Wool blankets – cream with red or aqua stripes and yellow with red stripes and green borders – are stacked on a flat bed sleigh behind a harnessed reindeer in a snowy landscape. Clad in red with a fur framed yellow hood, the sleigh’s driver holds a receipt for the man in the blue parka. A second man with blankets over his shoulder, bends to enter a curved pole reindeer hide tent, perhaps a Goahti tent of the Sámi people. In the background a man with his newly purchased blanket slung over his shoulder makes his way towards snow-capped tents. This narrative glimpse into the life of a travelling salesman is found on the labels sewn onto the famous Dutch blankets woven by AaBe woollen mill in Tilburg, The Netherlands. The company is celebrated in an exhibition at the TextielMuseum that continues until 16th March 2014.
“The generation of today would not believe it: once we slept under blankets”, laments the Dutch design site of Edwin Pelser. While it’s true the quilt and duvet routed the blanket in the late twentieth century (a lifestyle shift that abetted the decline and closure of AaBe) old-fashioned wool blankets are enjoying a deserved revival in Europe and North America. Renewed interest is fuelled not only by the vintage, heritage and nostalgia value of blankets, but also by wool’s healthy and sustainable attributes. The endorsement printed above the reindeer’s head – Voorkomen Rheumatiek – is clinical rather than catchy, but its message remains relevant. Wool blankets are a healthy option. They may or may not “prevent rheumatism”, but wool is hypoallergenic, wicks moisture, and regulates a constant body temperature. (continued)
The exhibition includes vintage blankets re-purposed as handmade coats by young Dutch design company Wintervacht. The venerable Dutch brands they use include Telem, Didad (with white kitten logo), Zaalberg and Hatéma. Wintervacht feature the blanket label as part of their design. The TextielMuseum’s exhibition Living Spaces is reviewed in the spring issue of COVER magazine. END