Meet The Shipping Forecast, our 2022 special edition wool blanket collection
Our new Shipping Forecast special edition wool blankets have just launched and we can’t wait to tell you all about them! Today, the British Blanket Company’s founder, Bethan John, gives us an insight into the story behind the new collection. Find out how British coastal landscapes inspired the designs, why they feel so incredibly soft, and discover the heritage woven into every piece.
The Shipping Forecast blanket collection is available now, with six designs inspired by the landscapes, flora and fauna of the British coastline
How did the British coastline inspire the Shipping Forecast collection?
The British coastline has always held a special meaning for us. As siblings, growing up together, our family holidays gravitated to the wilder, less discovered areas of the coast. Surfing in Pembrokeshire. Searching for beads lost from long-ago shipwrecks in the Scilly Isles. Spotting seals in Cornwall. Early, we developed a love for the crash of Atlantic breakers, the tangy smell of seaweed... returning home, blissfully tired, with wind-tangled hair and salty skin.
This collection of blankets was inspired by our own rediscovery of coastal communities, and a desire to celebrate our local coastal landscapes.
The shell-covered beach at Barricane Bay in Devon inspired the two pink and mauve colourways: Topshell Ripple (left) and Shore Ombre (right)
Why did you choose The Shipping Forecast as the theme for 2022?
Our annual childhood summer holiday was to a caravan near St Davids in Pembrokeshire. I remember being cut-off from all mod-cons, listening to the Shipping Forecast on radio 4 while the rain beat down on the tin roof. Since then, the mesmerising rhythm of it has held a strange magic for me…
Moderate, or good.
The Shipping Forecast is special too because it wraps around the whole of the British Isles... both the UK and Ireland. Just as the UK and Ireland are bound by the seas that surround us, so too is the tradition of wool and weaving is a common thread between these islands.
Tell us more about the woven blanket patterns?
The Shipping Forecast collection has six blankets, in two weave patterns.
The Ombre weave has three colourways: Ocean, Shore and Coast. Each of the Ombre blankets contains seven merino lambswool yarns, the maximum number of weft threads we can weave on our traditional looms, giving these blankets a wonderful subtlety. They really are works of art with enticing colours that blend perfectly. These blankets are woven as a double-faced cloth, which makes them feel even thicker and gives a reversible pattern on the other side.
The Ripple weave focusses on the flora and fauna found within coastal landscapes: fish, seashells and plants. The design is eye-catching and graphic, with curvaceous stripes running across the entire blanket. Curves are very difficult to achieve in weaving, so we drew on the skill and knowledge of our mill to help realise our vision in woven form! These blanket designs are inspired by a macro look at elements within the coastal landscape: the pattern of a mackerel’s scales, the curved stripe of a painted topshell and the smooth leaves of the rock samphire plant.
The colours aren’t typical for a seaside-inspired collection, why is that?
We didn’t want to simply create blankets in stereotypical seaside colours or deckchair stripes – those colours are too artificial and rarely encountered in nature. Instead, The Shipping Forecast draws upon the array of colours truly found within a natural coastal landscape. Looking more closely, we discover subtle and unexpected colour combinations, such as the pink and mauve of the painted topshell seasnail and the many moody shades of a stormy sea.
Across all six patterns, the colours have been designed to complement one another, making it possible to layer several blanket designs in a single room scheme, or feature them as standalone pieces.
The six colourways were drawn from a closer look at coastal landscapes and the flora and fauna within them, creating subtle natural shades that move beyond seaside design stereotypes
What are the blankets made from?
Merino lambswool is a very fine yarn with a 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 to the touch. It's the most luxurious wool we use at The British Blanket Company so merino lambswool was the perfect choice for these extra special blankets.
The Shipping Forecast 'Ombre' blankets contain more warp colours than we have ever used before in a single design, giving them a subtle beauty. Additionally, we have chosen ‘melange’ yarns, which means that the fibres are dyed many different colours, then blended to create the finished shade. This is a more complex process than simply dying white yarn with a single colour and the finished yarn is even more exquisite as fibres of each individual colour are visible to the eye when you look closely. Blending melange yarns is a real art and takes years to perfect. It’s rather like an artist mixing paint, but using wool!
Each blanket has a corresponding colourway in the Ombre pattern (above) and the Ripple pattern (below).
The curvaceous foliage and zingy lime green flowers of the rock samphire plant inspired the Samphire Ripple wool blanket design. Curves are very tricky to create in weaving and this design took all our experience and ingenuity!
Where were the Shipping Forecast blankets woven?
At a wonderful historic mill that’s right on the border between Yorkshire and Lancashire. They have been weaving woollen cloth in the village since 1863 and the history of the mill can be traced back to a family of Huguenots weavers, who fled France in1572 to escape religious persecution.
Something that makes this mill particularly special is that all the processes involved in making a blanket – from the arrival of bales of raw wool, to the final washing in soft spring water – takes place on one site. This is known as a vertical mill and ours is one of the last remaining in Britain. Not only does this mean that the expert knowledge shines through in the quality of the pieces they produce, it also means the blankets have a very low carbon footprint.
The British Blanket Company weaves all its wool blankets at traditional mills in the UK and Ireland. Our Shipping Forecast blankets are woven at a mill on the Yorkshire / Lancashire border
Merino lambswool is an incredibly fine and soft fibre, so it was the perfect choice for making these extra special blankets
What makes these blankets so special?
The Shipping Forecast Special Edition blankets are heirlooms of the future and works of art to treasure. There’s so much heritage, tradition and craftsmanship that went into creating these throws and we hope they will be loved for their colour and their cosiness for many years.
Like what you see? Make sure you're one of the first people to order your blanket from the Shipping Forecast Collection now. Only a limited number of each colourway will be woven.