Handwoven Donegal Tweed
Earthy browns of turf and moorland.
Gold of gorse and wheaten sheaves.
Greens of Ireland’s meads and pastures.
Rusts of Autumn leaves.
Reds from mountain ash and bramble.
Drifting peat smoke’s hazy grey.
Blues of slate, of sky, of speedwell.
White of hawthorn spray.
Hand weaving is a tradition so old that it has no calculable starting point. In Donegal it is an hereditary skill that has passed from father to son over many centuries. It is one of the few survivors of ancient craft, which now serves the modern world.
Originally the crofter’s wife made brews of moss and lichen into which to dip and dye the pure new wool from the household sheep, blends of colour were created and spun to echo their hillside environment. The husband would then weave the unique family product into cloth to be sold at the tweed market. Weavers today still weave on ancestral looms and the click-clack of wooden shuttles sounding from whitewashed cottages makes its ancient call against the mass produced article.
Donegal tweed is woven on wooden handlooms which differ only slightly in design and operation from those used in biblical times. The loom is entirely manually operated and weaving may be described as passing the horizontal threads (called the weft) through the warp by means of a shuttle. Thread by thread and row by row the weft is eased into place. Hand-wound weft is gently fitted into large wooden shuttles. The complicated permutations of colour and design are co-ordinated and interpreted as the weaver proceeds. The result is a reflection of tradition translated into to-day’s theme.
Vertical threads in a piece of tweed are called "the warp". These threads are wound carefully on a cylinder and every thread must be separate and in sequence. It is the warper who takes the first step in arranging the various colours to form a foundation upon which the weaver will, with almost magical skill, produce the pattern. Local vans are a familiar sight along the winding roads of Donegal delivering warps and wefts to cottages scattered over a 40 mile radius