Developing a new yarn takes a long time. We work closely with The Fibre Co. founders, Daphne and Iain, as each aspect of the yarns are painstakingly developed. There is a lot of cross-Atlantic mail back and forth, as well as lots of Skype meetings each week. Last year, around this time, we were in the process of getting mill samples of what would be our new fall yarn, Arranmore.
Arranmore is a blend of merino wool, cashmere, and silk. The base color of the yarn is the merino, but the mill only stocks silk in natural white, and cashmere in natural fawn. We were pouring over color samples of 100% wools from the mill to try to imagine what they would look like with those undyed fibers added. Dyeing the cashmere and silks to match each base shade, once we even were able to decide on those, was too costly an endeavor and would make the yarn unaffordable to the public. We pressed onwards, and by the fall we had chose what would be our final line-up of colors. We ordered a sample run of one of the colors so that we could finally touch and feel the yarn. The sample arrived, after much agonizing waiting, and...it was not exactly what we wanted. Because the silk and cashmere were so light, they really lightened the whole overall look of the yarn, and made it look to "busy." We knew this was a potential risk, so we had purposefully chosen a color that was medium-dark. We knew we had to fix it, somehow, for the darker shades. We were going to have to get creative, and in order to be creative, we knew we had to be there at the mill, sitting at a table with Norah, the mill's in-house colorist.
So, we decided at the eleventh hour to all meet in Donegal for two days of meetings to finally decide on how to make the colors perfect. Thus begins our amazing whirlwind trip to Ireland last December.
Myself, Kate (who is sitting a couple rows back so she had her own row!), and Meghan flew into Dublin early on a Saturday morning. I proceeded to steel myself to drive, on the wrong side of the road, from Dublin to Donegal at 7:00 am - when it's still pitch black! Somehow we made it, after getting lost once on tiny roads, and then stopping for a proper map at a gas station. The drive was amazingly beautiful, and I wish we could have taken a couple days to do it.
We arrived in the town of Killybegs on Saturday afternoon. We walked around town and had a very tasty meal at Mrs. B's Coffee House. Yum!
Wanting to waste no time, we hit the road again and drove out to the countryside while we still had a bit of light. We headed to the Glencolmcille Folk Village, even though we were fairly sure they would be closed in the winter. On the way we passed the Glencolmcille Woollen Mills outlet store, and of course, we all bought sweaters.
It was starting to get dark, so we headed on to the folk village, which of course was closed. We did get to nose around a bit, and it's definitely on the list of things to do if we ever make it back during the summer months.
Glencolmcille is an amazing little rural area on the coast of Doneagal County. As the sun set, we found ourselves in a small town, and decided to be brave and duck into a little tiny pub that seemed to be the only thing, other than a crossroads, that made the town the town. It was here that we saw our first peat fire burning. The smell was unmistakable, and nothing like a wood fire, and less acrid than a coal fire. It was, not surprisingly, earthy and it did take a bit of getting used to! We had wandered into an old-man bar, and I think we made quite a stir. One of the two gentlemen at the bar struck up a conversation with us about a home-town boy who was now a Pennsylvania senator, Brendan Boyle. Small world!
The next day we headed off to Slieve League in the morning, after another hearty breakfast at Mrs. B's (where we became regulars over the next few days). Slieve League, which is according to the locals way more impressive than the cliffs of Mohr, were beautiful, even if it was a drizzle-y, cloudy day. We didn't mind at all! We parked at the bottom of the cliffs and walked up, passing many curious sheep along the way.
As we headed back to Killybegs, we passed a sign on the road for handknit sweaters. Many of you who read our blog regularly will remember when we posted about our visit with Kathleen Meehan. It was magical!
Kathleen and her husband were incredibly hospitable, though surely this time of year we were unexpected guests! She told us all about her work with the various mills and shops around Ireland, and her home and online business. Of course, we all bought sweaters.
If you follow the road from Kathleen's cottage for a while you pass by some lovely homes, and these shaggy cows whom we had to stop to say hello to. Eventually you end up at a magical beach.
That evening we had supper at our hotel, and enjoyed some fine local spirits.
The next day we were up and about again, this time heading north towards Ardara. We stopped in at Triona and had a nice visit, and of course we bought something. This time we opted for the beautiful woolen scarves they weave.
That evening we decided to head into town. We were on a mission to find some live music, but as it was wintertime things seemed to be a bit slow. We went to one pub in Donegal town which was known for live music, but instead we just hung out with a bunch of (highly inebriated) local gents. They did do us the service of breaking out some instruments from the back, and one of them had a tin whistle, literally, up his sleeve.
Ireland at Christmastime is completely magical, and they seem to refer to the entire month of December as "Christmas." There were lights everywhere, and so many people out in the evenings shopping and visiting. Donegal town center was breathtaking! We visited as many shops as we could, and finished off our mini-vacation with a fancy meal at the Market House Restaurant.
Our next two days in Ireland were spent in meetings with the mill, which Meghan will fill you in on later this week, and then a final night spent in Dublin before flying home. It really was a whirlwind trip, and one of the best I've been on!