Our History

The beginnings of Mourne Textiles lie in the incredible story of legendary Norwegian designer-maker Gerd Hay-Edie, who settled in the Mourne Mountains in 1947…

Gerd Hay-Edie: The Early Years

Born Gerd Bergersen in Trondheim, Norway in 1909, Gerd Hay-Edie studied design and hand-weaving in Oslo before travelling widely in Europe (including working as head designer at Dartington Hall in England and designing for the Welsh woollen mills in the early 1930s). In 1937 Gerd returned to Norway to design for the country’s largest textile mill, Nydalen. She was named Advisor to the Norwegian Home Industries and was instrumental in starting Roros Tweed and the Norwegian Tapestry Yarn Company before the age of 30: an early indication of her outstanding practical talent and leadership in the field of design.

India And The Far East

Following Gerd’s marriage to an Englishman (XX) in 1944, the young couple travelled through Shanghai, Calcutta and Hong Kong. In China, she learnt to weave on local looms with hand-twisted yarns and carried out extensive research on Chinese design. In Calcutta the Palace of the Maharajah of Gwalior commissioned her to design and produce 22 hand-woven rugs. This trip would prove highly influential on her subsequent career.

The Birth Of The Workshop

Moving to Ireland in 1947 due to was an accident of war (EXPLAIN?), by 1949 Gerd had established her own design workshop at Killowen on the side of the Mourne Mountains overlooking Carlingford Lough. Taking inspiration from the landscape that surrounded her, Gerd‘s initial intention was simply to design fabrics to be woven elsewhere by machine. But, unable to source the appropriate production, she trained some of the local farmers' children to hand-weave her designs in her own workshop, importing looms and textile machinery from Norway (even having one loom made to her own specifications by the local coffin maker).

Robin Day And Hille

Gerd's long-standing and successful relationship with the designer Robin Day began when he wrote to her saying, ‘Of all the rugs which I have seen, only yours have got the character enough as a background for my new designs of furniture to be exhibited at La Triennale de Milano 1951…’

The three black and grey rugs she exhibited with him resulted in a Silver Medal for both designers. This resulted in further collaborations, both for the 1951 Festival of Britain furniture manufacturer S Hille & Co for their new showroom in London’s Mayfair.

Mourne Check & Mourne Mist

Subsequently, Gerd developed two new upholstery fabrics that would prove to be pivotal: The Mourne Check and The Mourne Mist, which she produced for Hille's Robin Day furniture for a decade. As a result, Day's most iconic pieces were adorned with Gerd's impeccable fabrics.

Conran

In January 1954, Terence Conran commissioned Gerd to supply him with fabrics. This eventually resulted in The Blazer Design, marking a departure in her output. From 1953-1963 Mourne Textile's production had been predominantly furnishing upholstery fabrics and rugs but, from 1963-73, it increasingly became the weaving of apparel tweeds.

Sybil Connolly

In 1956, renowned Irish fashion designer Sybil Connolly asked Gerd to produce designs using her ‘Irish tweeds with a difference’ for the catwalk. Gerd produced three different weights of tweeds: The Irish Basic, The Emphasize and The Open Weave (later known as the Mended Tweed). This unique weave of rough, heavy spun and thin smooth white Irish yarns garnered press acclaim, with fashion journalist Anne Scott-James hailing Gerd’s ‘Completely new tweed’. (‘The threads are enormous, the weave as clumsy as bad darning, but the fabric that looks so primitive is cunningly subtle and soft.’)

The Shaggy Dog

For Sybil Connolly's next collection, Gerd developed her tweeds further, in deep earthy shades highlighted with lurex gold threads. ‘I can honestly say that I never believed that such an exciting effect could be achieved in a hand-loomed fabric!’ announced Connolly herself, while The Daily Mail announced it was ‘undoubtedly… the pick of the show’. Speaking in the Sunday Times, Gerd outlined her modus operandi: ‘I follow fashion in newspapers and magazines. Then I let it flow until you realise that out of the present designs there follows the next development. For me, out of the past flows the future.’

Sheila Mullaly

The Dublin-based dress designer Sheila Mullally visited Mourne in 1961 where, struck by the inspirational landscape, she asked Gerd to develop the bestselling Fuchsia Tweed. Gerd’s tweed fabrics proved a hit with the American market that Sheila had established, resulting in a decade-long partnership.

Liberty

In December 1966, Gerd walked into the Liberty store and, without an appointment, convinced the buyer for the textile department to take orders of her fabric designs. He was particularly impressed with Gerd's colour choices, and Liberty went on to become a loyal customer of Mourne Textiles, ordering dark, rich colours for winter and bright spring colours for summer for many years.

Gerd also designed and developed couture tweeds, using Irish yarns in jewel bright colours, for the House of Lachasse as well as Hardy Amies in London.