Sunday, 18 April 2010

Introducing: Irish Woolen

My name is Caroline and both my mother Eleanor and I make up Irish Woolen.
We live in Dublin and between myself (the internet addict) and my Mum (the knitting genius) we run our little Etsy shop in our spare time.

Knitting is a skill that has been in our family for a long time. My granny passed the skill on to my mother and she began knitting in her teens. At first it began as a hobby but Mum quickly became very skilled at knitting and began producing the sweaters and cardigans for Blarney Woollen Mills in Cork. For years she continued to knit for Blarney Woollen even after my Dad's job moved the family to Dublin but these days she simply knits for pleasure.

When we were young Mum would always make clothes for us. We had wool hats, gloves, scarves, bonnets, sweaters and cardigans. Back then we really did not appreciate the time and effort that went into all the clothes Mum made for us and certainly never saw how lucky we were to have authentic, one of a kind items to wear. In fact I remember having lots of arguments with my poor Mum when I didn't want to wear a certain wool jumper, arguing that it was 'itchy at the neck'.
Thankfully the days of itchy wool jumpers are a thing of the past & nowadays there is a wonderful collection of soft acrylic wools which are lovely and soft against the skin and machine washable (ahem, thank you Mum for hand washing all those 100% wool sweaters back in the day and I'm sorry for dropping orange ice pop on my favourite white cardigan!!!)

Being a knitting addict, Mum hates to sit down in the evening without a pair of knitting needles in her hands. After a while we have all become oblivious to the sound of the needles but it is funny to see visitor's reactions, they seem to be mesmerised by the speed at which she knits. With leftover wool she began making little baby items that she would give as gifts to family members and friends who had new babies. In our teenage years Mum taught us all to knit and despite successfully learning how to follow a pattern, none of us have ever come close to Mum's standard of knitting. The complexity of the Aran stitching is still beyond all our capabilities - we are happy to leave that to the expert!
As grandkids began to appear and our own friends started to have children of their own, they would constantly request little knitted items for their babies. The spare room cupboards housed many of Mum's little creations and it seemed such a pity not to have them on display. More importantly we were running out of space! I found myself taking pictures of the cardigans and emailing them on to friends who were looking for special baby gifts.
It was around this time I came across Etsy and thought it would be the perfect place to sell the little knits. People who shop on Etsy understand the nature of handcrafting and there is not the same pressure and urgency that can be found on other online stores. Ultimately this is what made the decision for us as knitting is a hobby and a way of relieving stress so selling in a pressurised environment would never compliment that.
Since joining Etsy we've also met a great group of artists who have been really inspiring and encouraging. So Mum and I came to the agreement that I would take up knitting again and in return she would embrace the internet and learn more about Etsy and the online world in general. Mum has since come to grips with email and I have made some of the little baby hats that are listed in our shop. My good friend Allyson is a professional photographer and offered to take some photos with a lovely baby model - which has made a great difference to the overall appearance of our shop.
March was a great month for us with many American shoppers buying our shamrock sweaters for Saint Patrick's Day. It was incredibly exciting the day we sold our first item and I know Mum is thrilled that her little knits are being sent to various locations across the globe. Some of our buyers have sent pictures of their children wearing their knitted sweaters and hats on Saint Patrick's Day which in itself is really rewarding.

Knitting clothes seem to be back in fashion in a big way for both adults and children alike and with lots of new styles and types of wool available it is an exciting time to be creating with wool. The traditional Aran handmade knitting style is a dying skill that is not passed down through generations in the same way as it was in the past. This makes is all the more rewarding for us to be able to produce these original and authentic Irish items of clothing.

Keep an eye on the blog for our upcoming knitting tutorial where we'll be explaining how to make a peak cap for baby...
You can see a selection of our knits in our shop, on our blog and we would love some fans for our brand new facebook site!!


  1. Well done Caroline and Eleanor, fabulous knits and lovely article. I must say when growing up I did not appreciate the unique knits and dresses my mom used to dress us in but am finding myself returning to these skills, have fanned you, hearted you etc, Margo (lilabelledesign)

  2. Seeing the little ones in your clothes makes such a difference! Your shop is looking amazing and I wish you and your mum much success with it! :)

  3. Gorgeous work ladies. Your shop is just beautiful! :)

  4. Delighted to read about this mother-daughter enterprise! Great article and beautiful knits...making me wish my teenagers were little ones so I could buy some of your creations!!

  5. Thank you so much for all the lovely comments we really appreciate it. Really happy to get such great feedback on the shop :)

  6. What a great mother daughter story! This piece is really lovely :) well done, and I love your knits, as soon as my sis pops that baby out I'll be heading to your shop!

  7. Awww, what a great article! As a knitter myself, I know only too well the dedicated work and love that goes into any knitted piece.
    I love Aran patters, and it's good to know there is an expert on Etsy Ireland... :)