When I knit custom orders, I am often requested to use 'Irish' yarns. For garments and accessories suitable to the colder months, I mainly knit with Donegal Tweed anyway, so that keeps things pretty streamlined. When it comes to socks, however, matters grow more complicated.
There is no Irish-made sock yarn per se, that I know of, in the sense of the yarn itself being spun on the island. There are also no commercial Irish sock yarn brands that would enable me to get prices on par with, say, Drops Fable, or even Cascade Heritage or West Yorkshire Spinners. There are, however, plenty of small independent hand-dyers based in Ireland. Like nearly all indie dyers around the world, they do not manufacture their own yarn. They buy undyed skeins from a supplier, then dye them up in their proprietary colourways. Because these dyers operate on such a small scale and do everything by hand, the yarn they sell ends up being quite expensive, from the consumer's point of view, compared to commercial yarns.
Which is to say that a custom sock request that specifies 'Irish' sock yarn, means
1. 20-25 Euro in materials alone, and
2. the yarn will be dyed, but not 'made' in Ireland
When I explain this to the person making the custom order inquiry, they usually change their minds and ask for an alternative yarn (which is perfectly understandable). But not always! And those who do not change their minds, have prompted me to do some research on Irish indie dyers, to the point that at this stage I may have a fairly complete list. And it's a list I wanted to share, both to support the dyers themselves, and to be helpful to knitters around the world who might find it useful. Because while the big one - Hedgehog Fibres - is quite the international hit already, the majority of indie dyers here are low key and hard to find.
So in any case, here they are, in alphabetical order, linked up to their shops. And if you are - or know of - a dyer not on the list, please let me know in the comments!
INDIE YARN DYERS: REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
INDIE YARN DYERS: NORTHERN IRELAND
Oh, and in case you wonder, a note on the 'based in Ireland' phrasing in the title: The fibre arts community on the Emerald Isle is quite diverse. Many of us dyers, spinners, weavers and knitters - myself included - are not Irish. But we call Ireland home.
Final note: As you may have noticed, I have begun to write up my experiences with some of these yarns. There are more forthcoming - but obviously not all of them, as I haven't really the budget to buy too much yarn for personal use. If you are a local dyer and would like your yarn tested or reviewed, please get in touch and we can work something out!