Aoibhe Ni – Shawl Pins

Fashioned out of quality stainless steel and strengthened in the traditional manner, these shawl pins are understated, easy to use and glide through shawl fabric gently.

They’re hand crafted, and finished with a granite texture to ensure the pin stays in place all day.

Double Spiral
The double spiral is seen as a symbol of balance in nature. It is believed that the spiral represents the sun and the double spiral is a depiction of the sun’s journey across Irish skies throughout the course of the year. It’s also suggested that it is representative of the eddies and waves in the swirling rivers that exist at many ancient Irish sacred locations.

The Spiral is a well-recognised symbol of Celtic Ireland but many, many examples of its importance are to be found all around Ireland on Neolithic tombs that date back over 5,000 years.

EUR 13.00
(+ EUR 4.00 post & packaging)

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Salmon Of Knowledge
One of our greatest legends involves the attempts to capture of a great, mythical salmon that possesses all the knowledge the world has to offer.
It was said that he who took the first bite of the salmon would possess all of its learning.

Perhaps this shawl pin will endow you with a little of that great salmon’s learning?
Don’t try eating it, though.

EUR 13.00
(+ EUR 4.00 post & packaging)

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Ancient Scroll
While the rest of Europe was descending into the Dark Ages, Irish monks continued to work diligently to make copies of sacred texts, and to spread their advanced medical, political, creative, and linguistic learning.

Every wondered why Ireland is known as the “land of saints and scholars”?
That’s why! This simple, elegant scroll shape is a tribute to them.

EUR 13.00
(+ EUR 4.00 post & packaging)

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Ram’s Head
One of the most striking sights you’ll encounter around most of Ireland are hedge-crested fields and open mountains full of roaming, grazing flocks of sheep.
They’re dotted across the island from east to west, and one of the most beloved breeds is the Blackface Mountain sheep. It’s got a long, shaggy fleece and glorious swirling horns framing its curious face.
Why not top your favourite shawl with one of Ireland’s favourite sheep?

EUR 13.00
(+ EUR 4.00 post & packaging)

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Thank you for your purchase!

Thank you so much for your purchase!
Please allow time for delivery from Ireland.

All orders recieved Mon – Fri will be posted off the next working day.
Irish post takes about a working day or two from time of postage.
International post take at least 7 working days.

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Spotlight on hand-dying

For years I have oooh and aaah at the skill and craftsmanshop it takes to hand dyed a skein of yarn in a way that’s pleasing.

I tried it myself some time ago – both with blank hanks of yarn and roving, natural, food-colouring & acid dyes – and I have to say that my respect for the dying process, and the level of knowledge you need to get a good result, is high.

I’ve often, and at some volume, admit to being a dunce when it comes to colour theory.
I cannot match colours up well. There’s a reason I’m almost always in black. Black goes with everything. It does the job I can’t. It’s just not in my make-up to do a good job, so when I find a dyer who can do just that it feels as if I’m in the presence of an elemental god of some kind.

HOW did they know that lime green and that teal would blend so prettily?
HOW did they get that yarn to look exactly like a rusty nail, or a peacok’s tail feather, or a misty rainy day in March?!

So, getting to chat to a dyer and get down and dirty with their dye pots is always a pleasure. This is exactly what I did when I got to chat to Eve Chambers last year at Woollinn.
I used her delicious yarn for my most recent pattern: Manannan.


Here’s how she describes her process:

“I dye a lot of semi solids. In crochet, the stitch definition is vital. I found that commercially dyed yarns lacked a fluidity when I worked with them. A solid was flat. A gradient’s colour shifts took over the story of the stitches.

I was raised by an artist mother, and the alchemy of primary colour work that she used always fascinated me.

In dyeing my semi solids, especially the Pop range – I’m going back to the alchemy. The singles are dry. The semi immersion bath is ready and heat slowly rising. The skeins are added to the bath, and slowly sink beneath the surface as they soak up the bath. It’s a slow process, but by controlling the heat level, the dye strikes with a specific non uniformity on the skein, but with uniformity across the batch. Like all handdyed, there can be variations across batches, however the end effect of the Pop Collection is a watered silk look.

When you knit/crochet with Pops, you can see ripples of colour density, thus lifting or setting back your stitches, but always looking like light is moving in waves over your work.”

It’s safe to say, there’s a LOT more to it than “dying and drying”, as Gamercrafting explains in her latest YouTube Podcast.

Check out both Gamercrafting and Eve Chambers, folks! I love them both, and you will too.

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OK, so first, a few facts about me to put what I’m about to say in context;

Fact One.
Most of you know at this stage that I am diabetic; I have been since I was 17. If my maths are accurate (and despite my job description, that’s not always a given!), that’s exactly 20 years ago.

I wasn’t overweight, I had a healthy diet, I exercised, my family had no real history of diabetes. My illness is not my fault, but I got it anyway.

