Wicklow woman’s creations hit Hollywood as Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson don her sweaters in Banshees of Inisherin
Barry Keoghan, Meryl Streep, Jude Law, Christian Bale and Emily Watson have all worn items made by Greystones resident Delia Barry.
Fresh off a phone call with a radio station from her home county of Tipperary, Delia Barry tries to make sense of the madness which has become her life over the past few months.
Having already been interviewed by The New York Times and The Daily Mail and had her work dissected in the pages of Vogue she is no stranger to publicity, to dealing with the press, however, on this occasion she must make do with a scribe from the Bray People.
The source of this madness, of all this fuss, are Delia’s jumpers, the hand-knitted creations sported by Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Barry Keoghan in the multi-Oscar nominated hit The Banshees of Inisherin. Created from the comfort of her home in Greystones these bespoke designs captured the imagination of cinema-goers the world over as Martin McDonagh’s film slowly became one of the most-talked about films of 2022.
But it wasn’t just movie-lovers who were enchanted by the jumpers, the Aran sweaters also made waves in the world of fashion with many viewers wondering how to get their hands on an original ‘Barry’ of their own. While she can’t promise tailor-made knits for every person who has admired her work over the past six months, Delia is happy to discuss her sudden rise to prominence and how it all came about following the death of a loved one.
“After my husband Paddy died ten years ago I joined the Greystones Cancer Support (GCS) group, they were very good to me when he was sick, providing taxis in out and of the hospital, that was invaluable,” Delia says. “It was somewhere to go, we would meet up and some would do crochet, knitting, others just came for a chat, it was a great outlet, but unfortunately it’s not on any more – because of the pandemic.”
The pandemic was a difficult time for Delia (83), living on her own she found herself completely isolated, left without the social networks the support group had provided. However, prior to the world shutting down, she had found a new outlet, a new method of keeping herself occupied.
Brendan Gleeson sent me a thank you card afterwards and I’ve ended up knitting two more jumpers for him
“Someone at the centre had a link with Ardmore Studios and it just went from there,” Delia says in typically understated fashion. That link brought Delia into contact with costume designer Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh which, in turn, saw her creations appearing in a number of high-profile films and worn by some of the biggest stars in Hollywood today.
“I began by doing gloves and scarves for Little Women, I ended up meeting Emily Watson and teaching her how to knit. She was lovely and picked up the knitting very quickly. I’ve also made items for Meryl Streep, for Jude Law in The Rhythm Section, and Christian Bale in Reign of Fire,” she says.
When I went to see it, I spent most of the film looking at the jumpers, making sure they looked alright, I’d need to see it again in more relaxing circumstances
Then came The Banshees of Inisherin, a film which Delia admits she wasn’t able to enjoy when she saw it in the cinema.
“When I went to see it I spent most of the film looking at the jumpers, making sure they looked alright, I’d need to see it again in more relaxing circumstances,” she jokes. “Since then it’s blown up out of all proportion. Brendan Gleeson sent me a thank you card afterwards and I’ve ended up knitting two more jumpers for him, The New York Times have been on to me, I was just on Tipp FM – I’m from Cahir originally. My family think it’s crazy for this to be all happening at my age, but it’s good to do something productive, to prove I’m not past it.”
Because above all else, Delia knits for enjoyment, to keep her mind active and her senses sharp. Ordinarily a relaxing process, she admits there’s some additional pressure when knitting to spec for a big-budget movie.
“I do enjoy it but is there some pressure when you have to make them within a certain time, when you know you have to do it,” she says. “For the one Colin Farrell wore, it took about ten days to make, and that was ten hours a day, weekends, without any days off.”
Like many of her generation, Delia says she learned how to knit in school, during a time when it was a mandatory lesson.
For the one Colin Farrell wore, it took about ten days to make, and that was ten hours a day, weekends, without any days off
“None of my family would have knitted, when we went to school we would have lessons every week and you had no choice but to do it then, but from there I had an interest in and taught myself how to get better at it. It helps when you’re getting older to keep your mind active.”
Currently working on a project which she is legally bound to keep silent, Delia says her dream job would have been to create a jumper or an item of clothing for the late Gregory Peck. As for actors still with us, she pauses before answering.
“Pierce Brosnan would be nice too,” she says finally.
Knitting for cancer support is important to me, to give something back, they were there for me when I needed help
Proving she hasn’t forgotten her roots, hasn’t been seduced by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Delia is joining up with Greystones Cancer Support for a raffle which will see her knit a made-to-fit jumper for one lucky winner. There are four designs the winner can choose from and they'll also be able to pick the size they want and colour of the wool.
“Knitting for cancer support is important to me, to give something back, they were there for me when I needed help,” Delia says.
Tickets are €10 each or three for €25. To enter visit idonate.ie and search Win an Aran Jumper knit by Delia Barry.