Good morning! How was your weekend? Mine was all about family. Although I’ve yet to meet her, I cherished watching my newborn niece experience her first few days of life through the photos my sister sent, and spent a glorious day with my little family in the seaside town of Whitstable, not far from where we live. There were oyster shells, pebble skimming, ice-cream so many beautiful beach houses-I can’t wait to share more with you from our day on Wednesday.
Continuing on my family theme today is an exceptional artisan business grown by three generations of the same family. Nestled in the side of the Mourne Mountains of County Down, Northern Ireland, is the Mourne Textiles design workshop.
Founded by Norwegian designer Gerd Hay-Edie in 1954, the workshop has a rich history. Combining traditional weaving techniques with the finest spun yarns, Mourne produce exquisite throws, cushions and rugs which have been so much a part of British design history these past sixty years. There is simply too much to be said for Gerd’s incredible achievements in establishing the Mourne name, but some of her finest moments include designing custom fabrics for mid-century designers Robin Day and Terence Conran who continued to use her specially created tweeds and upholstery for many years.
Today, Mourne is enjoying a revival with Gerd’s grandson Mario at the helm under the guidance of his mother and Master Weaver Karen.
An integral part of his childhood, Mario remembers…
“When I was a boy, the workshop was my playground. I vividly remember the unmistakable smell of lanolin from the fleeces, and in the background the rhythmic sounds of the looms creating fabric: it was a wonderful place to grow up.”
He has carefully selected some of his grandmother’s most iconic designs to bring to life again and I have completely and utterly fallen in love with them-the textures, soft colours and beautiful, almost hand spun quality of the Donegal and Merino yarns. What I wouldn’t give to knit with these. And so what that it’s summer? Every sofa and bed needs a trusty throw or two and a good mountain of cushions to soften it up!
The yarns are carefully sourced to replicate the traditional materials Gerd would’ve used in the past, although some are tricker to come by today. Mario explains:
“Some of the yarn we are getting from Donegal have been spun exactly to our specification (a very textured yarn, very traditional to Ireland, which has a hand spun irregular feel,
a bit like the spinner has been out for a few pints of the black stuff before coming home to spin) so as to match the yarn used by my grandmother in the 1950’s. Sadly, I haven’t got the luxury of picking these yarns off the shelf any more.”
These hand woven Mourne Check cushions in Irish tweed have been dyed to match the original heritage colour palette as closely as possible, although they are also keen to introduce new colours using yarns available today. Aren’t they beautiful?
As we start to see a return of traditional production methods on home soil, I truly hope that small, family run businesses like Mourne will continue to thrive. It is so important to show our support and keep these traditions alive. I hope you love the collections as much as I do, too…
Image Credits: Tara Fisher Photography