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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Finding Wool in Ireland

I took a tour of Ireland, and this is probably not the best way to find wool in Ireland.  Luckily I had an enabling tour buddy who escaped with me on two separate occasions.

The countryside in Ireland is full of free-range sheep.  They are in yards, on mountains, in the roads, just about everywhere the tour bus went.  The farmers "brand" the sheep by painting them with bright colors then just turn them loose.  Since they are pretty much eating machines, they graze wherever there is green.  When the sheep are needed, they are rounded up and separated..

 One of the highlights of the tour was seeing Brendan Ferris demonstrate the art of herding sheep with his Border collies.  I had seen his you tube and it is just wonderful!  First  he showed us 10 different kinds of sheep and after the demo, answered questions.

The two dogs he worked with were so eager to work! They never barked and they never touched the sheep.  (Not so with cattle, as the dogs nipped the heels of the stragglers.)

(Traffic jam on the Ring of Kerry)

According to wiki, "Sheep have horizontal slit-shaped pupils, possessing excellent peripheral vision; with visual fields of approximately 270° to 320°, sheep can see behind themselves without turning their heads."  Our very knowledgeable tour guide mentioned this fact and also that their eyes are set on farther back then human eyes.  It explains why the dogs can't really sneak up on the sheep and why they start to move even though the dog is not in front of them.  It also only takes a look from the dog for the sheep to be herded.

Most of the Woolen Mills the tour buses go to have woven or knitted items.  They are beautifully done.  I did find an occasional hank of yarn, but no roving.

My buddy and I took a little walk off the beaten path in Dingle, and found Commodum.  They carry some lovely knits and woven items and yarn from Donnegal, but alas no roving.
Window of Commondn

Donegal Yarn at Commondum
As a consolation I bought two skeins.  I'm on vacation ya know :) Perhaps they shall be Gnomes.

In Dublin, we skipped the Guinness and whiskey tours to go on a search party for The Constant Knitter.  The tour bus crossed the street it was on so dropped us off!

The shopkeeper was so nice and friendly!  She had some roving and I asked if she had Cheviot as I wanted to spin some.  She said it was all Cheviot.  Yay!  She was not able to help me out with finding a traditional shawl pin.  The few I saw were either huge, too expensive and not to my liking, or too cheaply made.  The National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology in Dublin had a very nice display.

Thank you blogless Melody for the nice pic collage! 

The nice shopkeeper at The Constant Knitter, Rosemary Murphy, explained that Irish Wool was not soft and so not so desirable.  The shepherds get only pennies for fleeces, so not much reaches the small shops.  If I every go again, I would like to dedicate more time for the search.  There are spinning guilds somewhere and probably fiber festivals as well. 

Rosemary Murphy gave us a new map and pointed us in the right direction.  We had a lovely walk back meandering through St. Stephens Green (Faiche Stiabhna) and a 3 story shopping mall.  Luckily blogless Melody is not as directionally challenged as I am, and not afraid to ask for directions.

Add:  Now that I'm back and looking I found this article about the wool industry in Ireland.
Wonderful Irish Wool