What started as little seed of a thought in my tent this past August, has blossomed into the reality of this journey.
While teaching at the Medomak FiberArts Retreat this past summer for a week, in the evening I would unwind by reading Irish Aran: History, Tradition, Fashion by: Vawn Corrigan. I became increasingly interested in Aran knitting. I’ve known how to knit cables for a number of years but I had never connected the dots from their origins to my own ancestry and to my craft of choice. I was enthralled and just wanted to know more. I also had a class idea brewing for the Medomak 2023.
After arriving home and recounting the events of the week with my husband, he suggested I go back to Ireland for my 45th birthday. Delighted and agreeable, I begun planning. I knew I wanted to focus on aran knitting and my own family research. My Great-Grandfather on my maternal side was a Scanlon and our family oral history is that he always said his family came from Clare. I’ve been trying to suss out this mystery for a number of years and thought this time, I really make the trip a feature of this explorations and of aran knitting.
Úna McDonagh is quoted often in the Irish Aran book. She lives on Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands. I knew I would like to go stay on Inisheer for a a few days, do some dye experiments and hopefully meet up with Úna and chat about her knitting.
I found her online via KnittingTours.com. I wrote up an email and sent it off to Knitting Tours wondering if it might actually reach Úna.
One day later, I received a very warm reply from Anne of Knitting Tours saying of course she’d pass my note onto Úna AND would I like to put together a 44Clovers Knitting Tour and even possibly teach while on tour.
I’ve been on cloud nine ever since as I’ve been planning this tour with Ann and Maeve. I’ve spoken with Úna on the phone and we’ve had a nice chat and agreed to meet up in March and talk knitting. In the mean time while I was waiting to hear back from Ann the second time and had not heard from Úna herself yet, my gave off the favorite sound of the “cha-ching!” A yarn order came through and it was to go to Úna of Inisheer! A famous Irish Aran knitter buying MY yarn?!?! It was just too much. It dyed with madder and she was very interested in it as it is a historical plant/color used on the Aran Islands and Ireland.
While on my October 2021 trip, I did find a tiny bit, like a few inches of wild matter and was able to get a very good dye from that bit. I was so pleased and so curious as to find more some how next time. And as it happens, October is a fine time to harvest it. Now speaking of Octobers…
I am so excited to welcome you on a virtual tour of what our tour will look like through these next 9 posts. Here we begin with Day 1: Arrival in Dublin. I’ve got a few intriguing and sights to show you to get your focused on what makes some of Ireland’s craft from ancient to contemporary just so extraordinary.
If flying into Dublin Airport, you will be met by an Irish Tourism representative who will transfer you to your hotel. At 1pm, we’ll meet with our Irish accredited tour manager/guide in the hotel lobby who will give a synopsis of the 10 day tour ahead. We’ll then begin the day’s sightseeing with a visit to the award-winning Little Museum of Dublin. Set in a Georgian townhouse, this award-winning quirky museum along with its informative and funny tour guides, will take you on a journey of Irish history and nostalgia over the last century. Next, it’s onto Trinity College Library & the Book of Kells Exhibition. The campus is a masterpiece of architecture and is recognised as one of the world’s outstanding centres of learning – the alma mater of Swift, Wilde and Beckett. This evening we’ll enjoy a group welcome dinner at our hotel. Hyatt Centric Hotel, Dublin
I’ve been to Dublin a number of times and still have never visited the Little Museum of Dublin. I am really looking forward to this intimate tour.
One of my favorite things about designing this tour for you was thinking of not just some of my favorite places to share with you but why. As my work for 44Clovers focuses on plant dyes for dyeing my wool yarns, the whole story of where color comes from and how we as humans have used it and how it’s evolved is of huge interest to me. The Book of Kells is a shining example of how color was obtained and used to create these Illuminated manuscripts.