Cozy woolens and Ireland are somehow intertwined for many visitors to the country. Indeed, an authentic Irish woolen item is a treasured souvenir. Study the symbolism and history of the traditional Aran sweater, for instance. All those intricate stitches had a meaning for the women who knit them. Consider how traditional skills of knitting and weaving served as a cottage industry for generations and later how mills were established to help alleviate times of great poverty. Suddenly you see how Irish knitting and weaving tell the story of a people. If you would like to take a bit of this history and craft home with you, consider a visit to one of the following fine Irish woolen producers.
John Hanly & Co. Ltd. is located in the village Ballyartella. The store feature scarves, throws and Irish knitwear. Near the town of Nenagh, northeast of Limerick, the town may be a bit hard to find but the factory is about a ten-minute drive from Nenagh. John Hanly also carries table linens and other quality gifts, all from Irish manufacturers. John Hanly & Co was established in 1893. Along with scarves and throws, the store sells woolen blankets.
In Co. Donegal, Triona Design keeps alive the tradition of Donegal Tweed. Triona has won failte Ireland Awards as well as Donegal enterprise awards. Most of the fabric and garments sold at Triona are manufactured on site and are only offered for sale in the shop or at their website. Using wool from local sheep, dyed and spun locally, the colors reflect the countryside around Donegal. They sell capes, coats, and jackets along with Irish knitwear.
In Galway City, a trip to O’Maille’s offers a good chance to purchase an Aran sweater, a real Aran sweater. After all, Padraic O’Maille was the first in Ireland to trade in Aran sweaters, establishing a link with the Island women who sold their goods in the Galway Markets. While they have added new products over the years, their traditional sweaters and tweed are still the most sought out items. You can find O’Maille’s store in the pedestrian district of Galway.
Foxford Woollen Mills gives visitors a chance not only to shop for woolens but to see a bit of history and craft as you watch the skilled craftspeople at work producing their famous rugs, blankets, and tweeds. After a tour of the mills, stop at the Visitor Centre for a snack or home cooked meal before visiting the shop where you may purchase the goods produced at Foxford. The mills are located in the town of Foxford, Co. Mayo.
If you would prefer to pick up some yarn for your own creations, a stop at Kerry Woollen Mills in Beaufort, Killarney, Co. Kerry may be just the place. Here you might also be intrigued by the other pure wool goods, such as a luxurious capes and throws. The company was established over 300 years ago and many of the original buildings are still standing.
Certainly there are many other fine places to shop for traditional or contemporary Irish woolens, so if your tour of the country does not take you to one of the locations mentioned above, don’t despair! Searching out shops in other regions can be part of the fun of exploring a new place, and asking for local advice is always a great way to strike up a conversation. With a little curiosity, persistence, and sense of adventure, you can still return home with lovely Irish woolens as a warm memory of your time in Ireland.