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Layering Sweaters for Warmth the Irish Way

Just hearing the word winter makes even the most hearty of us shiver a bit thinking of the

snow, ice, and dreary gray skies. Winter is the damp chilly cousin of summer who comes over, drinks all your booze and leaves dirty underwear on the floor. Slogging through longest shortest days of the year can be tough, but the Irish came up with a way to knock out that chill and keep looking stylish. Layering. That’s right, layering.

The air pockets in wool fibers insulate and stay dry, even when they’re wet, partially because sheep wool contains lanolin, a natural oil in the wool that keeps a sheeps coat from matting and also protects them from the sun.

Irish wool is prized for its softness and durability, which makes Irish sweaters some of the best for keeping you warm on even the dreariest day, and the Irish definitely know dreary and damp.

When you hear “Irish sweater” do visions of aran patterns, white wool, and fishermen come to mind? Of course they do, but recently traditional sweaters have given way to a more fashion-forward look, with rich colors and stylish designs.

Irish sweaters go with everything, the rules of fashion are out, and the rules of style are in! Wear your sweater over a pair of boyfriend jeans with boots, a mini-skirt and tights, or even a long skirt for a more sophisticated look. Fall festival attendees are even seen wearing their Irish sweaters with jean shorts and ankle boots for a more adventurous look. Of course, pairing your Irish sweater with a great pair of boots, your favorite jeans, and a statement necklace is a timeless look . No matter how you layer it, an Irish sweater will keep you warm and stylish.


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Aran Knits: Artistry in Wool

honeycomb stitch-AranAran knits are considered a major part of the traditions of the Aran Islands, with each pattern having a meaning and deep cultural context. There are several stories regarding these patterns, the most popular of which is that long ago the women of the Aran Islands knitted sweaters in special patterns to indicate which clan they were from, this was used to identify the bodies of fishermen who were caught at sea and drowned. This is, while romantic, not the case.

In reality, the Aran patterns originated in the 1900s and are mainly decorative, although the layering of the yarns provides extra warmth. An article in the Irish Examiner quotes Carol Feller, an Innishannon-based knitting pattern designer as saying “The traditional Aran that we would have been led to believe existed for a long time actually never existed,” she goes on to say “Aran knitting as we know it was invented in the middle of the last century in order to create income for the women of the Aran Islands.”

These sometimes intricate patterns have come to represent the beautiful craftsmanship of Ireland, and each has a name all its own. The Celtic Ranch carries gloves, hats, and sweaters in several of these designs, which include:

The Link Stitch: The eternal link for those who left the island

The Trellis Stitch:An intricate pattern of plain stitches worked to form a trellis effect over purl stitches, represent the stoney fields of the west, and the nets of the Fishermen.

honeycomb stitch-Aran

Honeycomb Stitch (picture courtesy of Erin Knitwear)

The Honeycomb Stitch: This looks like its name and is made by twisting stitches forwards and backwards across the panel. It is a tribute to the bee. It was considered a lucky omen if a fisherman saw a swarm of bees before setting out to sea a good catch was assured.

The Moss Stitch, or Carageen Moss: (Seaweed with medicinal properties – also used for making Blancmange) It represents wealth to the Fisherfolk. Also called poor man’s wealth.

Moss Stitch, Carrageen Stitch (picture courtesy of Erin Knitwear)

Moss Stitch, Carrageen Stitch (picture courtesy of Erin Knitwear)

The Diamond Stitch:Usually formed in Moss Stitch and is said to represent wealth and success.

The Ladder Stitch:Purl or twist stitches worked to form the poles and rungs of the ladder of life, against a plain stitch background. It symbolises the pilgrims road to eternal happiness.

Today these stitches are made into modern, fashionable sweaters, perfect to keep you warm, fashionable, and add a little romance to your sweater collection!

(stitch names, pictures, and descriptions courtesy of Erin Knitwear, see more on their wholesale only website.)

 

 

 

 

 


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Where do we find all these treasures?

ShanOre Claddagh birthstone ring

ShanOre Claddagh birthstone ring

I cannot count how many times, we’ve had a customer ask “where to you get all this?”  Good question! Terry buys from many places, including Ireland, Scotland, England, and even trade shows in New York and Las Vegas. Let’s take a look at where she buys some of the exclusive treasures you love.

