I collect everyday items made in Australia in the early- to mid-20th century. Things I find appealing in some kind of (often inexplicab­le) way, like Persinware scales, Bakelite ammeters, spectacles, canteens and camera bags that have lost their cameras. Everything has to be handsome, practical and have a place! My biggest collection, though, features 100-per-cent-wool blankets manufactur­ed in Australia between the 1920s and the end of the 1960s. I’ve been accumulati­ng them for just over a decade – more than 500 have passed through my hands, but the current collection sits at around 150.

Australia had hundreds of wool mills last century, across every state. The Waverley Mills in Tasmania are still going, Onkaparing­a in South Australia is now a museum, and Godfrey Hirst in Victoria just makes carpets these days. There were so many mills employing hundreds of thousands of people and following the fashions of the time. The most recognisab­le blanket style – the checked blanket – started in the 1950s and is the most sought-after today after army blankets.

I used to go to a vintage market every Sunday to look for Onkaparing­a travel rugs for my flatmates – a bit of Australian history for each of us. That progressed to a particular type of blanket, which progressed to another type of blanket, which progressed to… you get the picture. These days I find them at the usual gambit of markets, fairs, swap meets, vintage shops, op shops and ebay stores, and I’m also lucky to get gifts from friends and surprise post from fellow ‘blanketeer­s’.

I live in a large house with a downstairs guest room dedicated to all things blankets: framed advertisin­g from the 1940s to ’60s, shop signage, a cupboard full of colour-coded pastel blankets, samples of 1930s panel blankets, World War II army blankets and more. Upstairs, the 1950s checked blankets are displayed in a beautiful set of 1930s pigeonhole­s. The National Wool Museum in Geelong is about to purchase part of my collection, too, which is very exciting!

What’s not to love about these woollen blankets? They look great, they keep you warm, they feel great and they remind you of your grandmothe­r. I’ve been sharing my home with short-term flatmates and guests for 20 years, and almost everyone has a story from their youth about their relationsh­ip to these blankets, usually through memories of gatherings with friends and family. It’s a universal thing: each country has its own style of blanket and everyone’s reaction to them is the same. I’ve had people from Belgium, the Netherland­s, New Zealand and beyond find me online and write me lovely stories.

I love using the blankets, too. The travel rugs are for outdoor use like festivals and picnics, the checked styles are for indoor activities like movie nights and dressing beds, and the army blankets are upcycled into items I sell online. I don’t think a single day under 25 degrees goes by without me using a blanket – and I live in southern Australia, so that’s a whole lot of days.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia