As the clodagh is to Irish jewelry, so is the waxed jacket to Irish clothing.
Barbour is the quintessential Irish wax jacket maker; they’ve been making them since 1894. The jackets are kept for lifetimes and, even passed down within families, so special are they considered by their owners.
These garments are called wax jackets because they are coated with wax to make them durable and waterproof. They are made out of cotton. The application of the wax is called proofing. Once the cloth has been proofed, it can never be washed! It’s true. If you wash or dry clean it, the fabric will be ruined. Barbour advises the owners of their jackets to sponge clean them gently with cold water and reproof–apply fresh wax–about once a year. I guess this can be difficult, so most people pay about 50 dollars and send their jackets back to the factory to have it done there.
I’ve been interested in getting myself a Barbour jacket just because it is one of those traditional Irish items that is very useful. Probably the most classic design of the Barbour jackets is the Beadnell. It’s a rather plain jacket, black with large patch pockets and not too difficult to find here in the U.S. Several of the major chain department stores carry it and it looks like it will set me back about 300 dollars.
This video gives a quick but delightful introduction to Barbour and shows an expert reproofing a jacket. I went looking. After all, if I by one of these, I’m not sure I want to send it all the way to Ireland and have to wait for a month to get it back!
Well, first of all, this is not a rug as we are used to calling a rug in the U.S.
It’s a travel rug, meant to cover the knees to keep you warm. Historically, travel rugs were used to cover you up when you rode in a buggy or carriage or on a train. Nowadays, they’re more likely to be used as a picnic blanket. Travel rugs are not used on the floor; they are blankets, although typically thicker than most standard blankets and usually made of wool.
Recently, I inherited a lovely travel blanket from a relative. It’s not really that old, but it is from Ireland and the quality is exceptional. I would never put it on the ground even though it came to me a bit on the musty side. I wasn’t sure what to do with it at first but I knew I did not want to just stick in in the closet with a bunch of mothballs.
The rug was made from Zwartbles wool. This is not the name of a company that produces wool, it is the name of a breed of sheep. The wool is naturally dark, ranging from charcoal to chocolate brown, and is medium-fine texture. Perfect for a travel rug. A rug that originally cost about $200.
I’m not afraid of altering an item. To me, fabric and materials are meant to be used and enjoyed.
So, I think I’ll make a skirt. First, however, I will have it cleaned by a professional carpet cleaning service. Wool anything is a bug magnet, so it’s always a good idea to have it cleaned and sealed until ready to use. There are many online tutorials showing creative sorts who have made skirts out of blankets. Usually they are simple designs such as a wrap skirt, or a simple one-seamed affair with a loosely gathered elastic waist. I think something like this would cause minimal change to the material. Here’s a look at the texture of the rug/blanket.
I think the fringe could be placed strategically at the hem of the skirt. Worn over knee high boots, it should be quite striking and definitely, warm.
How many of us have one of those beautiful wool sweaters the parents bought us when they traveled back to the homeland? They are amazing, but let’s face it…wool is itchy. Unless you’re going to layer on the layers, or you live in North Dakota (or actually, you still live in Ireland), you’re probably going to wear this sweater once a year. What do you with it? Well, you should not get rid of it. It’s too precious. If you didn’t know that, then here’s a bit of background so you know what you really own.
Irish wool sweaters, also known as Aran sweaters because they originated in the Aran Islands, are a classic Irish fashion staple, not to mention, a tourist collectible. The sweaters are knitted in different patterns which were used to identify from which island came the sweater’s wearer. The stitches have become quite complex over time and a single sweater can take months to produce. The most well-know stitches are the diamond, honeycomb and cable. Want to know more? You can visit aransweatermarket.com to get more info.
First, you might want to identify the exact pattern of your sweater. Take several photos. You might want to have it appraised. As is the case with many handcrafted arts, the patterns and the people who knit them are in decline.
Second, consider up cycling your sweater. There are numerous examples of this on Pinterest and crafter blog sites. Just be sure about it before you cut the thing up!
Third, preserve it for the next in line. You can also take it to the dry cleaner and have them clean it and box it up like a wedding dress so the moths won’t have at it.