wheres me jumper
Knitting together sunny colours and hot designs has become the skill to master for a growing number of canny Irish women from fashionistas to funky mums.
Lainey Keogh is a world-class fashion designer who happens to be Irish.
Since the London Fashion Week catwalk show over 12 years ago catapulted her beyond our shores onto a world stage she has been cheerfully maintaining her position as the Purly Queen of Irish knitwear.
Her stuff is currently being sold worldwide and you can check her website for your nearest Irish, US or Australian stockist. www.laineykeogh.com
Now that she’s been joined in her niche by other quirky, ambitious Irish fashion designers, it’s difficult to convey how she single-handedly deconstructed a dyed-in-the-wool traditional skill into sexy, glamorous and sinuous garments that people with a pulse would be proud to wear.
Her cashmere pieces first emerged in Ireland in 1984, growing and redefining her collections every year till she made a stunning global impact at her first big London fashion show in the late 90s with an unreleased U2 soundtrack, a reading of Seamus Heaney’s poetry by John Hurt and haunting oileann pipes played by Ronan Brown.
If the poetry and music sketched out Lainey’s heritage, the top models of the day – Helena Christiansen, Naomi Campbell, Jodie Kidd and Sophie Dahl – showed how knitted fabric can give a framework for forward-looking fashion. And so it was that she incidentally revitalised an industry by broadening its customer base beyond the narrow confines of those simply hoping to keep warm in our peculiar winters.
Lately some celebrity knit-wits (that's witty women who can) Julia Roberts, Geri Halliwell, Catherine Zeta Jones and Madonna have already ‘cotton’-ed on to the joys of knitting and crochet, not to mention the uber-babes Cameron Diaz, Scarlett Johansson and Kristin Davis, who’ve all been admired in cyberspace chatter and print for wielding the needles with ease and skill.
But if they’re hooked on crochet they’re not alone: thousands of Irish women are rediscovering the plain and purl-y joys of knitting up a storm of great garments from sumptuous scarves to baby beanies. Some groups here are following their Stateside sisters’ lead and setting up modern-day knitting circles that combine knitting, therapy, perhaps a glass of vino and nibbles – pretty much along the lines of a book club.
Classes being held for every level and style from straightforward knitting to crocheting are seeing a surge of interest this year, so if you’d like to take your own ‘Stitch and Bitch’ (S&B) club to a higher level, contact Dublin company www.thisisknit.ie for lessons, the Dublin Knitters Collective (see below) or for countrywide details see www.nightcourses.com.
If it’s been a while since you read a pattern you may have dived back in at the simple end beginning with scarves, crocheted throws for cribs and cots or squares for a patchwork bag.
Maybe you’ve already graduated onto whole garments and are casting about for your next project? Have a look at www.inismeain.ie for inspiration from the gurus of the west. They’re a close-knit community who have cabled their skills to the furthest reaches of the world. Inismeain makes jumpers for the cool, clean, manly hero in your life and the website’s a dazzling place to turn to for contemporary versions of ages-old intricacy. Oh, they could teach you a tricot or two those Aran islanders.
But if your man is more of a poet, an indie-rocker, an eco-warrior or just simply dandy have a look at Drogheda-based designer www.edmundmcnulty.com for menswear that subtly encourages you help your beloved out of that jumper for some physical education. Again it’s inspiration for advanced knitters as the yarn is typically top quality Italian imports.*
If ever you want to show off your assets to their best advantage, Donegal-based designer Michelle McCarroll’s clothes do it for you. Her signature styles of asymmetrical skirts with a graceful swing or tops that subtly flash the flesh when you dance make her brand www.michi.com strictly knitwear for grown-ups.
Another of the hot Irish knitwear designers who has emerged as a talent to watch in recent years is Heather Finn, whose Dublin-based studio produces funky casual wear that’s sweetly sunny in colour and ‘must-have’ in terms of patterns and shapes. (The distinctive, luxurious scarves that double as pashminas, or the magic garments that make the words ‘cardi’ and ‘sexy’ fit together are available to buy online at www.heatherfinn.com.)
The www.woollyway.blogspot is a focal point for textile fans of all hues, not just knitters, but is a source of info on new products and services, such as the just-opened Knit and Make outlet at Rathmines’ Swan Centre.
Another group has been clacking up new members every month since its beginning in 2007 and now has details of all the groups and venues throughout the city and county. They’ve got an impressive low-down from ‘instant gratification’ (quick knits) to wildly intricate projects and everything in between. Check out www.dublinknitters.wordpress.com for details.
· * (OK, if you’re going to jump straight to the finished product without any of that painstaking clickety bovver, Cleo’s of Kildare Street is one of the most central stockists in Dublin.)