Fíodóireacht Traidisiúnta – Traditional Weaving

At the end of each week at Oideas Gael, each class presents a short skit or song about something they learned over the past week. Surprisingly, my favorite presentation last week was by the weaving class! In addition to language classes, Oideas Gael also includes classes in traditional Irish arts (such as harp-playing and, as I said, weaving).

I would not have expected to find traditional weaving interesting. When I first heard that there was a weaving class, I thought that the class sounded a little boring. I learned the basics of how to knit several years ago, but I always thought that the process was slow and unexciting. Yet the weavers’ presentation really piqued my interest and allowed me to appreciate the craft. What’s more, most of the presentation was in Irish, so it was exciting for me to learn to appreciate a craft primarily through the Irish language!

To start off the presentation, one of the managers at Oideas Gael introduced the weaving instructor to the class. He said that she represented the latest in a long line of weavers. Her family has been weaving for generations; the older generations pass down their knowledge to the younger ones, so the instructor’s knowledge of weaving truly represents age-old family wisdom on the craft.

Next, the weaving instructor came to the front of the room and, with the help of a student, showed us the raw materials of a weaver’s art. It all begins, of course, with sheep’s wool! Weavers take the raw wool off of the sheep and then brush it and shape it into the kind of woolen yarn you might see at a crafts store. 

      A herd of sheep prior to shearing.
The same field, after the shearing!

Finally, each member of the weaving class showed their creations to the crowd. Many of the weaving projects featured pictures and symbols related to the local town of Gleann Cholm Cille. The teacher explained that it is very common for traditional weavers to incorporate such local symbols into their creations.

My favorite weaving project was by a woman who wove several local natural objects into her weaving. She found a rock and some shells around the beaches and forest paths near Gleann Cholm Cille and then wove them in to the project to make a kind of abstract representation of the town. Overall, the weaving presentation helped me to understand the rich cultural significance behind a craft that I would have previously dismissed. Ach faraor… I am allergic to wool! 

This is what a typical weaving project might look like.