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Jennifer Slattery's embroidered design

Jennifer Slattery's embroidered design

Jennifer Slattery's embroidered design

Jennifer Slattery's embroidered design

Jennifer Slattery's embroidered design

Jennifer Slattery's embroidered design

Jennifer Slattery's embroidered design

Jennifer Slattery's embroidered design

Claire Anne O'Brien stool

Claire Anne O'Brien stool

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Are fixed mortgages a good idea?

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Jennifer Slattery's embroidered design

A warm blanket, they say, is the best protection against a cold world. Wool and linen are my favourites, because there's no replacing the tactility of natural fibres - they make a room feel warmer, both physically and emotionally.

I like the cultural connection too. Linen and wool have been part of Irish tradition for centuries. And it's not all about Aran knits and embroidered shamrocks. A new generation of young Irish designers are reworking these traditions to make cool and contemporary textiles for the home.

"There does seem to be a revival in knitting, but I've been doing it 10 years and it's been popular the whole time," says Claire-Anne O'Brien, the Corkonian textile designer, who is based in London.

"People are now using it in interiors and it's become trendy."

O'Brien's own brightly-coloured and heavily-textured stools look as though they've been knitted with giant needles. In fact, the surfaces are made of rolls of plain knitted fabric, layered and stitched into place. "I like the fact that it looks like knitting," she says. "I definitely take inspiration from traditional crafts, but then I translate them into upscaled forms and bright colours. It's a way of doing something different with an old way of working."

For a contemporary designer, O'Brien works in a surprisingly old-fashioned way. "The knitting is all pretty much done by hand. I outsource the knitting to women who work at home," she says. "The women are fast and reliable and they love knitting - so why not do it for money? I send out the design, they knit up the pieces and send them back to me to make up in my workshop."

This is the same process that fuelled the Aran sweater industry throughout the 20th century, when many an Irish mammy supported a family by sending a jumper a week to companies that supplied the American tourist market.

Because O'Brien's work is handmade and takes a lot of time, individual pieces are quite expensive and her new Olan series starts at €800 from www.bespokeglobal.com. The plus side of handmade items is that each piece is individually made and the can be modified or made to order in a different colour. An earlier series of knitted stools (from €285) is now in production with www.gan-rugs.com, which means that they can be more accessibly priced.

You'll also find a range of knitted footstools in mainstream retailers like Next (ie.nextdirect.com) and Harvey Norman (www.harveynorman.ie), where a knitted pouffe costs €95. These aren't hand knitted and the standard of making doesn't compare to O'Brien's, but they do add a sense of texture and cosiness to a room.

Back home in Cootehill, County Cavan, Joi Fu and Damien Hannigan of 31 Chapel Lane (www.31chapellane.com) are reinventing Irish linen and tweed for contemporary homeware.

Fu, originally from Australia, was impressed by the ruins of a local linen mill and started to research the industry. She quickly fell in love with linen and was surprised that it didn't have more of a place in modern day Ireland. "Irish linen should be like Barry's Tea or Kerrygold butter - something that you use every day," she says. "It's such a beautiful fabric, it's tough and long lasting, and it's still woven in Ireland."

Working together, the couple designed a range of tea towels and napkins (from €13 each) and tablecloths (from €80). Much of the Irish linen available in the shops is emblazoned with symbols of Irishness, but 31 Chapel Lane has managed to avoid the pressure to slap a shamrock on it and sell it to the tourists. (Does this still really happen? Yes, regrettably, it does.)

Instead of using a complex damask weave, Fu and Hannigan opted to leave the linen in as raw a state as possible, highlighting the texture of the fabric. "It's a pared-down design," Fu explains. "We really like the Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetic and we loved the qualities of Irish linen but wanted to bring some freshness to the design. It needed a bit of a lift!"

Back in Dublin, the textile designer, Jennifer Slattery, has taken on the tradition of embroidered tableware (jenniferslatterytextiles.com). Her Irish linen napkins (€68 for four) and runners (€88) are embroidered with witty designs based on cutlery.

"I studied graphic design in college and I had the idea of making cutlery-themed table linen. I made some for my degree show in 2010. I was just doing it for fun but people really liked it and it sold out on the first day." Now, Slattery works with small-scale local manufacturers, who cut and sew the pieces, but does the embroidery herself in her Benburb Street studio.

"It's nice to be able to work with a locally-woven fabric," she says. "It's helping create employment in Ireland. That's important to me."

Slattery finds that her table linen is popular with younger people, including men, as well as the older generation. "People like to dress up the table for dinner parties," she says. "Years ago, table linen was put away for special occasions, but washing machines have come a long way since then. Everything that I do is machine washable. It's supposed to be used."

She also has a range of printed cotton napkins (€48 for four) and runners (€46). The cotton is cheaper, but the linen will last a whole lot longer.

