Making history with a revival of weaving in Donegal, Ireland

New courses in Donegal are part of efforts to keep the art of weaving alive. Image: Donegal ETB
New courses in Donegal are part of efforts to keep the art of weaving alive. Image: Donegal ETB

A group of weavers in Ireland are making history. Locals in Donegal have enrolled in a training course that will help to revive traditional weaving skills; which are otherwise in imminent danger of being lost.

Authors: Eunan Cunningham, Regional Manager, WESTBIC and Katherine Peinhardt, ICLEI Europe

This is the first course of its type to take place in Ireland. The participants will be the first ever accredited hand weavers in Ireland. A full-time traditional weaving course, which began in September 2021 and will end in June 2022, will help the revival of the traditional skill of weaving in an area with a very strong textiles tradition going back for over 100 years.

Donegal Education & Training Board (Donegal ETB) is the largest provider of further education and training programmes in Co Donegal, with approximately 11,000 students completing programmes annually. Remaining conscious of its social inclusion remit in a rural county with a strong tradition of craft skills, the Board has worked over a number of years to develop an accredited weaving skills course as part of its suite of employment-focused training programmes. As well as providing much-needed employment opportunities, the course also helps to maintain and support a traditional craft skill which is in imminent danger of being lost.

The Donegal Weaving course was developed by Donegal ETB in partnership with many of the county’s leading weaving companies in response to an identified shortage of weavers trained in the Donegal style of weaving.  The course is accredited by the Scottish Qualification Authority. As part of the RURITAGE project, the Donegal ETB acquired facilities from gteic@Cill Charthaigh and WestBIC in Kilcar, County Donegal, an area of rich weaving tradition, in which to run the course.

The weaving course was made available to participants nationwide, and quickly reached full capacity. The participants will be trained by a master weaver through a full-time 44-week accredited practical weaving programme. This is great news for local weaving companies, which are experiencing a shortage of fully trained skilled weavers. The course offers the opportunity to gain the skills needed to work in this niche sector and contribute to the preservation of a heritage craft.