This name is derived from the inventor, Thomas Blanket, who in 1340 first set up his looms in Bristol. They are usually sold in pairs, but should be divided and the edges "neatened" with blanket stitching, either worked with a rug-needle or a crotchet-needle. The best quality run about 35/- per pair. Those made at Witney have a coloured border, and are very thick and fluffy, the wool on the surface being combed up by teasles.
Perhaps the softest of any are the Austrian blankets, costing £3 a pair. These are pure white, have no border, and are generally bound at the top and bottom with a coloured ribbon. Cashmere blankets are also very soft and light. Witney blankets, although much thicker than cloth ones (as the wool is pulled loosely on the surface by the use of teasles), do not wear better, as in their case much of the surface fluff is either lost or flattened in washing. Good cloth blankets average from 17/- to 20/- per pair. Small ones, for single beds, can be bought for 10/- per pair. Brown ones are sold from 2/6 the pair, red ones, being of better quality, are higher in price; and large single flannelette ones cost about 2/3 each. Union blankets are a mixture of cotton and wool, and are therefore harsher to the touch. Welsh blankets are light in weight and very durable; they, too, are somewhat rough, and usually cost about 21/- the pair. Brown-paper perforated blankets are warm; and for the very poor even newspapers stitched together, with a few holes bored, add greatly to the warmth of the sleeper.
New blankets being more porous are healthier than old ones. These latter serve admirably for underblankets, and when too decrepit for that use they make capital floor and paint cloths. It is usual when purchasing to allow three for each bed. Where means are limited, it is an economy to buy two small blankets and one large one to tuck well in outside the smaller ones.
Thin places should be darned with wool of the same colour : turning the two selvedges to the middle lengthens their existence.
Now and then they should be shaken in the open air, as too frequent washing is apt to make them shrink and become hard. When out of use during the summer months, after being washed they should be folded neatly, sprinkled between the folds with small pieces of camphor, bitter apple, or Russia-leather parings, sewn in an old linen sheet or large piece of holland, leaving no gaps through which the ubiquitous moth can enter.
Camphor or cedar-wood chests are safe keeping-places, but unfortunately so expensive that they are not within the reach of every one.
Cotton is undoubtedly to be recommended for this purpose; it is cheaper, warmer, and more healthy than linen for those subject to colds and rheumatism. Linen, however, is very durable, and sheets made of it can be cut down the middle, and the two selvedges sewn together to form a new centre when worn; whereas cotton usually wears equally thin all over.
Unbleached twill cotton is very strong, and, after being washed a few times, becomes white, and remains a better colour than those sheetings which were white when purchased.