Long before planning my 44Clovers Dyeing to Knit Ireland Tour, I was planning my Irish Birthday Trip. And it included sourcing Irish wool of course! I found Sandra Coote of Crafts of Ireland2 online and saw that she raises Roscommon sheep- a thought to be extinct wool breed. After shooting off a very excited email, she replied swiftly with “of course I’ll save a fleece for you!” I was elated!!
On my 3rd day in Ireland I drove up from my friend’s home in Lucan straight north to Virginia, Cavan and found Sandra at her homestead. These lovely wheels and multiple tables set for tea is what I saw first when entering the building off her home where she offers a multitude of fiber workshops. I was in heaven.
Check out these two spinning wheels. Like, really look at them. Notice the harp shaped treadle. Both flax wheels made by the same maker. And I want to tell you more but I cannot remember. I can tell you that there is a 3rd by the same maker but a bit more embellished living in a dusty auction house in Ennis going for €5,000- way more than it should be. And I know this because I first saw this 3rd elusive wheel 10 years ago. Seeing these siblings was a trip and very unexpected.
Sandra and I had so much fun talking about spinning wheels and sheep pedigree and the history behind the Galway breed. Which starts with the Roscommon breed, which she rises and generously gave me some to bring home. I’ve carded it up already and it’s LOOOOOVELY!
If you’re in the area of Virginia, County Cavan and would like learn about fiber arts, (this could include needle felting, crochet, knitting, natural dyeing, spinning, spinning flax to linen- reach out to Sandra. That reminds me! There’s also a couple in County Tyrone, growing and processing flax to linen which is now available for purchase! They are Mallon Linen. I’ll be purchasing some myself for spinning soon!
Visiting with Sandra was just one of the first visits and connections I’d make that encompasses both a deep interest and passion of mine AND that is on the itinerary for my October Irish Tour.
As I was on my way to Cavan to meet Sandra, I realized that the Hill of Tara was on the way. Not knowing anything about it, I knew I needed to check it out. The first spot my GPS brought me to was this holy well. Apparently there are other sites dotted around the Hill of Tara but this one took up all my allotted time. Stumbling upon holy wells in Ireland is fast becoming a favorite pastime.
I’ve gotta say, visiting Ireland in March was…. gosh, I still don’t have proper words. But I’ll try. Rich, unexpected, moving, disorienting, stark and striking, Stunning and so so welcoming.
I investigated an entry point to this structure but thankfully noticed the ground surrounding it is flooded. Part of a wall, I couldn’t quite figure out it’s purpose. But I’m certain is has/had one. In either case, stunning and mystical.
Such a treat finding these beautifully preserved and often ancient holders of the Irish landscape. I cannot wait to see what I’ll stumble upon my next trip!
Something not captured here is woolgathering. I noticed several tufts of wool caught on the barbed wired lining the road. I collected some of course but while this was happening I had a sparkling conversation with Mary who owns the field beyond who happened to be speed walking past with their friend. Our whole conversations happened in a few of her wide strides. A bit of a drive by greeting, welcome, advice, all in the space of an about a minute. There’s often a joke from outsiders about “Irish Time” but really, Irish people have shit to do and they will keep doing it as they also welcome you.
After my visit with Sandra in Cavan, I headed North, across the boarder to Comber, just south of Belfast for a very long awaited reunion with a dear friend and his lovely family.
There is something so very sacred about picking up with a friend where you left off even though you haven’t laid eyes on each other in 5, 10, 25, years. Again, I still don’t have words for how much spending time with both my old friends, one in Comber and one in Lucan means to me. I am blessed.