More About Mamó
Somehow, another two years have passed since the last blog (and what a two years it’s been!) and I decided I wanted to write about our local yarn Mamó and how she came about; please forgive me if my blogging wheels are a little rusty!
Many moons ago, way back in the 80’s, me and my enormous bowl haircut (see below) would regularly trot to Manchester to visit my grandparents Maggie & John for the weekend. My parents worked long hours in a children’s home as social workers and although I loved racing around the grounds on my noble steed ‘Silver’ (a silver cross pram frame!), playing Chucky Egg in the computer room, or showing my ballet moves to a group of young mums whether they liked it or not (understandably they mostly liked it not) - it wasn’t always the best place for me to be.
Grandad would take me into town for a Beano, then me and Grandma would complete a word search or two and go to the wool shop around the corner, as she knitted up samples for their window. It must have been on one of these trips that Grandma taught me how to knit - and it grabbed my soul immediately! I was now a creator of knitted everythings! Glasses cases, record covers, I’d usually knit and then see what it would fit and then become afterwards - and as no one in our house knitted I came up with weird techniques and makeshift problem solving ideas; sticking yarn together with sellotape for example! It didn’t matter, it kept me entertained and busy for hours, and I’d take it everywhere. I’d be so proud taking my knitting back to Grandma’s house to show off my makes then we’d sit together clicking away. Grandma would sometimes talk to me about her life back in Ireland when she was growing up; running to school in summer with no shoes on, having to milk the cows before she left and riding four to a bike going to a local dance a few fields away. She’d tell me about playing tricks on her more sensitive sister, once hiding then making her jump which in turn made her drop a jelly - so she’d run off and not come back for the day, happily playing up a tree or by the railway bridge. I loved her accent; a gentle mix of Manchester and Irish with words unique to her and special to me.
(My mum and grandma in Ireland)
When this yarn arrived back, I wanted to dedicate it to my Grandma - the woman who had shown me the skills and repeated stitches I needed to start me on my knitting journey. Maggie - who had decided to leave her family and village in Athlone at 15 and get on a train then boat to Manchester, where she lived with her cousin and worked hard, loving her new life in a buzzing city full of opportunities. I wanted to honour her Irish roots and looked for right Gaelic word for grandma - which I discovered is Mamó. I got in touch with family in Athlone and her younger brother, my Great Uncle Tommy via his daughter Catherine was able to tell me more about what she was like as a girl and that they’d always know where to find her - down by the bridge, as she had a fascination with it. I wonder if she’d be dreaming about where she might adventure to one day! The colours were chosen to be vintage-esque, classic and bold, smart and chic - just like Maggie. The names all have associations with her and Ireland; By The Bridge blue, Girleen gold, Athlone ruby, Glanduff emerald and The Shannon silver. (I nearly drove us into the Shannon once but that’s another story!) David designed the beautiful labels which I think captured everything I’ve just said - I don’t know how he does it!
I love hearing people talk about who taught them how to knit because you always remember; mums, grandparents, school teachers - that someone took the time to hand down a skill that has been passed down through hundreds of generations; is a special thing. It’s comforting to know that our hands and brains, despite modern technology, know there is so much to benefit from feeling that yarn in your hand, spending hours repeating knits and purls, and to then wear or give a garment made with love and care to keep you warm for years - what else can beat that?
But what about the sheep?!!
Mamó is a 50/50 blend of Poll Dorset shearling (from a farm in Quernmore, Lancaster) and Bluefaced Leicester fleece (Shap, Cumbria). Both farms are well known to us and I regularly visit the Poll Dorset’s - especially at lambing time!! To know that the sheep are well looked after and have happy homes is so important to us - we won’t buy fleeces from a farm we haven’t personally visited. (I’ve never been to a farm yet where the sheep aren't looked after by the way. I’ve found farmers are passionate about what they do and want the best for their animals - and always really interested in what their fleeces can become!) We pay more for good quality fleeces to support local farmers and hopefully help push up the price for this invaluable resource we have all around us.
An earlier yarn ‘Lynn’ used these breeds but 70/30 and was woollen spun; and we loved Lynn. But we wanted to create something with a softer handle and drape - which is why we went for a worsted spun yarn, where all the shorter fibres are combed out before spinning to create a smoother finish. Originally we were going to just reinvent Lynn, but when the yarn came back - it was very different in almost every way and deserved it’s own name! It shouted cables, with great stitch definition - and it is so warm and cosy! I’ve knitted Mamó to DK and worsted gauges - it feels nice on 4mm & 4.5mm needles and hooks. Ruth Matthews who works here at Northern Yarn designed a beautiful Clougha Pike Cowl available as a kit and Lily The Cumbrian Knitter designed the gorgeous Mamó mittens available on Ravelry. I made Lodestar by Kjerstin Rovetta and Saknes by Zanete Knits with many more WIPS on the needles and too many more in my head!
I love seeing your projects made up in our Mamó so please keep bringing them in or sending me pics!
I’d like to think Gran would be proud to see where my knitting has taken me - because I’ve had the privilege of six years of adventures, doing things I’d never dreamed I’d be able to do; meeting new friends and finding a supportive community I love being a part of.
Go raibh maith agat Mamó - (thank you grandma)