Wool is a wondrous, natural fibre that should certainly be celebrated! Soft and sumptuous to the touch, naturally protective from season to season, and highly insulating and breathable, the use of wool in our homes and wardrobes unlocks a long list of plus points. Its durability and flexibility also mean wool is a fibre that can be relied on for the long haul, with even pieces past their prime able to be refashioned or restored using wool revival techniques.
In the creative world, wool is a material that’s putting many artists on the map. But whether used creatively in an art installation or cosily in your home, wool has a long history that just has to be appreciated.
Indulging your love for wool and quenching that thirst for knowledge about the textile industry has never been easier or more enjoyable. There’s no better time to visit these UK museums for those interested in wool and other textiles, in fact, they’re a great way to spend those rainy days!
The National Wool Museum
Wales has a rich and proud history working with wool. Many Welsh communities have played integral roles in the cottage industry style spinning and knitting of wool, with the use and processing of the fibre dating back to prehistory. Real Wales explains more about Welsh wool at its height:
“It was the 19th and 20th Centuries, however, in which the wool industry held a huge importance for Wales. Raw materials were in plentiful supply, as was a good local workforce skilled in the production of wool. In areas such as the Teifi valley in Ceredigion & Carmarthenshire, the abundance of fast flowing water to power the mills, as well as good rail links for exporting, made it an important textile manufacturing region.”
With its long history, it should come as no surprise that one of the best wool museums to visit is based right here. The National Wool Museum offers a chance to take all this history in. Follow the process from fleece to fibre as well as explore the mill buildings and machinery that sat at the centre of the Welsh wool trade.
Helmshore Mills Textile Museum
For a wider view of the UK’s industrial heritage, visit Helmshore Mills Textile Museum in Lancashire. Its hands-on experiences and demonstrations help to fully immerse visitors into the textile industry. With two working mills to explore – one specialising in wool fulling and the other in cotton – it makes for a jam-packed day out for all ages.
As one of the UK’s oldest and best-preserved woollen mills, Coldharbour Mill in Devon provides a masterclass in textile production.
Set on 12 acres, the Victorian mill even has steam engines on display and a working 18th-century water wheel to ensure a full insight into just how these traditional textiles are manufactured. The fact that Coldharbour is a working mill – and has been since 1797 – only adds to its magic.
Newtown Textile Museum
Back to Wales but this time to Newtown Textile Museum and its hand-looming heritage. This museum brings together modern wool craft and traditional methods with demonstrations in spinning, weaving and quilt making as well as more contemporary exhibits.
Newtown also runs a variety of workshops, with their summer programme and ongoing, weekly activities giving textile fans the chance to try their hands at felting, quilting and tapestry amongst other crafts.