Remember the ballad about the man who slit his wife's throat and then, filled with remorse, used the bed sheet to hang himself? "He went to hell, but his wife got well / And she's still alive and sinning / For the razor blade was Dublin-made /But the sheet was Belfast linen." (www.claireanneobrien.com).

A warm blanket, they say, is the best protection against a cold world. Wool and linen are my favourites, because there's no replacing the tactility of natural fibres - they make a room feel warmer, both physically and emotionally.

I like the cultural connection too. Linen and wool have been part of Irish tradition for centuries. And it's not all about Aran knits and embroidered shamrocks. A new generation of young Irish designers are reworking these traditions to make cool and contemporary textiles for the home.

"There does seem to be a revival in knitting, but I've been doing it 10 years and it's been popular the whole time," says Claire-Anne O'Brien, the Corkonian textile designer, who is based in London.

"People are now using it in interiors and it's become trendy."

O'Brien's own brightly-coloured and heavily-textured stools look as though they've been knitted with giant needles. In fact, the surfaces are made of rolls of plain knitted fabric, layered and stitched into place. "I like the fact that it looks like knitting," she says. "I definitely take inspiration from traditional crafts, but then I translate them into upscaled forms and bright colours. It's a way of doing something different with an old way of working."

For a contemporary designer, O'Brien works in a surprisingly old-fashioned way. "The knitting is all pretty much done by hand. I outsource the knitting to women who work at home," she says. "The women are fast and reliable and they love knitting - so why not do it for money? I send out the design, they knit up the pieces and send them back to me to make up in my workshop."

This is the same process that fuelled the Aran sweater industry throughout the 20th century, when many an Irish mammy supported a family by sending a jumper a week to companies that supplied the American tourist market.

Because O'Brien's work is handmade and takes a lot of time, individual pieces are quite expensive and her new Olan series starts at €800 from www.bespokeglobal.com. The plus side of handmade items is that each piece is individually made and the can be modified or made to order in a different colour. An earlier series of knitted stools (from €285) is now in production with www.gan-rugs.com, which means that they can be more accessibly priced.

You'll also find a range of knitted footstools in mainstream retailers like Next (ie.nextdirect.com) and Harvey Norman (www.harveynorman.ie), where a knitted pouffe costs €95. These aren't hand knitted and the standard of making doesn't compare to O'Brien's, but they do add a sense of texture and cosiness to a room.

Back home in Cootehill, County Cavan, Joi Fu and Damien Hannigan of 31 Chapel Lane (www.31chapellane.com) are reinventing Irish linen and tweed for contemporary homeware.

Fu, originally from Australia, was impressed by the ruins of a local linen mill and started to research the industry. She quickly fell in love with linen and was surprised that it didn't have more of a place in modern day Ireland. "Irish linen should be like Barry's Tea or Kerrygold butter - something that you use every day," she says. "It's such a beautiful fabric, it's tough and long lasting, and it's still woven in Ireland."

Working together, the couple designed a range of tea towels and napkins (from €13 each) and tablecloths (from €80). Much of the Irish linen available in the shops is emblazoned with symbols of Irishness, but 31 Chapel Lane has managed to avoid the pressure to slap a shamrock on it and sell it to the tourists. (Does this still really happen? Yes, regrettably, it does.)

Instead of using a complex damask weave, Fu and Hannigan opted to leave the linen in as raw a state as possible, highlighting the texture of the fabric. "It's a pared-down design," Fu explains. "We really like the Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetic and we loved the qualities of Irish linen but wanted to bring some freshness to the design. It needed a bit of a lift!"

Back in Dublin, the textile designer, Jennifer Slattery, has taken on the tradition of embroidered tableware (jenniferslatterytextiles.com). Her Irish linen napkins (€68 for four) and runners (€88) are embroidered with witty designs based on cutlery.

"I studied graphic design in college and I had the idea of making cutlery-themed table linen. I made some for my degree show in 2010. I was just doing it for fun but people really liked it and it sold out on the first day." Now, Slattery works with small-scale local manufacturers, who cut and sew the pieces, but does the embroidery herself in her Benburb Street studio.

"It's nice to be able to work with a locally-woven fabric," she says. "It's helping create employment in Ireland. That's important to me."

Slattery finds that her table linen is popular with younger people, including men, as well as the older generation. "People like to dress up the table for dinner parties," she says. "Years ago, table linen was put away for special occasions, but washing machines have come a long way since then. Everything that I do is machine washable. It's supposed to be used."

She also has a range of printed cotton napkins (€48 for four) and runners (€46). The cotton is cheaper, but the linen will last a whole lot longer.

Remember the ballad about the man who slit his wife's throat and then, filled with remorse, used the bed sheet to hang himself? "He went to hell, but his wife got well / And she's still alive and sinning / For the razor blade was Dublin-made /But the sheet was Belfast linen." (www.claireanneobrien.com)

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