Luckily, though – if anything about a long-term, chronic illness that will eventually be the literal death of me can be considered lucky – I was born in a country that provides free healthcare for illnesses like mine. I’m not blamed for my condition. I’m not expected to go to unreasonable lengths to keep it in check.
I get insulin, and blood test strips, and needles and emergency glucose kits as often as I need them, and blood tests and doctor and nurse check ups and eye exams on average every year to be sure I’m maintaining my health. I get all this for free, and all I have to do is turn up and take it.
The Irish Republic does all this automatically for me because it knows that a healthy population benefits us all.

And it’s the gods honest truth when I say I’d not be doing this job if I lived somewhere where I had to pay for all this myself. And it’s equally true that my mental health – and my physical health as a consequence – would suffer greatly if that was my reality. It would have run my into the ground years ago.

Fact Two.
I’m a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, though perhaps I’m less visibly so than others who fall under the umbrella of that most gloriously cumbersome of acronyms. And the fact that I now, finally, live in a country that recognises – in our very constitution – my brothers and sisters rights to marry who they want and live their own happy lives is a huge deal and makes us a better, fairer, stronger country.

Fact Three.
And I’m a member of a perpetually emigrating race. Simply put, due to invasion, colonisation, war, famine, you name it, Irish people have set foot on boats, ships, and planes generation after generation looking for a better life abroad when one was denied at home.

So, when I say I’m nervous and scared for the US mid-term elections tomorrow, know I mean it.
I empathise with people suffering with illnesses they can’t afford. I feel the pain of my trans and non-binary friends as their humanity is stripped from them. I look on in horror as the same thing that happened to my ancestors happens to the current wave of unjustly maligned immigrants.

So, I’m expressing a hope today that when you do vote in the mid-terms tomorrow, that you vote with kindness and compassion for those worse off.

I firmly believe that poverty is not the fault of the poor.
Illness is not the fault of the sick.
Weakness is not the fault of the weak.
And kindness isn’t weakness, even if Trump would love you to believe it to be so.

Kindness takes bravery. So, so much bravery, and it often takes exceptional strength too.
Reaching out can feel scary when you’ve been told over and over that a certain religion, a certain colour, a certain ethnicity, a certain sexuality, is looking to do you or your way of life harm.

Fear kills kindness, folks.
That’s something we’ve all seen time and time again in history. Fear makes us look inward and disregard the basic needs of others. It makes us circle the wagons and turn our backs.

But, here’s the thing; The opposite is also entirely true.
Kindness kills fear. All it takes is a little warmth and the fear melts away.

If you can’t physically reach out and grasp the hand of a refugee or an immigrant or an LGBT person in support and solidarity, I understand. Differences can feel overwhelming and things certainly do seem chaotic right now. But at least, please, do try to reach out and grasp a pen instead, and vote for someone who can take that extra step.

So, tomorrow, I hope you vote for an American future without hate or bigotry or selfishness.

Please vote for the people who will give medical care to those who need it without judgement.
Please vote for those who insist that refugees and immigrants be treated with dignity, and that their children be surrounded by compassion not cages.
Please vote for those who respect Native people’s right to live and breathe in safety on the land of their ancestors.
Please vote for the politicians who understand that trans people aren’t a threat and that our differences make us stronger, not weaker.
Please vote for the people who don’t need to be told why black lives matter.

But above all, please, please, please, vote out the bullies wherever you see them.

America is too important and too influential to be left in their reckless and petty hands any longer.

Thank you.


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The Blind Mind

Think of an elephant.
Or an apple.
Or a happy honeybee.
Or a daffodil with a top hat on.
Or any one of a bazillion other physical objects, real or imaginary.
There is a very high chance that you can see the thing in your mind’s eye, right?

If you can, congratulations, your brain is functioning pretty much as expected.

If you can’t, well, you’re probably like me, then. You most likely have aphantasia to some degree or another. Basically, your mind’s eye is blind, or out of focus, or fuzzy.

I’ve never been able to find my way from A to B without getting lost.
I can’t draw accurate pictures for shit.
I am very face blind, and will not recognise you on a second, third… fifteenth meeting without a lot of context. (Sorry!)
I forget movies I’ve seen because I have no way of storing visual memory.
I don’t dream in pictures, just in emotion which can get very trippy.
I have zero sense of colour and fashion, so I stick to the most basic of clothing.
I don’t see the value in reading fiction; historical facts are far easier to recall and focus on, so I read a lot of biographies and fact-based literature.
I can’t visualise the faces of my loved ones when we’re apart, which makes being apart even more difficult.

I have absolutely no clue what my shawls will look like until I have them quite literally completed and off the blocking wires, and I had NO IDEA until quite recently that other designers could.

