On the 25th of April, I held a workshop with the lovely ladies on the 9 Night North of Ireland Knitting & Craft Tour curated by Irish Tourism in the Foxford Woollen Mills. The twenty four ladies came from USA, Norway and Germany and spent a few enjoyable hours learning about the Sionann Shawl and its unique design elements. Each knitter received a pack which included an Irish Knit Odyssey cotton tote, beads, wire, pattern booklet and a unique skein of exclusive hand dyed yarn from Carlo and Gabriella of Irish Fairytale Yarns. The Wild Atlantic colorway is only available to participants of Irish Tourism Workshops. Each 100 gram skein has 400 metres of Merino 4ply yarn. Gabriella and Carlo also threw in a cute emoji handmade stitch marker.
The minions and I paid a visit to the Foxford Woollen Mills recently. While I visited on a school jaunt many moons ago, I wanted to take a tour of the visitor centre and see the mills in action.
Many a childhood night was spent under a signature scratchy cream and blue striped Foxford blanket, or if I was lucky, the pink trimmed one, summer picnic forays were consumed on the red tartan rug and when I got married, it was a plaid Blackwatch rug that kept us warm in the back of the black vintage Ford Consul. The Foxford blanket, the pinnacle of Mayo chic, the quintessential wedding present was to be found in many, if not most, Irish households of my youth and a renaissance of late, has again placed them among the luxury items on wedding inventories. Irish Designers, including Helen McAlinden, have rejuvenated the brand through modern contemporary design that appeals to natives and tourists alike. The Foxford brand, considered a heritage brand, has modernized and rejuvenated to keep au courant and viable in these austere times.
One of the last working mills in Ireland, the Foxford Woollen Mills was founded by the Irish Sisters of Charity in 1892. Mother Agnes Morrogh-Bernard was the driving force behind the Mill in its infancy, with assistance from Congested District Board and a considerable loan. Harnessing the power of the river Moy and with the labour and dedication of the local people, the mill thrived until 1908, when the building burnt to the ground. A considerable setback, but again the mill thrived and employed up to two hundred people at its peak.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, the textile industry in Ireland imploded and the Foxford Mills were not invulnerable to this collapse, going into receivership in 1987. The Mills celebrated its centenary in 1992 with opening of the visitor centre, where you can take a very interesting self-guided tour voiced by the silken tones of renowned Mayo actor Mick Lally. A million euro investment in 2007 completed the mill’s rejuvenation.
So the minions and I spent an enjoyable hour in the visitor centre. History buffs in the making, they were fascinated by the interactive exhibits but were particularly enthralled with the factory models. While we have visited the shop and cafe frequently, this was the first time they saw the tour but have spent many a minute with their noses pressed against the glass of the weaving room door, fascinated with the machinery and weaving process. They were delighted to get onto the factory floor and view the noisy contraptions up close. At only ten euro for a family ticket, I highly recommended it.
Of course the trip must be rounded off with a treat in the cafe upstairs! Apologies for the poor quality photos, one of these days I’ll remember to bring my camera.