Donegal Tweed – A Timeless Fashion Classic
“For over a century, the village of Ardara was at the forefront of the production of handwoven Donegal Tweeds. A building known as “The Mart” was the central marketplace with all the local tweed produced, inspected, stored and sold inside its walls.
Photograph courtesy of Triona Design
However, in the sixties, the arrival of modern machinery decimated the indigenous industry.
A FAMILY TRADITION
A fifth-generation hand weaver, Denis Mulhern, had a strong desire to ensure that the tradition of hand weaving was maintained and preserved.
Ten years after the collapse of the local tweed industry, he started a small bespoke tweed company called “Triona” from the front room of the family home.
In 1992, Denis began to welcome visitors from across the world to showcase first-hand the skills involved in hand weaving.
Triona tweed is made from 100% Irish lambswool. Once woven, it is tailored to produce unique pieces of clothing including coats, jackets and capes.”
Stopping off in Ardara recently, I visited Triona Design, for a delightful Artist Date.
I watched in awe, as a weaver painstakingly attached new threads to old, in preparation for a new batch of tweed. An assistant reliably informed me that this task usually takes 6-8 hours!
The shop is full of enticing tweeds and woollens, coats, capes, jackets, Arran knits, hats…
Photographs courtesy of Triona Designs
So many tempting wardrobe classics. I have added several items to my wish list.
The Weavers Cottage
Since 2017, an exact replica of the thatched cottage that Denis Mulhern grew up in, takes pride of place in a corner of the showroom.
It brought back many wonderful memories from my own childhood holidays here in Donegal.
Stepping into the main room, I was reminded of my mother’s family home.
A box bed in the corner was common back then, kept cosy near an open turf fire. In the weavers cottage a spinning wheel complete with carded wool, was waiting patiently to be spun into thread.
In another corner, an old fashioned dresser stood next to a wooden churn.
I remember my late mother and her brothers and sisters taking turns to churn cream into fresh country butter. It was an energetic weekly task shared by the whole family.
Everyone kept cows and indeed chickens back then, and potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, onions… were grown organically in the garden.
Walking into this bedroom, I smiled at five children tucked into a bed, that was end to end with another bed, and next to a wooden cradle complete with baby.
Before I left the cottage, yet more memories flooded my consciousness of hand sewn dresses, made by my mum on her Singer sewing machine.
She sewed and knitted most of our clothing, a gift that is rarely seen today.
Hope for The Future
However, I hope that the tradition of tweed making in Donegal continues for many generations to come.
You can learn more about Triona Design at http://www.trionadesign.com
Brigid P. Gallagher is a retired natural medicines therapist, passionate organic gardener and author of “Watching the Daisies- Life lessons on the Importance of Slow,” a holistic memoir dedicated to the art of mindfulness and healing from debilitating illness.
She lives in Donegal, Ireland – an area of outstanding natural beauty.