Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Old Scottish Blankets from Skeldon Mills, Ayrshire
I can't remember when I came across my first Skeldon blanket, here in Ayrshire, but I have been collecting them, dealing in them, and sometimes just using them myself, ever since. Frankly, throughout this cold winter, they have been and continue to be an absolute godsend! I source them in a variety of places, including charity shops, antique markets, boot sales and - recently - at auction, where I found myself paying rather too much for a pair of gorgeous unused blankets, still in their original packaging. There was only one drawback which was that they had been stored among smokers, and consequently smelled strongly of kippers! I will be washing them - but that is one of the benefits of these wonderful textiles. They can be washed and they come up quite beautifully - soft, fluffy and fresh.
The old Skeldon Mills were situated down on the bonnie banks of the River Doon, close to Hollybush. We have friends who live nearby, and a pretty little cairn marks the spot where the old Skeldon Village once stood. Sadly - and although the mills and village had stood on this beautiful spot for more than 100 years, first as an oatmeal mill, and then as a woollen mill, the village was demolished by the landowner some time in the nineteen sixties. Some of the mill buildings survive, as storage space for a business, but the village itself was razed to the ground. I'm told that the doorkeys of the lost cottages are buried beneath the cairn, in a memorial garden on the site. I would like to think that something similar could not happen nowadays - but, frankly, I'm all too sure it could!
You'll find more about the history of the site here. I've been hunting for a photograph or picture of the old village - but can't find one, which is both amazing and sad! The blankets remain - although as usual with textiles, they tend to be undervalued in the place where they were once made, and I have found far too many people cutting them up for dog blankets. Much as I like dogs, Skeldon blankets are much too precious for Fido or Rover to sleep on. Even when they are a little worn, or marked, they are wonderfully warm and soft. I've given slightly damaged blankets to friends to use on boats or in caravans, since they wash so well. But the good quality survivors - and there are quite a lot of them - make fabulous throws on chairs, couches or beds. The creaminess of the wool has to be seen to be believed, and they come with a variety of lovely stripes: pink, blue, yellow or green, as well as occasional specimens that have pink and blue checks. People used to acquire them as wedding presents - but all too often seemed to store them away and never use them! Their loss is our gain.
Posted by Catherine Czerkawska at 2:34 pm