many different examples of tapestry patterns. Double cloth was first used to make blankets, but its success as a product for sale to tourists in the 1960s led to its use as clothing, placemats, coasters, bookmarkers, tea cozies, purses, handbags and spectacle cases. Because of the hardwearing quality of the double cloth weave the material has also been used for reversible rugs and carpeting.

 

Honeycomb blankets

Honeycomb Blanket

Honeycomb blankets are a mixture of bright and soft colours. As the name implies the surface is woven to produce deep square waffle effect giving the blanket a honeycomb appearance. This type of weave produces a blanket that is warm and light.

With the current resurgence of Welsh blankets for a decorative home-style item there is much interest in old blankets and the designs patterns. Antique blankets have become very popular with interior designers and feature heavily in home décor magazines. They are used as throws and bed coverings in modern homes with many high-end textile designers as well as students researching old patterns for inspiration for their new designs.

Caernarfon Blanket

Many of the fine examples in the Museums’ blanket collection come from mills across Wales that ceased production long ago. A highlight is the collection of Caernarfon Blankets. These were produced on Jacquard looms in a range of colourways. Only a few mills used Jacquard looms, which can make complicated designs and pictures. The Caernarfon blankets show two pictures one with Caernarfon Castle with the words CYMRU FU (Wales was) and a picture of Aberystwyth University with the words CYMRU FYDD (Wales Will Be). It is believed that these blankets were first been made in the 1860s, and last produced for the investiture of Prince Charles in 1969. A recent donation to the museum is an earlier example of the blanket featuring two images of Caernarfon castle. Woven by hand it contains a critical spelling error - Anglicising the name to Carnarvon.