Since 1723 we’ve been hand weaving with passion & personality
Our mill in Avoca village was originally set up as co-operative in 1723. Here, local farmers could grind their corn, and spin and weave their wool for clothing for the local miners. Times were tough in rural Ireland and it was soon a vital local resource. At first, only uncoloured yarn was used in tweed for clothing and blankets for beds. Later though, colour came to the valleys as natural vegetable dyes in reds, greens and yellows began to be used. These were soon recognised as Avoca’s signature hues.
Avoca Handweavers, as it was then known, thrived through the 1920s and 30s when it was run by a dynamic trio of sisters, the Wynnes. They turned what had been a small, local business into a thriving, international handweavers. With their wonderful designs and use of vibrant colours, the sisters developed an international business selling rugs and wool fabric throughout Europe and America. They even sold to the couture houses of Paris and to English Royalty. Involved in all aspects of life in Avoca village, the sisters gave a great deal of time to their local community, teaching children the skills of embroidery and soft toy making. In the 1960s, however, the Mill became neglected and fell into disrepair. Handweaving was dying out, and the looms were largely silent. The weavers had to leave their skills and look elsewhere for work.
Despite knowing nothing about handweaving Donald Pratt, a Dublin solicitor, purchased the Avoca Mill in 1974. Donald had been handling the sale of the site for a client and, believing there was a future in the Mill’s past, ended up buying the place himself. The run-down buildings, the tumbling mill, the rich history of this place had woven a spell of sorts. Donald left his career in law behind and, with his wife Hillary and their five children, they took over the old, leaking Mill and its empty order book. Slowly but surely the looms were humming again, and Avoca began to colour the world once more.
In the 1990s, Donald and Hillary's children began their involvement in the business. Their daughter, Amanda, created the hugely successful Avoca fashion label as well as designing beautiful ranges of ceramics, candles, soaps and more. Simon, their eldest son, meanwhile, focused on food. Under his care, the food business in Avoca was transformed from a small selection of jams and chutneys in a corner of one of the stores, into some of the country’s best-loved and most garlanded cafes and foodmarkets. He also developed an Avoca food label with an abundance of delicious products, and a focus on fresh, quality ingredients.
Today, we have 12 locations across the country. After all this time, the ethos of Avoca remains the same. We cherish our time-honoured traditions, which have been lovingly passed down through several generations. Today, there are third generation weavers working at the Mill. Our skills might be steeped in a long and rich tradition, but our attitude is to look to the future. Now heralded as one of Ireland’s most exciting retail stores, there are Avoca ceramics, clothing, perfumes, soaps and more from our own design studio. We have a host of award winning cafes and restaurants, foodmarkets crammed with artisanal ingredients from near and far, as well as a best-selling range of Avoca cookbooks. There are also gardens to explore at many of our stores, as well as florists and garden centres. The list goes on. And all of this from a modest handwaving mill, established in a rural Irish village in 1723.