In the name of research a friend and I recently attended the Sheep’s Head Yarn Festival in West Cork. Months ago I saw it advertised on the Facebook page of Top of the Rock Pod Pairc, where I had stayed with Susan last October, but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it. This month we loaded the car up with bedding and drove down to the very south west of Ireland to check in at the pods and attend a couple of workshops representative of Irish craft and artistry.
The Dingle Peninsula and Ring of Kerry get loads of tourism press but the Sheep’s Head remains somewhat of a haven for hippies and locals. The small towns, stunning coast line and lush vegetation belong to them alone. Just outside of Kilcrohane we found the cafe where our spinning workshop was going to be held. Colourful balls usually found floating in the sea beside moored boats decorated the tree beside the river. Inside the cafe there was bright artwork interpreting the sea. Behind the cafe we found the barn which was converted into a sort of arts and crafts haven of colour and homespun goodness. A small stage elevated the far end for visiting musicians. On the table there were colourful pieces of wool all laid out for us. We were the third spinning workshop of the day. We gathered on an eclectic mix of chairs around a wood burner that wasn’t necessary for the day that was in it. There we learned how to take the raw wool of Zwartble sheep and spin it on a wooden hand spinner. The effect was total relaxation between the soft tug of wool coloured in rich browns, greys and blacks as well as the spinning motion of the wooden spindle.
After completing our project we ventured further west until the road ran out in the last car park before the lighthouse. We met up with another friend there and ventured over half of the way towards the lighthouse before turning back from the wind and cold that introduced the evening. By the time we returned to the car the sea had transformed from its welcoming tropical marine colours into strong shades of green and blue steel. It was Saturday night and without reservations most of the small gastropubs were full of patrons who had thought ahead. When we finally sat down to eat we were famished! After the night in the pods we were ready for adventure again.
Our second workshop was with Carrickmacross Lace just down the road from where we had been the day before. I sat facing the large windows overlooking the cloudy day sea while holding together netting and muslin, stitching on thin cording with soft thread. Our instructor from the Irish Countrywomen’s Association was incredible helpful and taught us about each of the materials we used and how to use them best.
We returned to Dublin inspired by the craftsmanship of traditional rural Ireland and with new ideas for collaboration in the city. I think a spinning wheel might be in order …