The Story Of Our Bed Linen

with Helen McAlinden & Jen Murray


It’s a sunny day by the river in Foxford and Jen Murray, Head of Retail & Buying, is joined in the mill by designer Helen McAlinden to discuss some of the inspiration behind Foxford bed linen. One of Ireland’s foremost designers, Helen has worked with the team at Foxford for over twenty years. Together, Helen and Jen design and source every product sold in the store and online. Join them as they discuss why, this year more than ever, the bed linen collection is so close to their hearts.


Helen McAlinden Jen Murray Foxford Bed Linen Design


Helen: “When I started working for Foxford, over 20 years ago, Joe brought me in to revamp the product. I designed a very small collection of throws in a minimalist, modern idiom, which was different from anything that they’d produced before. The natural development for Foxford was in other products you could use for a bedroom, so that’s when we began to develop the sheets.

A lot of people talk about thread count but not a lot of people talk about the quality of the actual yarn. We only use combed cotton, it’s long fibre cotton and much smoother. We did some initial and careful sourcing in northern Portugal, since it has a long history of textile production, and eventually found two or three sources that we still use today.

The prints are developed by me and my team here at Foxford, and the colour is a big thing for us. We look at trends, not only in fashion but also in paint and interiors, for inspiration.”


Helen McAlinden Jen Murray Foxford Bed Linen Design

Jen: “We also draw a lot on the success of previous collections and learn from each one.”

Helen: “One of our conscious, and unconscious, sources of inspiration has always been nature. The leaf print has been so good, and we have a new one called The Fern. Toile du jouy has also always been in our DNA. My design aesthetic is clean and cool and simple, but a teeny bit of vintage in a new way is always

Jen: “I love the green leaf with the mini kisses or the criss-cross print, I just love the contrasting prints, because it’s something you don’t see other brands doing very regularly. You don’t often see groups of different prints that complement one another.”

Helen: “Yes, I think that’s one of the things that make us unique because we don’t design prints in isolation, we design groups of prints, it’s part of the DNA of our brand.”


Helen McAlinden Jen Murray Foxford Bed Linen Design


Helen: “That’s what we say. It’s not intended to be all one thing, it’s a mix and match. And that’s where the development of our sleepwear is going to be so much part of the brand as well. We try to keep our core colours consistent. Yes, we do add a new one every so often, but this gives our customers the chance to build their wardrobe.”

Jen: “Or to freshen it up, and fall in love with an old Foxford set all over again.”

Helen: “Exactly. The pandemic has led to people being much more focused on their homes. We spend one-third of our lives in bed, and good sleep can enhance the quality of our life. That means a comfortable bed and really good quality sheets.”

Jen: "One of the first things I think about when buying bed linen is print, and what’s going to go with the rest of the room, but that’s what we do well. The prints are usually quite subtle but they still tie in with other prints that you may already have in the room."

Helen: "One of the things that we always need to remember is that the bed linen developed from the woven product here in the mill, it developed from the throws. Every time we develop a bed linen range, we have a Foxford throw too. The texture is so important, the mohair throw looks good at the bottom of a bed. People want to snuggle into a throw as a finishing touch. Foxford started with a history of giving employment to this community – and we work in a wonderful old building which gives inspiration to everything we do."

Jen: “We’re privileged really.”


Helen McAlinden Jen Murray Foxford Bed Linen Design


Helen: "You feel the history of the place. Even though we’re now a contemporary lifestyle brand, we are still very sensitive to the environment in which we’re working. I mean we’re here, listening to the noise of the looms underneath us, and it’s inspiring. And I still love writing the weave plans, it’s at the very core of what we do."

Jen: "Do you think you’ll ever revisit one of the original throws?"

"I’m more interested in the potential of the brand as we move on, but sometimes it’s good to look back to move forward."

Foxford woollen mills