It’s October and I have issues! Wardrobe Issues.
The changing of the seasons means an expedition back to the dormant part of my wardrobe. Electric Picnic is over & autumn / winter has come with a bang & shattered our Indian summer hopes. It is time to get warm again.
Speaking of warmth, Knitwear. Our beautiful Emerald Isle has a deep rooted knitting history. The Geansaí, where would we be without it?…. Freezin, that’s where we’d be!
Here’s a romantic story for you; The Arran sweater was once known as a “bridal shirt”. When a young fisherman started courting, his sweetheart knitted him a geansaí using all the traditional stitches. Her knitting skills and his acceptance of the sweater symbolised their affection for each other. She would use all of those knitting skills to produce a sweater which would be a credit to her practicality as a future wife and mother. It was worn by “her man” on their wedding day. Imagine you’re in Vera Wang, he’s in his Arran. A match made in Inis Mór. The shape of the garment was quite square with the sleeves always short so as to avoid becoming wet too easily while fishing.
Now if tinder isn’t working out for you, dust off your primary school knitting needles.
I’d think I could probably bag an investment banker type with my needlework.
Anyway, fortunately for us we have come forward in leaps and bounds from the hard, scratchy old Arran made from bulls wool. Now we can choose from the beloved animal fibers of extra fine Merino Wool, Cashmere, Baby Alpaca, Mohair, Eco Cotton, to name but a few.
Now I am a loud and proud cashmere lover. Everyone needs cashmere in their lives. I’ve worked with this yarn for almost 10 years. When you wear cashmere it’s difficult to go back to anything else. Those scratchy old Zara sweaters just don’t cut the mustard anymore.
Cashmere is produced by the Hircus Goat… those little fellas live in such harsh cold climates in inner Mongolia that they produce the most wonderful soft hairs on the underbelly. The best insulation. Once a year in spring, when the weather is milder, the goatherders harvest this underfleece by means of a gentle combing procedure that is harmless to the animals. About 250 grams of this underfleece is obtained from each animal every year, which, after the coarser outer fibres are removed, becomes approx.100 grams (that’s about half a small sweater) and that is why cashmere is so precious.
And precious it is… I turn into Goloum himself when I pet my jumpers.
I got my first cashmere sweater 8 years ago and every winter I pull out the same jumper and it is as good as new. VALUE PER WEAR you say?…I am laughing.
Now for those of you out there who would like the ultimate treat, the vicuña is the animal for you. The Wha-cuna? Pronounced vik-oo-nya, it is a member of the camel family and lives in the wild in the Andes. They live in such harsh climates that they make the sheep fields of Donegal look like the tropics.
They were reduced almost to extinction between the end of the Inca Empire in 1572 and the 1970’s. Thankfully there has been an increase in the vicuña population due to an agreement signed by a consortium of local communities, backed by the Peruvian government.
Known as the “Fibre of the Gods,” in the past, the vicuña was reserved solely for the use of the Incan emperor and it was against the law for anyone but royalty to wear vicuña garments.
In Peru, the animals are still sheared using a ritual that dates back to the days of the Incas. Just like in the past, hundreds of people gather on this special day. The beaters shout and whistle to flush the vicuñas downhill, where they are enclosed into shearing pens, carefully selected, sheared and then immediately released.
The result of this operation is the rarest fibre in the world. The adult animals produce just 250 grams of fibre every two years and after the de-hairing process, this results in less than 150 grams. (again about half a small sweater)
How wonderful it would be to wear something that involves such a ceremony. “Where did you get your jumper Mark?” Well Well Well, have I got a story for you.
So this Autumn you too can be The Emperor in his new Geansai, you’ll just have to remortgage the house but sure hey, aren’t you worth it!
Paula’s Wish List
Paul’s Wish List