Traditional Carriers: The Welsh Shawl

on October 9, 2012

Wales has a rich babywearing history deeply embedded in their shawl traditions. Much like the tartans of Scotland, the pure woollen flannel shawls, or siôl magu, with their twisted fringes and varied patterns were available in a variety of patterns depending on your location. 1

Babywearing was often referred to as “cwtch” (pronounced “kootch”) in Wales, which in simple terms (although there is no completely literal translation), can be translated to mean to cuddle your baby close. To do so, a large shawl was procured. This was quite large, but very practical as it kept both mother and baby warm through the harsh British winter.

The traditional carry did not appear to keep bothhands free. Worn over the shoulder, it allowed the full use of the opposite arm and partial use of the second arm and hand. Like all safe babywearing practices, the baby was held high, chin up and visible to the mother at all times.

Evelyn Hobbs of Tonmawr, Neath, nursing a baby ‘Welsh fashion’, c.1920s 2

Sketch of Swansea market by E. Hull, 1871 (watercolour) 3

The following video documennts the wool/flannel industry in Wales. It has a lovely account of the Welsh Shawl and some examples. Enjoy!

References / Acknowledgements