We're so excited to reveal to you the secret design project we've been working on since spring. Our British Birds Special Edition Blanket Collection. Our hearts and souls have gone into the design, sourcing and creation of these five beautiful throws... we hope you love them as much as we do! Read on to learn more.
What was the inspiration behind the collection?
Bethan: The idea came to me at the start of lockdown in March. During my daily walk I was struck by the sound of birdsong, which I had never noticed being so loud before. I live in Bristol and although it's quite a leafy area, the birdsong is normally masked by traffic noise and city bustle.
It became one of my new lockdown hobbies to try and identify the birds I heard. I downloaded an app called BirdNET which records a snippet of birdsong and then tries to identify it for you based on the sound pattern and your location. It was this experience that gave me the idea to create a range of blankets inspired by the colours of popular British Birds.
How did you choose which birds?
Joe: Our social media followers and newsletter subscribers did! We created yarn wraps of eight potential colourways drawn from different birds, then held a poll on our Facebook page to let our followers vote on their favourites.
We then chose the most popular five designs to weave: Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher and Robin. The ones that didn’t make it were Barn Owl, Oyster Catcher and Bullfinch. We think the blankets will make a lovely gift for nature lovers and home-lovers alike.
Tell us more about the merino lambswool yarns?
Bethan: Merino Lambswool is a very fine yarn with a super soft feel that makes it perfect for blankets that are warm, without being too heavy. In finishing we use a special process called ‘raising’ to lightly brush the fibres to make them even softer.
Historically, the brushes were made from teasels. Mills would employ a ‘Teasel Man’ who toured around replenishing teasels in the rollers – there could be as many as 30,000 teasel heads in each roller, so this was considered a highly skilled task. Today, the rollers have combs of tiny metal pins, which gently fluff up the fibres and make the blankets feel even softer.
What about the pattern?
Joe: We wanted the British Birds range to be all about colour – from the subtle pink and smoke grey tones of the pigeon, to the vibrant blue of the kingfisher. We choose a twill weave for the middle of the blanket for an intense pop of solid colour. Then, at each end, we introduced the secondary colours of each bird’s plumage in a pattern inspired by hand-stitching.
These blankets are made from melange yarns which are blended from different coloured fibres to create the colour (rather than a single colour of dye). The result is gorgeous subtle shades – if you look very carefully at the blankets you can see the individual colour fibres of the melange, which are blended by your eye.
Where were they woven?
Bethan: At our woollen mill in Ireland. It’s a small mill right on the coast of Donegal with a lovely team who have been weaving fabrics for generations. It’s been run by the same family since the 1950s when they mainly used hand-weaving to make tweed cloth.
In the 1990s they moved into making linen fabrics for fashion, before coming back full circle to specialise in wool once more. The creation of the British Birds blanket collection has been a real collaboration, bringing together our design ideas and their technical expertise in equal measure!
Why a limited edition?
Joe: We love the idea of having Special Edition designs woven in small quantities that are constantly changing, so there’s always something exciting and fresh to see. A wool blanket will last for many years with a little care. We hope these Special Edition blankets might become collector’s pieces, treasured and handed down as heirlooms.
Our plan is to release a limited Special Edition collection in spring and autumn every year with a different theme that people can look forward to as the seasons change.
Tell us about the bird painting postcards?
Bethan: We are siblings and our Mum, Bridget John, is an artist. Commissioning her to create some paintings to accompany the collection felt a natural step! She has painted a beautiful watercolour of each bird, which we have turned into set of five prints which you’ll receive as a free gift with every British Birds blanket purchased. The prints can be framed or used as notecards. You can see more in our Meet the Artist blog.
Where did you photograph the range?
Joe: At The Forge in Bristol, the city where we both live and work. It’s a historic industrial space built in the mid-1800s, originally a coach house and then a blacksmiths. It was a working forge until 2015. It sits high above the old Bristol city centre on huge Victorian buttresses with a view of St. Johns Gate and the old city wall. The industrial vibe, warm light and beautiful bare brick gave it the perfect feel for our photo shoot.
What plans do you have for future Special Edition collections?
Bethan: Ideas for the spring Special Edition are already bubbling away! We have created a special Design Club newsletter for followers who would like to get involved in choosing the designs. If you’d like a sneak peek, the chance to have your say on forthcoming designs and VIP access to pre-sales discounts, make sure you sign-up to The British Blanket Company Design Club mailing list.
Like what you see? Make sure you're one of the first people to order your blanket from the British Birds Special Edition Collection now. Only 200 of each colourway will ever be woven and they're a gorgeous gift for nature lovers and design enthusiasts alike!