Ireland: Once a year in Dublin there is a trade show called Showcase Dublin, billed as “the best of Irish creativity in one of Europe’s most vibrant cities”;  where artists and craftspeople from Ireland congregate to set up a booth to showcase (see?) their goods. Among these are some familiar names: Branigan Weavers, Jimmy Hourihan, John Hanly, Mucros Weavers, Mullingar pewter ShanOre Irish Jewelers, Fado Jewelry, and Hannah Hats. This is also where Ireland’s best and brightest new artists, craftspeople and designers come to present their goods for sale to shopkeepers around the globe.  Some of the individual artisans Terry has found there include: Skaramanda jewelry, Ian Carty ceramics,

Ian Carty Ceramics Candle Pot

Ian Carty Ceramics Candle Pot

BombyxMORI silk and felted wool scarves, and Siobhan hats and capes.

Great Britain: Many of the pieces from Great Britain are companies that are at Showcase Dublin such as: A E Williams Pewter, St. Justin Pewter from Cornwall, and many others.

New York: There are a multitude of trade shows in New York, recently Terry has been travelling there to gather pieces from all over, to increase the fair trade collections in The Celtic Ranch. Among these are: Copper and tin ornaments from Thailand and India, and leather goods from India. While these are not specifically Irish companies, they embody the Irish spirit of supporting small artists. These pieces come from companies who improve the quality of life of small villages, creating a means of support, and in many cases enabling schools and housing to be built for the residents by selling the goods they make. Caring for each other, seeing each person as a treasure: definitely Irish, very much The Celtic Ranch.  She has also found some companies making quality scarves and t-shirts, which complement Irish sweaters beautifully, and several jewelry businesses, one of which is producing some of our own designs.

Las Vegas: Yowza! One of the largest markets in the country takes place in Las Vegas, and it is HUGE (think several football fields). This has been a resource for some of the more whimsical gift lines, many of which are in our forest. Little notebooks, fairy statues, gnomes, and of course more clothing to complement the Irish sweaters.

US small artisans: Terry has found several small artisans who create the pieces you see in the store; our nail crosses, hearts, nativities are designed by well known artist Travis Burford, who has passed away, but whose legacy lives on. Terry also sources smaller businesses to purchase the wooden signs, and the horseshoe pieces.

So, where do we get these treasures? EVERYWHERE! Terry is a busy traveller and cherry picks the best from all over just for YOU.


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Why Should I Drink Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey?

Whiskey is one of the greatest contributions the Irish have made to humanity. There is a Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeydiverse range of  tastes and complexity of flavors which rival even the finest wines, the distilleries of Ireland produce a breathtaking array of whiskeys to delight any palate, and the experience of single pot whiskey is one like no other, and can best be described as “thousands of angels dancing on your tongue”.

What is a single pot still Irish whiskey? I asked Terry Kast, owner of the Celtic Ranch and whiskey aficionado : “What is a single pot still Irish whiskey?” she said “It’s really a happy accident! The queen put a tax on any malted barley that went into Irish whiskey.   In an effort to avoid paying the crown the Irish began adding unmalted barley in the distillation to the malted barley.  This turned out quite lovely and thus the single pot still was created! This is uniquely Irish and makes a complex whiskey.  And as usual the whiskey gets a glorious color from the barrels during the aging process.”

Some of the most interesting and famous single pot still Irish whiskey comes from the Midleton distillery in County Cork, Ireland. These particular whiskeys hearken back to the origins of Irish whiskey.

Yellow Spot: last seen in the mid to late 1960s, originally created by Mitchell & Son Wine and Spirit Merchants. It’s been reborn with the recent revival of Irish whiskey, and is aged in Malaga wine casks, giving it a spicy sweet nose and taste.

Green Spot: like the Yellow Spot, it is a creation of Mitchell & Son Wine and Spirit Merchants. Matured in bourbon and sherry casks, it is aromatic, spicy and slightly woody. Only small quantities are brewed each year, making this a rare treat with fans across the world!

Powers John’s Lane 12 year: this derives its name from the Powers John’s Lane distillery, rich in history and famed for its single pot still whiskeys. It is matured in bourbon casks as well as Olorosso sherry butts, giving it a notably earthy flavor and nose, with hints of wood and leather.

Redbreast single pot still 12 year:  this is the one I’m most partial to. It really tastes like angels on your tongue. It is truly heavenly in its color, aroma and flavor. The Olorosso sherry casks give it a fruitiness, it is also described as having a “Christmas cake character”

Redbreast single pot still 15 year: originally launched as a limited edition whiskey, it has taken up permanent residence in the Redbreast catalog. It’s renowned for its complexity of nose and taste. Matured in bourbon and Olorosso sherry casks, it has a fleshy fruit note with a spiciness to complement.

