Ardara is Ireland’s tweed capital. Tweed is a material made from wool. It is not knit by hand on needles but woven on a loom.
Eddie Doherty invites us into his workroom and shop where he tells us about his ancestral craft. Eddie became a weaver in 1956. He is now 70 years old and is overwhelmed with orders from all over the world. He is Ireland’s last traditional weaver, and one of the few remaining worldwide.
His colleagues have all switched to mechanical methods. Their output is higher than Eddie’s but that hardly fools anyone, the stitching is not the same, and the threads are not as tightly woven.
Without interrupting his monologue, he climbs up on his gigantic loom and starts the machine up. It’s an instrument measuring 2 metres in width and almost as much in depth, capable of weaving up to 12,000 threads at once.
A “Heath Robinson contraption of wood”, according to Eddie. The straps around the rollers start moving, the weft bobbin scoots from left to right, over and under, to create the tweed.
In his shop we discover piles of all sorts of different items: berets, caps, jackets, slippers, blankets, cushions, scarves… Prices are high, but after seeing him at work, the hardship and time that Eddie puts into his craft are plain to see.
Because he wants to promote his own county, Donegal, almost all of his wool comes from local sheep. Eddie has been weaving for more than 50 years and is sad to see his method of tweed making dying out. None of his 8 children want to follow in his footsteps and keep the traditional craft alive.
Open every day of the week
Main street, Ardara, co. Donegal, Ireland
+ 353 (0) 749541304
[On the road, at the 54°45’44.6″N and 8°24’44.9″W]