The Macraft Files

Slide 1        The Macraft Files 

What are they?

My mother’s documented records of a female entrepreneur’s journey in a 1960s Ireland and beyond 

Where are they?

Under beds in my home since 2015

Slide 2       Denise’s   3 Pandora’s boxes,  with Glam potential ?

I packed these away in 2004

I finally opened them up on Saturday November 27th 2021

I am addressing one question to you today for feedback 

Is this an archive worth preserving?

Slide 3.   The beginning  How to Gather knitters 

Advertise and they will come

And some will send samplers

One advert, many newspapers copious replies

Time to find a partner 

Kay Raftery & Maisie McGuire 

Co-directors of Macraft Eireann Industries

Slide 4.  Prepare

Access the raw material

Boxes big enough to fit 3 children arrived by rail, (to Castlerea Station, on a regular basis over 38 years)

Always from Blarney Woolen Mills, County Cork

Wool on hanks is balled up manually. Little children help aka moi!

Slide 5     Accesorize 

Choose buttons also from The Cork Button factory

Study potential designs

Letters keep coming It’s time to set the knitters to the task 

A cottage craft industry is born/  HQ is a drafty loft above my dad’s furniture shop

Slide 6      NOW The real work begins 

Weigh the wool, post it out to a knitter 

A lumber jacket or sweater is posted back 

Weighed anew then sized and Labelled 

(Sizes 32 to 48 chest measurements or children’s sizes)

Keep Records of all transactions 

Slide 7      Some unsold handmade Aran & Crochet garments 

taken from my attic on Saturday for a Covid photo shoot

Not necessarily the best examples as they were unsold for a reason.

Think of the real people behind these crafts

Slide 8    (79/79/17)  From Cork to Donegal/ From Waterford to Cavan

79 women/79 homes/across 17 counties turned their gift of crafting into economic benefit for their families

In my family it without doubt raised our economic boat and helped educate us/3 children

(Letter in plastic One daughter- in- law writes that the knitter has died and then offers herself as a replacement… she will knit socks for MEIndustries)

Slide 9   The letters reveal

Mothers, Daughters, Carers of elderly parents, 2 patients in mental institutions, a nun in an enclosed order

A Kerry knitter’s: Letter of retirement after 14 years thanks Kay for all her kindness 

(letters deliveries, dispatches and remittances are all on record )

Slide 10  All Macraft correspondence written in duplicate books.

Contains instructions, small design sketches and suggestions for improving garments

But quite personable at times as we have already seen 

RIP recorded after some names in the ledger

Slide 11 Final Step: Find your market? How? (Shannon Airport)

Network, Network, Network

  • Correspondence with several government ministers ( over the years and some replies )
  • Prize winning stall at a Trade Show in Athlone in 1968
  • Photo op with Mr. Brian Lenihan Senior, published 
  • Maisie & Kay go on All Ireland Road trip It all works!

Slide 12    The Stitch stories research

The belief that each family could be identified by a different pattern of stitches is considered to be part of the mythology around the báinín sweater.

Tim Robinson for one, who lived for many years in Connemara ecorded such beliefs as mryth and legend rather than fact.

Slide 13   Other records reveal that the different stitches

pertained to the lives of fishing communities

The honeycomb and blackberries the food they foraged and ate in season

The cable, the ropes they pulled daily  / The diamonds the famous fishermen’s nets

Slide 14.  New Learning: Anything you can do I can do also! (Transition to Retail)   Go retail

The partnership is dissolved

In 1969 Kay opens her own retail space in her husband’s declining hardware store. 

Customers come calling to buy Aran Sweaters

It’s acknowledged in the research literature as ‘the Clancy Brothers’ effect…!’

Slide 15    Time to access new designs  (pattern etc/ agencies)

Postage continues in and out

She networks politician’s and officials to acquire agencies 

She purchases ‘ceased trading’ agencies

She acquires (much coveted) Waterford Crystal & Belleek agencies in this manner

Slide 16    She finds new Irish craft workers (booklet)

She commissions articles which will appeal also to the home gift market

She Works retail 10 to 6pm

She Works wholesale after tea in the loft until dark

Slide 17  Right place /Right time /Right Approach

Ireland is being traded internationally 

Bord Fáilte goes abroad in search of a tourist market

Cutomer Service is king

 A BF Letter of commendation, because they received  a letter from a satisfied customer of hers!

Slide 18     Going Global   And all by post! ‘Amazon’ ingly!

Surface mail, Airmail, Parcel post 

The notebooks of addresses with PO stamp are a record of this international market 

And the orders keep coming….

“Could you supply me with an Irish Damask Linen Tablecloth (and A Waterford ship’s decanter)

in time for Christmas? “

Slide 19   Her husband is failing and she wants to care for him 

It is Time to close the door in 2004 

Go quietly?  No!

With a massive public auction, on site, over October Bank Holiday weekend

Kay annotates every lot and every purchaser

And leaves us the data 

Slide 20      (The dawn of heaven breaks for Kay Raftery)

Why does Kay’s archive matter?

It matters to me!          I quote..

“Do not stand at my grave and weep…

For my sake turn again to life and smile,…

Complete those dear unfinished tasks of mine
And I perchance may therein comfort you.”

Do you consider this archive has value?/   Over to you for feedback….