Sunday, June 26, 2016

Road Trip to Kerry Woollen Mills

During a recent wee holiday near Killarney,  I was delighted to discover that our accommodation was about a ten minute drive from Kerry Woollen Mills. On arrival, we were greeted ignored by a sleepy dog who showed no interest in rubs (no response to some friendly noises. I'm particularly cautious around unknown animals when the Small Human is with me)

The shop itself is packed with an array of woollen items, largely aimed at the tourist market; the usual heavily cabled sweaters, scarves etc, and some woven items too. 
But I was here for the yarn...
I've only used Kerry Woollen Mills' yarn once, years ago, and while I was still in awe of the softest of soft things. Over the years I've developed more of an appreciation for coarser wools, and as far as I knew, this yarn was no longer available in Dublin shops*, so I was excited to have a good browse of the yarn in person.
The shelves were packed with Aran Wool** - different shades included solid colours, heathered shades, and one shade in particular ('Salmon') with different coloured plies ( - and with Organic Aran Jacob Wool, with different shades created by sorting  the coloured fleeces. There's also a selection of spinnable fibre including merino tops available. 
I was especially delighted to be told we could browse the next room - part of the factory that was not operating that particular day. We didn't get a guided tour (It would have been cheeky to ask on the spot) but had a good nose around the factory floor. Photos will be sadly lacking in any correct machine terminology - my use of words here will be based entirely on my hand-spinning knowledge.

These bales of multiple coloured wools were waiting for carding:

The wool is passed through a series of rollers, covered with fine wires that brush & prepare wool for spinning:
As the wool progresses down the machine it is more fluffy & inviting. I managed to restrain myself from poking at the machines directly.

This was only a brief glimpse; there were other factory areas that carry out different parts of the process. Carol Feller's 'Contemporary Irish Knits' includes an informative essay on production of wool at Kerry Woollen Mills, complete with actual proper terminology!

Of course, I had to get some yarn while I was there; Aran Wool Rambling Rose (a heathered shade) and Salmon (spun with different coloured plies) both came home with me. I think the Rambling Rose will be a cardigan for the Small Human, and the Salmon will be... something. 

*I have since discovered that The Donegal Shop in Stephen's Green Shopping Centre stocks Kerry Woollen Mills Aran Wool; possibly other branches of The Donegal Shop too. There's no mention of this yarn on their site though. 

**As stated in Contemporary Irish Knits, the Aran Wool (dyed yarn) is made from a mixture of Irish & New Zealand Wool. There doesn't seem to be any mention of this on the KWM website, which I find a pity. This visit has piqued my curiosity of Irish yarns  - particularly those sold through primarily 'touristy' outlets - and the source of their wool. If Irish mills do use Irish fleece for hand knitting yarn, I really wish this information was readily available to a casual browser. 

Edited to ad; since publishing this post, I've been advised that Winnie's Craft Cafe also stocks KWM yarn. I really need to get out of the house more often... 

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