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Mourne Textiles from Northern Ireland

Mourne Textiles have expanded upon the legacy of mid-century textile designer Gerd Hay-Edie to create a classic and distinctively textured range of textiles for the home.

Karen Hay-Edie on the loom at Mourne Textiles. Photo © Tara Fisher.

Based at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland, Mourne Textiles is a third generation textiles company drawing on the country’s rich heritage in wool production to continue the strong design legacy of its Norwegian founder Gerd Hay-Edie. Established in 1954 as her own personal weaving studio, Gerd Hay-Edie built Mourne Textiles into a global company with a reputation for beautifully textured and innovatively woven rugs and upholstery, winning the approval of mid-century furniture designers and taste-makers including Robin Day and Sir Terence Conran. Production of Hay-Edie’s original designs continue to this day thanks to her daughter, Karen Hay-Edie, and grandson, Mario Sierra, both of whom learnt the intricate craft of weaving from Hay-Edie herself.

Gerd Hay-Edie at the loom

Gerd Hay-Edie at the loom. Photo courtesy of Mourne Textiles.

Having studied design and hand-weaving in her native Norway, Gerd Hay-Edie departed for Britain in the 1930s to design textiles for Hollywell Mills, a Welsh woollen mill whose clients included British furniture designer Gordon Russell. She continued to travel extensively and took inspiration from trips to India and China where she researched and learnt local techniques and designs. Soon after the Second World War, Hay-Edie set up her own design workshop at Killowen on the side of the Mourne Mountains overlooking Carlingford Lough with the intention of having her textile designs made on her behalf. Unable to source the right equipment, Hay-Edie imported looms and textile machinery from Norway and, with the help of a local coffin maker, developed her own ‘Chinese Loom’ based on those she had experienced in Shanghai.

Robin Day's display at the Milan Trienniale featuring a hand-woven rug by Gerd Hay-Edie. Photo courtesy of Mourne Textiles.

Furniture designer Robin Day’s display at the 1951 Triennale de Milano featuring a hand-woven rug by Gerd Hay-Edie. Photo courtesy of Mourne Textiles.

The result was a range of inspired rugs that inadvertently instigated a long and successful working relationship with celebrated British furniture designer, Robin Day. Invited to present her rug range to the British Craft Council in London, Hay-Edie’s characterful rugs were chosen by Day for his displays at the 1951 Triennale de Milano as well as at the Festival of Britain, which attracted over 10 million visitors. Subsequently, Hay-Edie’s Mourne Check and Mourne Mist upholstery fabrics would adorn Day’s furniture for the following ten years.

Sybil Connolly's Shaggy Dog Jacket using wool woven by Gerd-Hay Edie.

Sybil Connolly’s Shaggy Dog Jacket using fabric hand-woven by Gerd-Hay Edie featuring a distinctive bobble texture.

The woollen yarns Hay-Edie chose to use were often unspun or hand twisted to give them a richly textured surface and her distinctive high-contrast designs depended on local wool shorn from the black-faced sheep from the Mourne Mountains. In the 1960s Hay-Edie’s fabric production extended beyond upholstery and rugs into the fashion world, including Irish tweeds for Sybil Connolly’s 1956 Spring collection, all of which used local Donegal yarn. Hay-Edie experimented with soft and chunky open weaves, earthy tweeds woven with gold lurex thread and what became known as the ‘Shaggy Dog’ fabric: a hand-woven tweed with distinctive bobbles of wool.

Woollen yarn on the loom in the Mourne Textiles workshop. Photo © Tara Fisher.

Woollen yarn on the loom in the Mourne Textiles workshop. Photo © Tara Fisher.

After over 50 years at the loom, Hay-Edie’s shuttle was recently taken up by her daughter, Karen Hay-Edie, herself a Master Weaver, and grandson Mario who grew up in their workshop. “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.”

The Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland. Photo © Tara Fisher.

The Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland. Photo © Tara Fisher.

Referring back to original letters, notebooks and sketchbooks, Mario and his mother Karen have revived Hay-Edie’s most iconic and archetypal designs, bringing them back into production by teaching local craftspeople how to spin and weave using Hay-Edie’s original techniques. Products such as the Mourne Textiles Merino Wool Blankets capitalise on the distinctive, dappled appearance of ‘wild’ spun 100% merino yarn from Donegal. The result is a range of textiles that are restrained and classic in their appearance, and celebrate the continuance of Northern Ireland’s rich heritage of wool production inspired by the dramatic landscape.

Products by Mourne Textiles

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