Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sewing it yourself

Knitting and sewing didn't really die, they just sort of went underground.

That's what Rose Doherty says anyhow, and she's been sewing and making for years, often with friends while hanging around waiting to collect their children from school and sports gigs.

Rose, from Naas originally but living in Halverstown for the last six years, has just opened a new sewing and knitting crafts supplies shop in Kilcullen, beside Nolans Butchers.

It came about from people asking her where she got her materials when they wanted to emulate what she was doing herself.

And in her first week, she has already been very pleased with the level of response to the venture, which she has called 'The Cottonwood Tree'.

Rose worked for 14 years in advertising before making the jump. "So art and design were in my background," she says. "I began making things like aprons and tea cosies and nose boards, and sold them at the Craft Fairs in the RDS at Christmas."

Orders and commissions followed and Rose worked from home while looking after her two young children, now seven and 14. It was in many ways a rerun of her own childhood, where her mother knitted and sewed a lot. "She was particularly good at making Aran sweaters."


In some respects, Rose feels the decline in people making their own clothes or working in the associated crafts is down to schools not giving time to the skills. "We're trying to get them more involved now, encouraging the pupils to do it in their own style, more free-form and mixing and matching between the wool and the trimmings."

In 'The Cottonwood Tree' -- the name comes from a series of American children's books -- Rose offers a wide range of buttons and ribbons and trimmings, wools, fabrics, tools of the craft and books aimed at both adults and children. She reckons there's a 'window' between around 8-15 in which the youngsters can be hooked.

"From about eight they like to make things and have something to show for it. When they get into early teens, they like to be able to make changes to their clothes, to express their individuality."

On one of the displays there are starter kits, ideal as inexpensive birthday presents for children and aimed at easing them into the sewing craft. A universe away from computer games but potentially just as absorbing.

Rose has a big range of patterns too, in some cases they're part of books of beautiful photographs in which customers can see how they work out and be encouraged to have a go themselves. A recipe book for sewing and patchwork, if you like.

A visit to the shop could easily start addiction. But of the nicest possible kind.

Brian Byrne.

(This article was first published on the Kilcullen Page of the Kildare Nationalist.)

(Click above to go directly to Armelle's Kitchen.)