Studio Donegal Tweed Milll

A while back we paid a much anticipated visit to the Studio Donegal Tweed Mill in Kilcar, County Donegal. I’ve been looking forward to visiting for a long time to see for myself the process of crafting the tweed blankets, cushions and scarves we sell.

The village of Kilcar is in Donegal’s Irish speaking area known as the Gaeltacht and set within the spectacular scenery of the dramatic Donegal coastline.

Slieve League Cliffs

This scenery provides endless inspiration for the designers at Studio Donegal.

Studio Donegal Scarf in Teal with White Fringe

We arrived a little early and they were just finishing off one of the throws in our order.

Craftswoman at Studio Donegal finishing a grey throw

This is the actual throw we would be taking home with us!

Studio Donegal Tweed Throw in Grey

The finished product

While we waited, we had a chance for a behind the scenes look at the process of making Donegal Tweed products.

 

Studio Donegal Tweed being woven on traditional loom

We met weaver, Kevin McGillicuddy, who kindly interrupted his work to give us a demonstration of the weaving process. His loom is driven by four foot pedals and requires the use of both hands in complete co-ordination with his feet. The looms when operated, are loud, yet not unpleasant with a rhythmical clicking, tapping and whirring.  There is something reassuring about listening to a machine that has been operated for over a hundred years and continues to produce countless miles of fabric.

Handweaving Loom at Studio Donegal.

The looms are very large and very old.

studio-donegal-weft-500-x-375

The warp is the vertical thread. The weft is the horizontal thread. The weft is woven through the warp to produce a piece of fabric (I don’t know how many times I had to check which was which).

Carding Machine at Studio Donegal Tweed Mill

The carding machine prepares the wool for spinning.

 

Yarn Mule at Studio Donegal This magnificent looking contraption is called a mule. It spins the yarn into thread.

Wool for making tweed throws at Studio Donegal in Kilcar

The yarn ends up looking like this.

Everything at Studio Donegal is manual and time-honoured. Kevin explained to us that the skill of weaving tends to run in families, indeed, he himself followed his uncle into the trade.

The feel of the tweed is so soft and luxurious and I love the way muted and vibrant colours are blended in keeping with the tone of the Donegal landscape.

My current favourite is the ‘Stormy Donegal Days’ throw with its fusion of colours so characteristic of a Donegal storm. The ever-changing sky, fading from charcoal to grey, occasionally illuminated with flashes of fork lightening. The deep hues of the squally sea, topped with white foam, and the emerald green grass, newly washed by torrential rain, bringing crystal clarity to the landscape when calm is restored.

Studio Donegal Throw - Donegal Days - Stormy - reflecting the colours of a typical stormy day in Donegal

 

selfie with Candy pink Donegal Tweed Scarf

This candy pink herringbone scarf just makes me happy. It really brightens up the dullest of days.

Studio Donegal Citrus Rose Throw with multi coloured pattern

So you see, at Gilmartin’s Craft Shop, we always favour handmade. We favour the products which tell a story about the cultural, historic and natural environment from which they are produced. Those have a meaning and value which cannot be found in products churned out of huge factories. Most importantly, they make people smile – the colour blends and the softness of the fabric just gives you that snuggly warm feeling. And you can’t beat that!

Stack of Studio Donegal Heriingbone scarves

You can see our full collection of Studio Donegal in our online store

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