Single pot still Irish whiskey is an unparalleled taste of Irish history, whiskey lovers of all nationalities agree it is possibly the single most important contribution the Irish have made to humanity. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but these whiskeys are truly the stuff dreams are made of.)  For a sample of these one-of-a-kind aqua vitae (waters of life) attend our Single Pot still Irish whiskey tasting on January 16 at 3pm. Reserve your glass, you don’t want to miss this rare opportunity!


Let us be your personal shoppers. Stop by the store for our extensive line of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Tasting and other carfully selected treasures to touch your inner celt
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Terry Kast, heart and soul of the Celtic Ranch

Terry Kast, Equestrian

 You may be wondering exactly what IS a Celtic Ranch? Do we raise horses? Sheep? Leprechauns?
The Celtic Ranch is a lifestyle, born of a woman’s love of Ireland and devotion to horses. Our founder, Terry Kast, longtime horsewoman, visited Ireland to get in touch with her roots and explore the Emerald Isle, particularly Sligo, land of her ancestors. Long story short, it was love at first sight! She came home and found herself filled with a longing for  Ireland, a place she realized made her spirit feel as peaceful and free as riding her horse (see the ranch connection?).

Her first love was horsemanship, she won many awards, was a rodeo queen, and a trick rider (there’s a picture in our store of her upside down on a horse). She still can do the trick riding, she says “but not on purpose”. She keeps horses in a glorious barn at her home and rides as often as she can. She’s also a dog lover, with several dogs including two Jack Russell Terriers, a mixed breed, and Two Anatolian Shepherds.

Ireland is Terry’s heart and soul. Her devotion to Celtic history, craftsmanship, and Ireland’s special magic has led her to create this one-of-a-kind experience to share with you.Terry considers everyone who walks through the doors of the Celtic Ranch to be not only a customer, but a friend, so most days you’ll find her doing her favorite “job” of educating shoppers on the products in the store, or discussing the pros and cons of the different Irish whiskeys and Scotchs we sell. Her knowledge of Irish whiskey and Scotch led her to create “Whiskey Cowgirl” videos which are a must for anyone interested in furthering their education of whiskey, while being entertained by Terry’s spunky personality.

Terry has a passion for her fierce and noble ancestors. Her warrior spirit and cowgirl sensibilities make her truly an experience unto herself, stop by the store and say hello, grab a cup of tea, and meet our own Celtic Warrior/Whiskey Cowgirl. You’ll be better for it.


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Ten Ways to Enjoy Weston, Missouri in January

It’s gloomy, you’ve built as many pillow and blanket forts in your living room as you possibly can, you’ve played “hot lava” so much you’ve squished all your couch cushions and throw pillows beyond recognition, and worst of all you’ve run out of wine (or beer or whiskey). You need a change of scenery, to get outdoors, to find new ways of entertaining yourself and your kids, did I mention you’ve run out of wine? There is a solution to your winter doldrums twenty minutes outside Kansas City! Weston, Missouri has enough to entertain the family for hours, or even a few days. We’ve compiled a ten point list of ways to enjoy January in Weston, Missouri.

10. Snow Creek offers skiing, snowboarding, and for those concerned about breaking a hip, tubing. Nothing says winter fun like barreling down a hill of sparkling snow! Bring your hat, your gloves, your coat and your courage and fling yourself into winter with wild abandon! It’s a great time for the whole family.

 

9. Weston Bend State Park is open year round for hiking, biking, and jogging. The three mile paved trail is a perfect way for beginners to enjoy the winter beauty of the park and get some excercise (Christmas cookies, anyone? ). If you’re a little more experienced you can hike one of the many trails or make your own, you can hike all the way to the Missouri river, it’s a grand sight in winter.

 

8. Weston, Missouri is not your living room. Getting out of your own space and going somewhere new is always a great pick-me-up. Also, we have restaurants and booze.

 

7. Bed and Breakfasts are a fun way to get away for a few days, and we host some of the best in the state. Each one is warm and cozy, with delightful owners and delicious breakfasts to get you fortified for the day.

 

6. So much history! Our museums, antebellum homes, Lewis and Clark trails, and refurbished buildings are a fascinating part of Missouri history. Did you know the river used to run right through town? Come find out more!

