N15PicBANY mention of knitting, sewing or similar hobbies during our Celtic Tiger years would probably have been greeted with a few raised eyebrows.
However, within the past few years it has become more fashionable to create your own clothing items and engage in such hobbies.
In fact, all types of arts and crafts are currently enjoying renewed interest as can be seen with the popularity of various fairs throughout the country which showcase homemade goods.
I recently met with two members of a local Irish Countrywomen’s Association guild to discuss the revival in certain crafts and skills.
Earlier this year, I reported on the ICA Open Day held at The Tower Hotel and was astonished at the amazing array of items of a very high standard which members had on display.
Secretary of Gaultier ICA Mary O’Neill and President Mary Guinan are both passionate about promoting and preserving simple skills such as sewing and knitting.
Mary O’Neill is a curtain and dress maker and also teaches sewing classes.
She has been a member of the ICA for more than 30 years.
“I love seeing the joy that making the smallest item can bring to somebody,” she said.
“I remember going into a class before where they were all beginners who barely knew how to work a sewing machine. I got them to make a basic shopping bag. There was one lady who had a look of sheer joy on her face when she was finished. That’s what it’s all about – to have a piece of fabric or a ball of wool and turn it into something lovely.”
Mary Guinan is a relatively new ICA recruit having joined just three years ago.
“I wanted to do so much when I joined first but I said I would have to concentrate on finishing one thing at a time. I wanted to make everything!” she said.
“When you’re sitting knitting you get lost in a different world. It’s hard to actually believe the enjoyment you can get out of it. During the Celtic Tiger, I suppose a lot of people lost their way. In the last couple of years, these skills have been revived and new skills have been learned from other people. If we don’t put them into practice they will be lost. It’s important that these skills are passed on to children.”
She explained the pleasure to be had when somebody expresses an interest in a homemade product.
“It’s a great achievement to know you’re actually selling something you made. When I sold four of my knitted ducks in Dunmore it was like I won the Lotto! I couldn’t believe it. I felt so much excitement.”
Mary O’Neill is a member of Waterford Homecrafts and will be present at the annual Christmas Craft Fair in Garter Lane this year.
The Fair will feature woodturning, jewellery, pottery, fabric crafts etc.
“Whatever is sold by Waterford Homecrafts is unique. You’re not going to see it anywhere else,” said Mary.
“When you have something made and somebody says it’s lovely you feel such pride that you made it.”
Mary Guinan will also be present at this year’s event selling her cute knitted ducks.
Both ladies believe the ICA has contributed much to their lives.
While ICA Bootcamp may have presented sensational activities such as cooking a sheep’s head and skinning a rabbit, in reality the organisation is much different.
“Some people have the impression of the ICA of being tea and biscuits, but there’s a lot more,” said Mary O’Neill.
“The ICA is about friendships and companionships in times of trouble. Our meetings are cheap nights out where we can have a chat and a laugh.”
She added: “We each teach each other something. Someone will look at what I’m doing and ask me to show them how to do it. It’s very informal. You can forget about everything else and just have a laugh.”
Mary Guinan believes it is important to continue to promote and preserve simple skills to ensure they are carried on by future generations.
“If you asked anyone under 30 to knit or sew they probably wouldn’t be able to do it because they never learned the skills properly,” she said.
With the determination and enthusiasm of ladies in ICA clubs throughout the region, that’s something which they will surely rectify!
For more information on the ICA and to find a guild near you visit www.ica.ie.