Every time I go to a vintage fair or flea market I am always on the look out for a 1960s Welsh Tapestry coat. It has actually become an obsession and I get palpitations each time I spot a sleeve of Caernarfon pattern poking out from amongst the rails of clothes and I hone in on it like a hawk. The problem is most of these coats were designed to be loose fitting and many of the ones you find are a modern day size 14 or over. As I’m a size 10/12 I always find they hang off me like a child wearing her Mother’s coat and, after years of searching, I’m still on the look out for that perfect one that fits.
So, what is Welsh Tapestry?
Well, to start with, it’s not really tapestry. It’s basically two layers of cloth, each in a different colour, woven together to create a geometric patterned cloth. You could say they are Wales’ equivalent of the Scottish tartan, although they don’t represent different clans. They’re completely unique to Wales and each mill had its own designs.
We all know that Wales has a lot of sheep, a lot, apparently there are four sheep for every human! Over the 18th and 19th Centuries woollen mills made use of this abundance of supply producing cloth and flannel that were sold both at home and exported through England. Pieces from this time, such as blankets, are obviously very rare but Welsh Tapestry saw a surge in interest during the 1960 and 1970s when the two tone cloth was made into all sorts of fashion-led garments. These patterns scream of the period that loved clashing colours. Coats, waistcoats, handbags and many other items were made in amazingly bright patterns of purple and teal, brown and orange and green and red. Even Mary Quant got in on the act and made regular trips to Wales to source cloth for her infamous fashion house.
The only item I currently own is a 1960s burgundy, pink and purple Kelly handbag above that I picked up in Portobello Road for £12 (I knocked him down from £15). It’s in mint condition, with no pulls in the cloth and no scratches or tears on the leather. Welsh Tapestry Kelly bags seem to be cheaper than plain ones, which I always find a bit strange but then, I suppose, not everyone likes it. I think one reason I love it so much is because it reminds me of my Welsh house mate from college who had a Welsh Tapestry blanket on his bed!
As well as my coat search, I’m always on the look out for other pieces that catch my eye. You can pick up some great 60s and 70s items at vintage fairs and flea markets such as purses, bags, blankets, scraps of cloth (great for making your own cushions) and, obviously, items of clothing. I’ve put together a few vintage pieces I’ve found online, as well as some intriguing contemporary items, as this week’s Wednesday Wish List.
Vintage Welsh Tapestry
Capes like this, with the asymmetric closure and slits at the front, were extremely fashionable during the 1960s. They provided a small amount of cover on Spring days but allowed your arms to be free. This Welsh Tapestry Cape from Sartorial Matters on Etsy is an A Dafydd Snowdon Design and is just the sort of rich colourway I’d want in the coat I’m searching for.
I really love the clasp on this Vintage Welsh Tapestry Handbag from Noella Georgina on Etsy. I’ve seen a few Welsh tapestry bags with the same clasp so I think it must be something that was unique to them. It’s also a lovely alternative to the classic Kelly bag clasp at the top centre of the opening.
The style of this Vintage 1960s Long Welsh Tapestry Overcoat from Viva Vintage on eBay is just the cut I am looking for. It’s slim-fitting, three-quarter length, single-breasted and has the classic woven trim around the collar. It’s a shame it’s not really a colourway I would go for, but then it would be a bit big for me anyway.
This Vintage Welsh Tapestry Purse from 1st*classic on eBay is a classic Welsh design. This is one of the popular ones of the the 60s and 70s and you’ll find these all over the place. I particularly like them because of the cute little compartments inside. You get a zipped area and a double twist clip purse, all made of leather, hiding in the interior.
Contemporary Welsh Tapestry
This Welsh Blanket Print Lampshade by Adra Home is just gorgeous. It has that real Celtic feel about it but is thoroughly up to date. It weirdly makes me think of Ikea but then I think that’s just the colourway it’s shown in. It comes in ten different contemporary colours and two different sizes.
How about iPad & iPhone Covers in Iconic Welsh Fabric? These fabulous pieces from Welsh Blankets are just adorable. I particularly like the purple and pink one pictured above (there are five designs to choose from) as it’s very much the pattern made famous in the 1960s. Apparently Jane Beck, who runs the site, is the go-to person when it comes to Welsh woollens and she has regularly appeared in magazines, and on the TV, talking about her passion.
I have a thing for enamelware crockery. It’s my Dad’s fault, he’s always loved it too and always pointed it out when we were going around antique shops when I was young. That’s why these ‘Gwalia’ Enamelware Mugs by Blodwen General Stores, with their cute Welsh patterns printed on them, are so perfect for me. I also have a mug fetish! Oh God, I need to buy these!!
These 2014 Limited Edition Blankets and Cushions by Melin Tregwynt feature their stock patterns St. David’s Cross and Knot Garden but in a limited edition colourway. Still in production after just over 100 years, the mill is famous for its contemporary designs, which has helped it succeed in a dying industry. Their blankets are now a sought after wedding present by young couples in Wales.
Do you own any Welsh Tapestry pieces or are you not keen on the design? Let me know below.