 

5.  Let us entertain you, let us make you smile…the pub has music year-round, national and regional artists play Thursday-Sunday, and you get to go down into a cave. Technically spelunking is a hobby/sport so you’ve gotten your exercise. We also have opportunities for wine tastings, and corks and canvas events where you drink and paint. (Remember, you’ve run out of wine.)

 

4. We have a lot of food. A. Lot. Of. Food. There are seven restaurants downtown, a bar and grill on the highway, as well as an artisan bakery. Make your grandmother happy and “eat something, you look too thin”.

 

3. You’ve run out of booze. We have booze. There are several wineries open for tastings, as well as the famed McCormick Distillery shop. We have a local brewery, as well as shops that sell a variety of liquors and mixers. Don’t forget, you need booze to build more pillow forts.

 

2. Variety is what it’s all about (that and the Hokey Pokey) and Weston has that in spades! Want some clothing no one else will be wearing? Weston. Unusual furnishings? Weston. One of a kind gifts? Weston. Our shops are entertaining in their own right, and a fun way to shop small business.

 

1. The number one reason to visit Weston, Missouri is The Celtic Ranch. We have it all! (Not skiing or hiking, but we do have a forest in the back). Warm sweaters,wool socks, gifts, extraordinary jewelry (Valentines day is just around the corner), events (click this link for information on our next tasting) and an expertly curated assortment of whiskeys,scotches wines and liquors. Remember, you’re out of booze, now is the time to stock up, those forts won’t build themselves and “hot lava” is more fun to play after a little tipple.

 


Let us be your personal shoppers. Stop by the store for our extensive line of Whiskey tasting and other carfully selected treasures to touch your inner celt
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Mucros Weavers Scarves: The Art of John Cahill

Mucros Weavers Scarves in the colors of Ireland

Several years ago I went with Terry to Ireland to get a feel for the country, and learn about the people and products sold at The Celtic Ranch. The first day we visited Mucros was a drizzly gray day, the foliage was a deep green, and I fell in love. Killarney was my favorite spot, especially Killarney National Park, which has inspired generations of artists and craftsmen to create pieces that combine function and beauty in a way only the Irish can. Famed for its mountains, streams, waterfall, ancient trees, and breathtaking scenery it is also host to Muckross House, keeper of tradition and history. Along with the gardens, the mansion, farmstead, historical library and book bindery is Mucros Weavers. Under the spell of his surroundings John Cahill, Master Weaver, combines tradition and fashion to create hats, scarves, and fabrics whose quality and beauty are so captivating they’ve become a staple in shops specializing in Irish goods all over the world.

John Cahill has presided over the textiles produced at Mucros Weavers for over 30 years, having begun in the 1970s after attending Galashiels Technical College for weaving. He combs the world for the finest yarns, and hand picks or designs each one to his exacting specifications. To create their popular scarves, John uses looms that are two hundred years old which have been mechanized to increase productivity. During our visit we got to go into the yarn room, a cache of color and texture, with carefully organized spools of yarn lining shelves almost to the ceiling. YES WE GOT TO TOUCH THEM! There were soft alpaca, suri alpaca, and mohair yarns, alongside slick viscose yarns , and nubby woolen boucle yarns in the colors of the mountains, forests, and skies of Kerry. If you have the good fortune to meet John in person, you’ll find he’s a pure delight, soft spoken and reticent until he starts talking about weaving, then wham! His eyes sparkle and he becomes animated, sharing his love of his craft til you can’t help but want to get behind a loom. To see a little piece of what I’m talking about, check out our video: John Cahill, Mucros Weavers

The scarves are woven as one long piece, then cut into lengths and tied at the ends to create the fringe. This technique produces a scarf unlikely to unravel, due to the fact that there are no sewn ends or edges. Each scarf has a selvage (a self-finished edge) which is why a Mucros Weavers scarf is uniquely durable and beautiful.

A Mucros Weavers scarf does more than warm you in the winter chill, or add a touch of color and style. Thanks to the artistry of John Cahill, you’re wrapping yourself in the trees, streams, mountains and skies of County Kerry.
This blog is part of a series about Muckross House, it’s history and crafts, keep checking back for more!


Let us be your personal shoppers. Stop by the store for our extensive line of Mucros Weavers Scarves and other carfully selected treasures to touch your inner celt
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