The woolen mills of the Teifi Valley of West Wales were long noted for the
quality of their pure wool flannel shawls. The standard large shawls – siol
fagu – often known as nursing shawls in English, were a full six feet square.
The shawls had twisted fringes on all four sides. Patterns were varied, but
mainly were in the old Celtic checked or cross-barred style. The fringes were
hand-twisted, the shawls were washed in special equipment to avoid entanglement
of fringes, and pressed in large screw-type presses heated by wood or coal.
These presses were built for the mills by local millwrights.
In later years as central heating extended further into Wales the market
for shawls decreased, and as the mills either updated their equipment or shut
down, the capacity to produce the true Welsh shawl was lost. However, Melin
Teifi, operating in the old Cambrian Mill in Drefach (maintained as a museum
by the Welsh Folk Museum), is once again producing these shawls. The shawls
are woven in the traditional patterns and colors. Fringes are twisted by hand.
The shawls are washed in a large rotating wooden tub with drop hammers to
agitate the wash without tangling the fringes. They are then spun in a centrifuge
to extract most of the water, and hung to dry in a wind shed, an open sided
shed with wire mesh sides to keep out birds. When dried to the proper degree
for pressing they are wrapped around flat separators with the fringes hanging
out and a stack of these shawls with separators is placed in the shawl press,
a large screw press with an enclosed fire underneath. After heating the stack
of shawls is transferred to a blanket press, a similar press without a fire,
to cool and allow any excess moisture to evaporate.
Although we no longer carry these shawls, they are available through Melin Teifi, collocated with the Museum of the Welsh Woolen Industry, in Wales.
Our Welsh Brooches, part of our extensive Celtic Jewelry collection, make excellent
fasteners for the traditional Welsh shawls.
For more information …
Please follow the links below for more information.