About a month before my trip to Ireland, I get a text from my friend Pam Olney ( @quiltersgarden ) who was currently IN Ireland. She told me I had to add Avoca Handweavers as a stop on my trip. I love getting recommendations from my fiber art friends!
Established in 1723, Avoca is the oldest mill in Ireland still in production. Although it has gone through it’s ups and downs, Avoca Handweavers is now a thriving International business, employing over 800 people. While there are 10 Avoca retail locations around Ireland, the Avoca village location allows you to tour the old mill, the current weaving production facility, as well as having both a wonderful café and giftshop.
In background, the threads are fed in the correct sequence onto the “Swift” and then onto a “Beam”, like a giant spool for warping the loom. The beam is then lifted onto the loom to be “tied in.” It can take up to 2 days to complete the setting up of a warp.
The mill displays old weaving equipment, educational displays, explanations of the different processes, as well as modern equipment in use.
Beautiful color blending combining warp & weft
Here’s a short video from our visit to the mill showing the power looms, cutting and fringing machines in action:
Antique Irons on display
Christina with the Avoca Handweavers sign at Ireland’s Oldest Mill
Day 4 – Game of Thrones Tapestry at the Ulster Museum, Belfast
My guilty pleasure… Game of Thrones (well, Fantasy & Science Fiction overall.) Now, mix that with textile art and I’m in heaven!
Before the final episodes of Game of Thrones were filmed, an army of designers, weavers and embroiderers in Northern Ireland was hard at work.
The tapestry was designed by hand by illustrators and color artists Carim Nahaboo, Jacob Merrick-Wolf, and Rob House. The weavers, Juliet Bailey, Franki Brewer, and a team at Dash & Miller in Bristol used a state-of-the-art jacquard loom. The linen thread was provided by Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen in Banbridge, one of the last surviving mills in Northern Ireland, and contains over 250,000 threads placed by hand.
Each episode through season 7 is represented in the 253 foot tapestry. Rather than wait for the final season to be released (Season 8, set to air in 2019), the tapestry develops its own conclusion.
Embroiderer’s working on the Game of Thrones tapestry
After the weaving was complete, delicate hand embroidery added by a team of 30 stitchers at the Ulster Museum adds color, glints of metalics, and detailing to enhance the tapestry. From King Joffrey’s golden crown to Daenerys’ shimmering white and silver hair, blood red weddings, emerald green wildfire, cold-blue White Walkers and jet black ravens, threads of metallic, cotton and silk yarns bring vibrancy and lustre to the story. The embroidered elements are quite simple overall, but bring much to the finished project. Stitches include chain stitch, split stitch, back stitch, running stitch, couching and seed stitch.
Willow dragons made by Bob Johnson, basket maker at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
In Belfast’s Ulster Museum where the Tapestry is currently on display, they also have two magnificent Willow dragons soaring above the three story atrium
Click on the video below to view the entire tapestry!
A woman & young girl embroidering linens in County Down early 1900’s.
As well as information about the making of the tapestry, the exhibition included further documentation on the history of the linen industry in Northern Ireland, supplementing what I’d learned in Lisburn.
Dragon Head detail
The process of making the tapestry is described in this video by Northern Ireland’s tourism department: