Sara, who is originally from Wisconsin, says, “Having travelled to Ireland several times as a tourist, it became apparent that there were very few Irish yarns on the market. This is a huge disappointment for tourists who expect a country with so many sheep would have many interesting local artisan yarns. After moving to Ireland I joined local knitting groups. These knitters also lamented the lack of Irish yarn, and the fact that farmers don’t seem to make much money from the sale of wool.”
In June 2012, Sara created an Irish Artisan Yarn project on the crowd funding website Kickstarter.com. She promised to buy wool from local small hold farmers and spin it into artisan yarn. Sara’s project was very successful and was backed by over 70 individuals in just 30 days. “This proves there is a significant demand for Irish yarns – particularly in America,” says Breitenfeldt. Due to the enthusiasm of Sara’s customers, she has been able to pay Cork sheep farmers up to five times the Market Price set by the British Wool Marketing Board. She has also purchased alpaca fleeces from the Waterfall Alpaca Farm in Drimoleague, Cork. The alpaca fibre can be blended with sheep wool to produce softer yarns.
Sara sells handspun yarns and blended fibre bats through her website Irishwools.com. She also sold yarn at the Cork Craft Month “Craft in the City” Craft Fair held on Cornmarket Street in Cork City last weekend, where I bought a baby cardigan she knit in shades of violet (it will be a very special baby gift for a dear friend back in the States). These are possibly the only yarns to carry the “Guaranteed Irish” mark. Other yarns are beautifully hand dyed in Ireland but the yarn is from non-Irish sheep. Sara’s goal is to raise the reputation of Irish wool abroad and to ensure Irish sheep farmers are able to profit on the sale of wool rather than just cover the cost of shearing.
Sara has been knitting for approximately 10 years, and spinning and dyeing fibres for three years. She is active in yarn spinning and knitting groups in Cork. She and Smudge Yarns are also connected to the Ravelry online knitting community which has nearly two million members worldwide. You can purchase Sara’s Irish handspun from IrishWools.com.
You can even purchase and knit her original knitting and weaving patterns from These Islands: Knits from Ireland, Scotland, and England (Anchor and Bee, 2015). The 62-page, full-colour instructional knitting book appeals to all knitters, from beginners to those who want a new challenge. Seven original knitting patterns and one weaving pattern are written and illustrated with step-by-step instructions with 77 color photographs. Each pattern was inspired by and created with locally-processed wool made from the fleece of Irish, Scottish, or British sheep with names.
Here is a photo of the cardigan I purchased at the Cork Craft Month “Craft in the City” Craft Fair. It is going to a very special baby in the U.S.