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Teddy’s Tales: Welsh Treasure

Some people, when they go on holiday, just want to flop by the pool. Others have to see the sights, visit the museums or climb the pertinent mountain. Me? I could do a bit of all of the above, but first I need to go on a treasure-hunt. I can’t really relax until I have found the right, beautiful thing to represent the place for me. I’m after a souvenir, but I’m not talking key-rings or a bottle of the local plonk.
Simple discoveries can be good, like the sweet, pink Lautrec garlic we bought back from France. At other times a little luxury pays off: this winter I will again pull on a pair of soft green leather gloves that I found in Florence 15 years ago. Design input is appreciated: the suede-soled, pale grey, matted wool house-boots that came from Copenhagen perfectly sum up my vision of Scandinavian minimalism and practicality.
However, this quest for something unique does not always make for the most useful take-away treasure. The tiny glass beads that looked so right, so romantic in Venice look far too grown-up, too conservative, in the grey light of London. I’ve not worn them since I bought them 10 years ago. And I came back with a stack of brilliant, boldly embroidered cocktail napkins from our honeymoon in Ecuador, although I’ve never mixed a cocktail in my life and really, cocktail napkins are for a life that is not mine.
Undaunted, I plough on. Last year, before Teddy arrived, we visited Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest used and new bookshop in Portland, Oregon. While searching for a book – hopefully the book – on how to make pie (American desserts featured heavily that holiday), I discovered the Miniature Schnauzer reference section. New books about the breed sat alongside a stash of second-hand ones, some peppered with fabulously kitsch photographs from the 1950s. My suitcase suddenly became a whole lot heavier.
Recently we went for a long weekend to Wales. Before Teddy could set foot on a beach to bark at the waves, we made a detour via Melin Tregwynt to do the necessary.
Down a winding road with the kind of high-sided hedgerows that make a hair-raising experience for city-bred me, we found a collection of white painted buildings with pale blue doors, a pleasantly full car park and plenty of woven wool bunting swinging about in the breeze. This traditional weaving mill is having a resurgence in popularity, both locally and further afield. You can see examples of the 102-year-old mill’s craft around the world, in stores from Conran to Comme des Garcons, SCP to Bon Marche, and hotels such as the deeply groovy Soho House (Shoreditch). But people also come down this twisting road for tea and cake, a perusal of the looms where you can witness the traditional yarns being woven into complex two-sided double cloths – technicians hovering (the small family firm employs around 30 people) – and to visit the well-stocked shop.
“We have always done what we do,” says Amanda Griffith who is a director of the firm and, with her husband Eifion Griffiths, third generation owner. “But the vogue for British-made things that are artisanal has grown. We have huge archives so it’s an obvious thing to keep reinventing, with new colours and softer yarns.”
I bought a couple of Melin Tregwynt cushions a few years back because they combined the colours I love – tan, grey, cream– in a modernist/retro weave that allowed me to dip my toe into pattern without being overwhelmed. What better way to remember a trip to Wales than with something traditional, authentic, hand-made and similarly easy on the eye?
One blanket later, my job was done. I believe Teddy feels that he couldn’t have chosen better himself.

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