Donegal, the last tweed weavers
35 images Created 3 Jul 2018
Donegal is synonymous of moving landscapes of bog and skies that never stop where clouds, water and land can not be split. It is the best kept secret of Ireland, with his Gaelic culture, folk music and lighthouses perched on cliffs sharp as knives, but it’s most celebrated heritage is the handwoven Donegal Tweed, a rough woolen cloth featuring mixed flecked colors, famous in the world along with the Scottish Harris Tweed. The only real difference between the two is the design, with Donegal featuring a more standard and universal design compared to its Harris Tweed counterpart. The fundamental characteristic of Donegal Tweed is its woolen construction with a mixed flecked design. What makes special this high-end tweed, is its unique quality and colors inspired by the dramatic beauty of the Atlantic, the changeable sky, the wilderness and the flora and fauna of the nearby hills and mountains. The process of making it is unlike any other because here the artisans have been perfecting the craft of producing tweed for centuries using local materials available in their surroundings to produce high-end caps, suits, vests. Donegal is known for its moderate climate that supports local sheep, blackberries, fuchsia, whins and moss. Using these resources, artisans created some of the world’s highest quality tweed and towards the end of the eighteenth century The Royal Linen Manufacturers of Ulster distributed approximately six thousand flax wheels for spinning wool and sixty looms for weaving to various Donegal homesteads. For over a century the villages of Ardara and the nearby Kilkar were at the forefront of the production of handwoven Donegal Tweeds and local farmers supplemented their income by hand weaving tweed from the rough homespun woollen yarn, which had been spun by the women from the indigenous blackface sheep. However, in the sixties of the last century the arrival of modern machinery decimated the indigenous industry and with long-term government neglect of the industry and poorly targeted international promotion, this once flourishing industry has dwindled to few authentic manufacturers. Today the last weawers, young women like Cindy Grahamor seasoned weawers like Eddie Doherty, struggle with courage and determination to preserve this unique tradition of hand weaving also because the international market for luxury Irish heritage products is an international success story. Donegal is promoted by Irish Tourist Board as the the coolest place on earth, so the weawers are right when they say, "When you buy a yard of Donegal tweed, it's not just a yard, it's a lot of Irish history you're buying.