Anne O'Maille knows her knits! All the colors of the rainbow - the history and tradition of the handmade Aran sweaters at O'Maille's Original House of Style on Shop Street in Galway.
Aran Island sweaters are not hard to find in Ireland. They are sold all over the island. But handmade Aran sweaters, now that has become a rarity. In fact, O'Maille's Original House of Style on Shop Street in Galway is said to be the only place you can find the real deal. Anne O'Maille herself told me that. And she knows her sweaters...and her stitches.
From the blackberry stitch to the double plaited diamond called the Mary Ann, because a knitter named Mary Ann is the only one who uses it, to the honeycomb and the tree of life, O'Maille's employs the knitters who know them and revel in creating sweaters the old fashioned way, by hand.
"My generation learned knitting and embroidery and lacework and sewing from our mothers and our grandmothers. We were told to sit at their knees and watch and do what they did. And back then it was taught in the schools," O'Maille says.
"But it hasn't been taught in the schools for 50 years now. So we really watch for good knitters. Right now I have about 100 I can call on for custom orders and knitwork. The oldest is in her 80s."
Anne knows her knits, alright. O'Maille's Original House of Style in Galway is filled with hand-made knits. And once you go in, it's hard to leave without something magnificent. Anne is happy to share her knowledge with you. She loves offering tours of the history of knits, the wools used and the details of the stitches. So if you happen to shop when she is there you are in for a treat.
"You can find Aran Island sweaters all over Ireland, but most are made by machine these days. They are lovely and they are uniform and they are predictable. But they are machine-made. To get hand-made knits you have to come here to Galway," she says.
From the natural wool to the oatmeal, to the grey and the violet, the wools are amazing. But then you see them woven and the end results are irresistible. But I'd have to say, while the assortment and the quality are always amazing, it's Anne O'Maille herself that makes the trip so memorable.
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