The Women Of Shuttleknit
Our story is best translated through the Women who work at Shuttle Knit. Here are some of their stories:
“When we were younger, we travelled around Wicklow and Wexford and the farmers' doors would always be open to us.
I think discrimination has got worse since I was a little girl. Employment opportunities aren’t always great in the Traveller community, but I’ve worked as the supervisor here for over 20 years. I knit, I put crests on the clothes, I link and I make sure the orders all go out on time.
I love the routine of going to work here at Shuttle Knit every day. I just enjoy coming in. We have a wage that gives us a better quality of life. One of my favourite parts of the job is working with Tricia to come up with the designs.
I think that some Travellers might feel unwelcome or uncomfortable in an office or a factory, but we know we are accepted here and it’s all about getting our work done. I’m seeing changes for the younger generation now: my grandson has work and he loves it and is getting on well.” - Kathleen, supervisor at Shuttle Knit
“When I was little, we travelled in Wicklow and stopped in the field with the caravans. At that time, the plan for most Traveller girls was to marry and have kids. They got married very young. There wasn’t much thought given to what best suited us and what skills we had.
But before Shuttleknit, I did a further education course in Rathfarnham in Dublin, driving up from Wicklow Town every morning. It gave me the confidence to come in here and do the cleaning, and then I moved onto the knitting.
I just love coming in here. It gets me out of the house and gives a purpose to my day. And I think we are creating lovely knitwear that people really like and that can only be a good thing.” - Nanny, one of our team here at Shuttle Knit
“I left school at 11. That was the done thing for Traveller girls at the time. I got the basics, but I always kept learning at home and teaching myself. If I was given a book to read at school, I’d give myself a harder one to read at home.
When we were growing up, we were refused work experience and never felt at ease in a workplace, so sometimes we never tried.
Before I came to Shuttle Knit, I was a carer for my sick mother, and I spent all my time in the house with her. I used to knit for myself and, when Ann went on maternity leave, I filled in for her. My father looked after Mammy in the mornings at that time.
It brought me peace of mind in the mornings to have something for me. I liked it, and I stayed. There are not much opportunities out there for Traveller boys and girls, but here I had a sense that this was for me, this was my thing and I felt so comfortable walking in. I think things are changing: some of my nieces and nephews have jobs and are doing well.
Now I know, sitting at my machine, that when I put my mind to it, I can do it. My mindset has changed, so I want the younger mindset to change as well. I think that you can be anything you want to be.”- Nicky, from the Shuttle Knit team
“Before I came here, I never thought I could be a designer, or that I’d have the talent. I'm working here for 16 or 17 years, I think. I do knitting, design, linking, pressing, everything. I come up with the designs in my own head.
Now, working with my colleague Kathleen, we create the knitted items first, try out different ways of making them. Then we get it down on paper and write a pattern. I’m always drawing or doodling or knitting or colouring.
I love art, and I think I’m good at it. My hands, they have to be busy. I have to keep going and I don’t like sitting still. One night, at home, I made a purple and cream blanket for my friend and co-worker Anne’s bed, just to keep my hands moving.
I’m learning all the time here. You get such a buzz from finishing the pieces and sending them off. We even got into an American catalogue book and it made me really happy to hear how much they like them.” -Tricia, Knitter and Designer at Shuttle Knit