Saturday, 15 October 2016

Handwoven in Ireland


In September we spent a month travelling around Ireland.  It was a wonderful journey taking in prehistoric sites, the islands and the towns of Kilkenny, Cork, Galway, Dublin and Youghal where my husbands family came from,  Youghal came to international fame in the early 1950's as the setting of the John Huston film, Moby Dick which was produced in 1954. A public house overlooking the harbour was used in the shooting of the film. It has a display of  photographs taken of the cast and crew during the making of the film. John Huston used the bar as his headquarters to plan each day's filming. Youghal's nineteenth century lighthouse is also shown in the film.

Youghal harbour


As a handweaver, I am always on the lookout for outlets selling handwoven products. I love seeing what other weavers are producing.  I would like to share one of these outlets with you this month - others will follow in future posts.

In Dublin near the National Museum and just around the corner from St Stephen's Green is Cleo.


The large sign on the wall proclaimed handknits and handweavers so I had to explore.


In Ireland, the interest in handcrafted Irish goods was stimulated by the opening of The Country Shop in St Stephen's Green in December 1930 by Muriel Gahan.  This was the start of a revival of traditional Irish crafts and brought the variety of Irish handmade wares to the capital.  It was not the first shop to sell Irish craft but it was a non-profit making venture to support the traditional craft workers in rural Ireland. Unfortunately this closed in 1978.

Cleo has been around for 70 years.  It is a family business that the grandmother of Sarah Joyce the current owner, established in 1936. Initially Cleo's sold children’s clothes but in the post-war years Sarah’s grandmother realized there was an increasing number of tourists, especially Americans, visiting Dublin and she started to stock hand-knitted sweaters from the Aran Islands for the new influx of visitors to buy as souvenirs of their visits to Ireland.

Look at the beautiful railings.

Railings outside the shop


The present shop is a riot of colour as you can see from the window display.



Here is a close up of a shawl displayed outside - just the thing for the colder weather.

The lovely shawl - so beautiful to touch.

The shop has a number of handweavers who supply items for sale. Beth Moran (Ballytoughey Loom) is based on Clare Island and makes naturally dyed rugs from her own sheep, and a wide range of shawls, blankets and silk scarves and ties. Also Liz Christie, Co. Monoghan, Deirdre Duffy (Wild Cocoon), Máire Ní Taigh, Galway and Helena Ruuth who is sadly no longer weaving.
The shop is a treasure trove and piled high with interesting items, including wool. The colours glow like jewels and there are some fascinating items to be found.

My interest, as you know, is for handwoven belts and I was delighted to find a display of handwoven Crios.


The Crios that I bought in Dublin

This was woven by John McAtasney who is in his 80's. He started weaving in 1948 at the age of 14.

This is a sturdy strap and is woven using Irish wool from Donegal and Kerry woollen mills with the coarse quality of Irish wool.  It is 6 cm (2.5 inches) in width and  190.5 cm (75 inches) in length. There are four plaits on each end about 12.5 cm  (5 inches) in length. It is a plain weave, warp faced band.

Of course it does not need to be used as a belt. Here is another of his Crios used as a guitar strap.


Here is one of John's crios used as a guitar strap.

I wanted to find out more about John who specializes in handwoven blankets, damask linen and criosanna.

I found a short YouTube video of John McAtasney weaving on a loom in the Ballydugan weaver's house in the Ulster Folk Museum.

https://youtu.be/D1mKWyRCnXE

He even has a dedicated poem!  See it at  http://www.craigavonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/rev/mcelroykscutchmill.html

I feel very privileged to own a Crios handwoven by a such a fascinating master weaver.

I found this shop by accident as I was leaving the National Museum.  If you are in Dublin, do go to 18 Kildare Street for a refreshing and colourful encounter with genuine Irish crafts.

I will be visiting Ireland again in future blogs to tell you about my textile adventures.

Susan J Foulkes

2 comments:

  1. It was truely a joy to come across your blog as I spotted the image of the 'Cleo' blanket. Cleo's was my first ever customer as I started my career in craft 30 years ago. Kitty Joyce, Sarah's late mother, was a friend and mentor to be over the years. Thank you for writing this great article, I will treasure it.

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    1. How lovely to hear from you. I discovered this shop by accident and I wanted to make sure that that other visitors to Dublin know about it. Its history is fascinating. I love Irish craft, particularly weaving. I will be posting another blog at the beginning of February about my travels in Ireland.

      Susan

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