Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Studio Donegal

When I last posted we were on the airplane headed to Ireland. Finally Here are the photos!

Steeking update:  That steeking did not go well.  I am not sure I am wholly happy with the sweater yet. After my little taking of scissors and a first attempt to build a steek sandwhich was a failure I put the sweater in my bag and left it there for a good two weeks.  Finally a couple of days after Christmas I pushed myself to make some progress.  I will get back to the topic later.

Ireland:  We landed in Cork to a very stormy and foggy dusk.  You might be wondering why we chose to fly into Cork so far away from our Kilcar destination.  I have friends in Cork and planned a couple of nights with them on our way back to the UK.  Thus chose Cork as our entrance and exit airport.  

David made the trip possible.  Not only was he my driver but he took all of the photos!  With him on photography duty I had the opportunity to listen to Tristan tell me all about the yarn making, weaving and Kilcar area.  Honestly if David had not been on the job I am sure there would hardly be any photos for you to see!

We drove from Cork up to Athlone Where we stayed in an aging but quaint hotel that was once a masonic lodge.  Although we really saw nothing of the countryside on the road as it was dark we did smell what we later discovered was the smell of peat fires.  While we stopped for gasoline we saw piles of peat bricks for sale.  Peat really does smell nice in a fire.  
As David and I were both jet-lagged we were up and ready to get on the road by 4:30 am.  we drove further north to Donegal city by day break.  The roads were small and there was very little freeway driving.  We stopped into a coffee shop for breakfast and a walk around the village.  This was a photo of a particularly lovely pub across the street from the cafe.

Finally we were ready to head to Kilcar for our meeting with Tristan and to see Studio Donegal and the  Donegal Tweed Mill.  As there are so many photos I am going to break this bit up into two posts.  This first one will include the photos from Studio Donegal.  Studio Donegal is a small but powerful mix of a business located just off the main street in the small village of Kilcar.  The building is quite large but with hidden treasures that Tristan and his parents before him have created into a lovely business.  When you walk into Studio Donegal you might think it is just a little gift shop.  Two rooms are filled with knitwear, woven blankets, tweed clothing and yarn.
 The front of Studio Donegal.  The shop is located in the lower level, Tristan's office area and the area where are yarn ships from is located in the upper front right windows.  upstairs through the left windows are where clothing design takes place.  The weavers do their work in the back of the building on the second floor.  Down in the basement Tristan has put together a lovely spinning mill from surplus or out of use equipment that he has put back into working use.
Sadly David did not get any good shots of Tristan but I found one on the Studio Donegal Webpage.

A sweet little hat made from the Snow Shade of Soft Donegal Tweed.
Who doesn't love a v necked cable sweater?  It does look great with the woven tweed flat cap.

These hats are knitted from the homespun yarns we carry.  Each skein of yarn is unique and made from area sheep and spun in the mill onsite.
Nice warm knitted socks.
David and I got to watch one of the weavers work on a throw very like this one.  They called the pattern zebra.
A wall of Aran tweed yarn.

Tristan said that these are the are the reason Studio Donegal started milling the homespun yarn.  These gloves show the lovely long stripe variation of the yarn and are long wearing.

A woven scarf.
Tristan has put together a nice group of clothing designers, seamstresses and commercial sewing equipment to produce jackets like this.

The hand mechanized multi-harness looms were fascinating to see.  Four looms filled the space.  If you would like to have your own guided tour of the shop, spinning and weaving you can watch a video created by Studio Donegal here:

The Mill Area: A carding machine sat off in one corner of the basement. Wool went in and nice lengths of roving came out.

The machines below took washed wool and turned it into narrow strips of roving ready to go into the spinning machines. Uncarded fleece went into the line, was carded once and then carded again at right angles.  The machine then divided a wide band of wool batt it into narrow strips. These strips of pre-yarn were then agitated back and forth in such a way that they became slightly felted.  the resulting 'cheese wheels' of pencil roving looked very knitable even at this stage.

The fleece goes into the machine at this end

Wheels turn while the fleece is carded twice and then divided into narrow strips

Those narrow strips look like yarn but they are not twisted yet. They were wrapped onto rollers and agitated back and forth to slightly felt each narrow band.  At the top you can see early small cheese wheels of this roving being rolled up.

The cheese wheels (they are lined up along the tubes at th top of this spinning machine) were then twisted into single ply yarn on the spinning machines bobbins.

I am hand spinning a finished a piece of roving into a length of yarn.  When I was done I had a bunch of lengths of finger spun yarn in my skirt pockets.

The photo below is a warping machine.  lengths or yarn are reeled on in preparation for the weaving looms upstairs.


  1. Great post! I now want to move to Donegal!

  2. I love those cabled hats made with the homespun yarn! Looks like a very interesting tour.

  3. Very interesting post. Thanks for letting us join in.