This year marks the 1500th anniversary of the death of one’s of Ireland’s best-known Saints, St Brigid. In her honour, celebrations are taking place around County Kildare, including four handmade wool tapestries in St Brigid’s Cathedral.

These tapestries, called the “St Brigid’s Cloaks,” are made of native Irish grown wool and use traditional Aran knit stitching. The cloaks were created by more than 950 participants from around the country, including 250 Kildare school children.

IWTO Member Wool in School led a series of educational workshops, in association with Creative Ireland and Kildare County Council, to achieve the result.

Irish Grown Wool Tapestry Project Celebrates “Brigid 1500”

“The wonderful creation of cloaks in our native Irish grown wool is very appropriate to celebrate the legacy of St. Brigid in this year of Brigid 1500,” said the Very Rev Isobel Jackson, Dean of St. Brigid’s Cathedral.

“St. Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare is delighted and honoured to be first to host the display of the ‘St Brigid’s Cloaks’ tapestries.”

Lá Fhéile Bríde or St Brigid’s Day takes place on 1 February and heralds the beginning of spring. The legend of her cloak is one of the first miracles associated with her.

Read More: An Introduction to Wool in School

Aran Squares and Irish Wool

This contemporary manifestation of St Brigid’s cloak consists of four large panels constructed so that each panel is surrounded by a border of Aran squares. These Aran squares were hand knit by experienced knitters from around Ireland.  These in turn frame vibrant textural wool elements made by children, farmers, and community members.

The cloaks are made exclusively from Irish grown wool from Donegal Yarns, Galway Wool, Ciaran’s Yarns, and Eriu.

Key to the delivery of this project were Wool in School director Lorna McCormack and lead artist Michelle Hickey Legge. Both are enthusiastic supporters of Irish wool and sustainability practices. Their crafting workshops enabled both new and experienced knitters to contribute to the collaborative tapestries.

“I am thrilled to be involved in an incredible project that unites generations to produce stunning pieces using the versatility of Irish grown wool,” Lorna McCormack said.

“When people unite in harmony, we can truly see the inherent beauty that arises. Discovering this is a powerful experience.”

Wool in School

Wool in School is a wool inspired education company.  It is committed to increasing the awareness of wool, wool production, and wool’s sustainable qualities. Wool in School introduces children, teachers, and families to the amazing qualities of wool and fibres.

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St Brigid

Widely regarded as an icon of feminine strength and leadership, Brigid transcended traditional gender roles of her era. Tradition holds that St. Brigid established a double monastery for women and men in Kildare around 480 CE,  the sole example of its kind established in Ireland.

Her feast day, February 1, marks the traditional beginning of Spring in Ireland.

A “Brat Bhride” or “Brigid’s Blanket” was placed outside at sunset on the eve of  February 1st, and brought back inside before sunrise. The dew that fell that night is said to infuse the fabric with healing and protective powers. This cloth was kept in a special spot within the house and used when needed for healing purposes. This included the healing of sick animals, particularly cows and sheep, to whom Brigid had a special connection.

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