Irish sheep are synonymous with our landscape, but are not known for their soft wool. At Magee 1866 we are part of a wider movement to develop Irish Wool for use in fine textiles and have been working closely with our yarn supplier, Donegal Yarns, on an exciting journey to introduce Irish Wool into our collections.
This all began in 2016 with Patrick Temple, CEO of Magee Weaving, having a conversation with Chris Weiner of Donegal Yarns. It was the 150th anniversary of the company, and Patrick had been reviewing the extensive weaving archives and noted that in the past, Irish wool had a strong presence in our collections.
With that, the idea was born to work together to encourage Irish farmers to breed sheep for their wool.
Wool as a natural fibre has been used in textiles for centuries. Magee was founded on handwoven tweed in the 1800’s. This hardwearing, coarse fabric was handwoven across Donegal by part-time fishermen and farmers as the perfect fabric for dissipating the damp and cold weather, so often found in North-west Ireland, a far cry from the luxurious cloths being produced today.
Our ethos as a company has always been slow fashion and to use natural fibres, with the global drive towards a more sustainable future this has never been more relevant. Wool encompasses this aim perfectly – it is natural, biodegradable, recyclable and renewable.
Due to our climate, wool from Irish sheep traditionally has a rougher handle (the fibres are shorter) than their southern hemisphere counterparts and is more often used in carpeting than in clothing, but unfortunately the demand in recent years for this product has been steadily declining.
In Ireland sheep are bred for their milk and meat. There are over 2.5 million sheep here and their wool is currently classified as ‘waste’ with little to no value. Over the last year spinners, weavers and designers are looking to new ways to use this natural product and re-classify its use in order to give it value and properly develop the end use.
Today, we are working closely with farmers and Donegal Yarns to source finer wool from Irish sheep to re-ignite positivity around this fantastic and ‘local’ raw material. The wool is sourced from across Ireland and spun in Kilcar, ready to be designed and woven into luxurious fabrics at our mill in Donegal Town.
For Spring Summer 2021 the Emma Coat is our first piece to showcase Irish Wool. This contemporary, oversized coat with patch pockets is available in two soft, misty colours. Our design team have drawn inspiration from our natural surroundings in Donegal for this unique fabric – blue-grey skies, the sea, rocks and lichen. Launching in Spring (more associated with lighter-weight fabrics) we wanted to create colours and a piece that would work all year round in a wool – a soft grey & cream and blue & grey.
We have been weaving for 5 generations, like us, Irish Wool is not here today and gone tomorrow. We are in this for the long haul, and look forward to making Irish Wool a part of our future across our collections.
Shop Magee 1866 X Irish Wool.