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. 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.
In a lovely seaside village called Downings, on Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
A fusion of heritage and modern colours, with a hint of Scandinavian style.
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.
It is more evolution than revolution. We take on board lots of customer feedback and also follow the trends for the coming season.
More vibrancy, along with more yellows and black.
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.
[Photographs courtesy of McNutt of Donegal and Pixabay]