‘It’s okay to be urban’ – keeping weaving alive in the city

The Liberties Weavers engage in events and workshops throughout the Liberties area that give the skill, mostly now associated with tourist regions in the west of Ireland, a breath of fresh urban air.

The Liberties Weavers, Photograph: Diana Lazar

“This area used to be synonymous with weaving. You’ve got Weaver Square, Weaver Close, and Weaver Park down the road. At the Tenters fields, the cloth used to be put up and stretched out – so this whole area was all about weaving,” says Claire Byrne, chairperson of The Liberties Weavers.

The group locates its interest in the weaving craft in the historical culture of weaving in the area.

“We’ve participated in events including the Liberties Festival and the Dublin Festival of History. We did an online weaving event for the Festival of History, we held a talk where we showed our award that we won for community engagement, and we had an in-person weaving event at Richmond Barracks,” says Byrne.

What separates them and their style from other styles of weaving is that urban twist.

“A lot of weaving usually has earthy colours if it comes from places like Donegal, where their view is mountains, grass, and sheep.

“Our view is the Dublin bus, fire engines and student accommodations. It’s completely different and does make us different because you do reflect what you see and it’s okay to be urban,” Byrne says.

The members came from different skill backgrounds such as knitting and crocheting.

“Everyone here has their own skills, but weaving is something different. It’s so old and still so relevant. One thing we learned very quickly from making silk is how slow fashion is. It took us 12 weeks to make a ribbon, but you could go into Penney’s and buy one for two euros,” Byrne says.

It’s so old and still so relevant”

Claire Byrne, Liberties Weavers

The simplicity of weaving is part of its charm.

“Although we have equipment now, we didn’t need a lot of equipment before. We start people off with a piece of cardboard, a needle and wool. It’s really simple to do and it works for children as well as adults,” Byrne says.

A tool used for weaving. Photograph: Diana Lazar

The craft has practical advantages.

“It wasn’t just about making art for art’s sake but about making things we wanted to make like scarves, handbags, shoelaces, and handbag straps. We’re making useful things and we’re able to wear what we make.”

“We learned about our style as well. Most people would tell you I have no style, especially my kids. But I think we’ve all learned that we do have a style. I know now that I never use earth greens or browns, but I always use pinks, purples, and golds,” she adds.

A member’s shoelaces made by their own weaving, Photograph: Diana Lazar

Weaving continues to bring the community together.

“A lot of artists will talk about loneliness because doing art alone can be very lonely. But what we found was that it brings us together,” she says.

“When we were weaving together on Zoom [during covid], we made lovely things, but there was something flat about it,” Byrne says. “When we started doing it in person again and could see what each other were doing and we could ask questions, it changed everything.”

To see more of The Liberties Weavers, click here.

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