We're constantly seeking out beautiful new throws to add to The British Blanket Company's collection. Our most recent search led us to County Donegal, on the wild north-westerly coast of the Republic of Ireland, where William McNutt's family has been weaving wool and linen fabrics since the 1950s.
Since then, we've been partnering with them to produce throws for our Finest Collection which features supersoft merino weaves, vibrant colours and reversible throws. More recently, we've also been working with them to design and release some exclusive limited edition throws.
We caught up with William to learn more about how the mill's heritage and the Irish coastline influence the contemporary designs he weaves for The British Blanket Company.
Where is the mill located?
In a lovely seaside village called Downings, on Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way.
Give us a potted history…
We are a family-run mill that was started by my father, Bill, in the 1950s. We started off hand-weaving tweed at a time when tweed was an everyday fabric and continued this until the 1990s when we moved to weaving Irish linen for large fashion houses. The recession hit the Irish linen market in 2008 and we decided to return full circle to weaving what we know best: wool.
How does your heritage influence the throws you make for The British Blanket Company?
We combine traditional designs and techniques and incorporate them into modern and contemporary throws. Over our 60 years of weaving in Downings we’ve evolved several times to ride out economic changes. Quality and tenacity are at the heart of our ethos as we add more chapters to the ever changing story.
How does the setting of your mill in County Donegal influence your designs?
Donegal was named as the Coolest Place on the Planet by the National Geographic in 2017! Surrounded by the views, of the sea and the hills, how could the landscape not influence our designs? In particular, the colours in our blankets reference the Northern Lights, which can be seen in the skies above the mill, as well as the rugged Atlantic coastline.
What are people most surprised by when they visit the mill?
That it is still a working mill and that everything is genuinely woven here. Many people also remark on the bright colours that you see throughout our collections – when walking amongst the looms the vibrancy of the yarns and fabrics is very striking.
What makes the throws you weave extra special?
Once you feel our super-soft merino lambswool, you’ll know why. The only way to achieve this handle is to use superior quality fibres. Nothing feels better!
How would you describe your signature style?
A fusion of heritage and modern colours, with a hint of Scandinavian style.
Do you think people have changed how they use blankets in recent years?
Yes definitely, blankets have multipurpose uses now – they are not just to keep you cosy at night, or something nice to sit on for your picnic. People are wearing them as fashion pieces, like extra-large pashminas, wrapping themselves up in colour. A real wool product may be a little more expensive to buy but the quality means that it lasts a lifetime.
What is your process for devising new blanket designs?
It is more evolution than revolution. We take on board lots of customer feedback and also follow the trends for the coming season.
What trends can we look forward to seeing in forthcoming designs?
More vibrancy, along with more yellows and black.
What does “Irish Design” mean to you?
Everything, especially keeping the provenance of the products. We really see the importance of highlighting that our throws are designed and woven in-house by a fantastic team here in a small village in Donegal. Our throws go all across the world and people everywhere can experience what we make - that’s what Irish Design is all about.
Explore our range of luxury merino wool blankets and throws woven in the mill in Ireland. And if you'd like to find out more about the limited edition designs we've been creating at the mill in Donegal, sign-up to our newsletter - you'll be the first to know!
[Photographs courtesy of McNutt of Donegal and Pixabay]