So, I guess, on its surface this weird wiring in my head could be classed as a low-key disability. I mean, yea, look at all that stuff up there (and I’m finding more and more to add to that list all the time), it’s all gonna add a level of difficulty that others don’t have to deal with, especially when we’re talking about my designwork.

And it does suck. No two ways about it.
But here’s the thing. It also gives me a perspective on the design process that most others don’t possess. Because I can’t see the finished design in my head in any form at all, I have nothing in particular to aim my focus towards.
I end up then, meandering off the path others may stay confidently on. Where others have a direct, efficient and logical highway from idea to completion, I barely have a dirt path. I’m flailing around in the dark!

It takes me longer to get wherever I am going, but the scenic route affords me more opportunities to experiment and invent.

For me, designing isn’t about the visuals anwyay; it’s about a certain lingering, attractive tension and flow, and a sense of “rightness” in the maths (even when it’s not exactly accurate) that I don’t think I really can adequately explain. This is something I have struggled to articulate for decades because I simply didn’t have the language to make sense of it, and it’s something I’m only now beginning to understand. “Where do you get your ideas?” was an interview question I lived in dread of because I hadn’t a clue, and much like a magic eye picture (which, for the record, I also cannot do to save my life), I was worried that focussing too hard on the question would ensure the answer would simply disappear.

“I don’t ‘get’ ideas” is the best answer I have come up with so far.
I don’t get them, they don’t get me, I basically start with a hook and some yarn and I doodle til something happens that I can hang an idea on. I’m the proverbial monkey with a typewriter, folks.

It’s an unpredictable, inconsistent and precarious method, and it feels extremely amateurish to me, but it’s also the only way I know how to do this, so… I guess until they invent mental spectacles for aphantasiatics, it’s the only way I can work.

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What’s in a name?

It’s not like my parents were thumbing through an English/Irish dictionary when they were pregnant with me to find the most epic-sounding name possible for their little bawling bundle. But, despite this, they hit the nail on the head pretty darn squarely.

My full name is Aoibhe Caitríona Ní Shúilleabháin.

…I’ll give you a minute to get over the shock. Take your time.

There’s a lot to digest in there, I know. You’re not alone in your puppy-dog head tilting, I promise. How to pronounce my name is a question I get aimed sheepishly at me on a regular basis.

I used to feel the need to apologise.
“Sorry, I know it’s a crazy name”.
“It’s so complicated, I apologise”.
“Oh, just write it “Eva”, I don’t mind”.

But as I matured I started to see the power that comes with an unusual name, a traditional spelling, something that stands out. My name is spelt exactly the right way when you are an Irish speaker. The letters follow a distinct set of rules understood by people across this island, and scattered around the world. I learnt that just because it’s not the standard set by English spelling, doesn’t mean it’s not absolutely 100% valid and correct.

So, I stopped apologising, and instead started to educate.

This past weekend I was in England, at the gloriously inspiring Hillview Farm Creativity Fest. All weekend I had a lanyard with the truncated, professional version of my name around my neck. “Hi!” it proclaimed “I’m AOIBHE NI.”

I got the question a few times. Once, directly, other times with a sort of a faux-casual sidle, all asking the same thing; “How do those letters… make that sound?

So, here it is folks. Short of my going around with a flip chart and a laser pointer to everyone’s house, this is the best way I can explain it.

In Irish, as in many languages, the sound a consonant makes can be altered by something either before or after it.

Think about the difference in English between “trust” and “thrust”, “sip” and “ship”. Just, with Irish it happens with different consonants in different ways.

So, the “bh” in my name isn’t a B sound, but a soft V. It’s like as if the B sound just sorta gave up and didn’t put all that much effort in.

The “Aoi” combination is a classic in Irish. It’s pronounced a few different ways depending on the region, but in Leinster, where I grew up, it’s a kinda AY sound (as in Hay, or Ray, or Stay). Other regions make it a sharper EEE sound, (as in Need, or Creed). They’re both valid, and I will answer to either.

So, smushing it all together, we get AY-v-ah.

…yea, that e at the end is pronounced like an A (as in Lamb, or Bath)

Ní is pronounced exactly like that bendy bit half way down your leg. The fada (that’s the accent) on the i changes it from a short sounding vowel to a much longer, broader version.
So, i is ‘ih’, í is ‘eeeeh’.

Once I had learnt all that aged about oh, 6 or so? came the next phase of self discovery; working out the translation for the words in my name, and folks, this is where I suddenly developed a life-long grá (love) not only for my moniker, but also for the process of explaining it to interested people.

My name, when translated directly from Irish into English means… ahem;

The Radiant and Powerful daughter of the One-eyed Man

I mean, c’mon… what’s a girl to do with that? It’s a wonder I don’t obsess about spending my entire life inside a Tolkein novel, yearning to be a Rider of Rohan, tbh.

And, for what it’s worth, my father has two, perfectly serviceable eyes. A more suspicious person would be worried about that. 😉

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