How is a woven wool blanket made?
Until you see it for yourself, it’s hard to believe how many processes go into making just one woven wool blanket! A couple of months ago, my brother Joe and I were lucky enough to visit two historic British weaving mills to see how our British Blanket Company wool throws are made, step by step.
From the arrival of the raw wool bales, to stitching the label onto the finished blanket, this traditional manufacturing process is fascinating. The skilled handiwork that goes into every blanket is really special, making our blankets the heirlooms of tomorrow.
How is a woven wool blanket made, step-by-step
Raw wool – wool bales arrive at the mill from New Zealand and South Africa, where the sheep produce the softest fleece for making blankets. From here, every single process happens in the UK.
Dying – the fleece is dyed vibrant colours in huge metal vats of hot water. Many of The British Blanket Company’s colours are completely bespoke, developed for us by the dye house in Yorkshire.
Blending – different colours of dyed fleece are blended together, like mixing paint. These yarns are called ‘melange’ and have a more subtle appearance than solid-dyed yarns. Creating the colour recipes is a very particular skill with surprising colours often added to the mix to give the finished yarn the perfect hue.
Carding – the fibres are combed on tiny metal pins to align them all in the same direction, ready for spinning.
Spinning – the wool fibres are twisted together to create a strong, fine yarn. The yarn is wound onto cones which are the perfect size to fit to looms.
Warping – yarns are rolled onto a huge metal beam to create a warp. One of our blankets can have as many as 1,300 warp threads which have to be carefully aligned by a skilled warper to avoid tangles.
Knotting – knotting one of the most skilled jobs in the mill. Each of the 1,300 warp threads is knotted to the next by hand.
Weaving – finally onto the loom where the magic happens! The weft threads are fed through the warp threads by shuttles moving at lightning speed. The warp threads are individually lifted and lowered in a set order, which creates the pattern.
Fringing – this is where the warp threads between each blanket are twisted into tassels.
Inspection – every inch of cloth is inspected by eye and touch. Any loose threads or knots are invisibly mended by hand.
Raising – the cloth is brushed all over with rollers covered in tiny pins, giving the fabric a softer and fluffier feel.
Scouring – the cloth is washed in spring water and soap which slightly felts the fibres together, strengthening the cloth. It’s then carefully dried to reach its finished size.
Cutting, labelling and folding – the tassels are cut by hand and a finished blanket is created!
Why does The British Blanket Company still make wool blankets in the traditional way?
As a British heritage brand, it’s important to us that we play our part in encouraging and preserving traditional crafts. Even since 2015, when we founded The British Blanket Company, we’ve seen competitors moving their production away from British weaving mills to factories in India and China. This makes us really sad! We promise we will always stay true to our roots with every product made in the UK and Ireland… forever.
Fifty years or so ago, the skills needed to weave a wool blanket were commonplace in Yorkshire and Lancashire, where many people were employed in the wool textile trade. Today, only a handful of working mills remain and these important skills are in danger of being lost. We don’t want that to happen and we know this is important to you too. When you buy a blanket or scarf from The British Blanket Company (and other products made in the UK) you really do made a difference in preserving traditional skills and local jobs. We want you, our customers, to know your investment makes a real difference and feel proud of the role you play!
See the blanket weaving process in action in our new video, filmed inside The British Blanket Company's traditional British woollen mills. We've created a new YouTube channel to share more exciting videos with you. Head to The British Blanket Company YouTube channel and subscribe!