Cork woman's Aran sweaters for dogs will feature in the New York St Patrick's Day parade

Forget Gucci — these poochy designs by a Cork woman are set to take the dogwalks of New York by storm, reveals MARY HASSETT
Cork woman's Aran sweaters for dogs will feature in the New York St Patrick's Day parade
 A cozy Aran sweater made by Ursula McGrath. Picture: Jorg Koster

PAMPERED pooches in New York will really look the part when they step out in the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade next month.

Some of them will be wearing the latest chic Aran sweaters and hats designed by a Cork woman, Ursula McGrath.

Some examples of her chic canine styles can be seen on these pages.

Ursula, from Monkstown, came up with the look and employs a team of seasoned knitters across Cork, who used to be her work colleagues, to turn her designs into patterned creations.

“I don’t know how the idea came into my head to design handmade Aran knitwear for dogs, but I think it’s that I love dogs and I love everything crafty,” said Ursula.

Ursula McGrath with red setters kitted out in her Irish Dog Designs Aran sweaters and hats. Picture: Jorg Koster. BELOW LEFT: The Passage West Creates collective outside the Main Street pop-up shop. Picture: Leonard Stone
Ursula McGrath with red setters kitted out in her Irish Dog Designs Aran sweaters and hats. Picture: Jorg Koster. BELOW LEFT: The Passage West Creates collective outside the Main Street pop-up shop. Picture: Leonard Stone

Up to last year, she had been designing knitwear for humans, and might be still doing so were it not for the closure of Tivoli Spinners Ltd last year.

She had spent 27 happy years working as a knitwear designer for the company in Cork and was very upset when it closed down.

However, Ursula decided that it was time to strike out on her own and set up a business called Irish Dog Designs, combining her passion for dogs and her skills in designing, producing and selling Irish handmade knitwear.

“Last summer, I designed and made a selection of knitted dog coats to test demand and had my sister Kate, sell them in the U.S. They sold easily and more importantly the reaction was very encouraging,” says Ursula.

“I got a good reaction when I used Instagram to ask people in New York if they would like to order a sweater for their dog for the Patrick’s Day Parade.

“I knew nothing about clothes for dogs but I love hats so I asked myself, why can’t a dog have a hat?

“I made the first ones without any holes for the dog’s ears but then I thought I had really better put in holes.

“There was a lot of trial and error before I came up with the right hat and now everyone admires them.”

‘Make it Irish, make it local, and make it personal’ is a motto that Ursula lives by when it comes to Irish Dog Designs.

“I have a group of home knitters that I worked with in Tivoli Spinners and each of the Aran jumpers and hats are made by these local women in Ballinlough, Blarney, The Lough and around the city,” says Ursula.

Everything connected with her business is sourced as near to home as possible, from buttons to printing and labelling. Ursula recently recruited a local lady who will embroider shamrocks onto the knitwear to give it that extra special Irish look.

An Aran sweater and hat designed by Monkstown knitwear designer, Ursula McGrath. Photo Jorg Koster
An Aran sweater and hat designed by Monkstown knitwear designer, Ursula McGrath. Photo Jorg Koster

Irish American dog owners are very much Ursula’s target market. However, she feels that there could be a market here too among city- dwellers who own small dogs.

Ursula lives in a picture-postcard cottage on the outskirts of Monkstown with her husband Barry, sons Padraig and Liam, and the family’s two dogs.

“The minute my two dogs are outside the door, they’re in the water and mud, chasing chickens. The knitwear mightn’t always be suitable for country dogs, even if it is machine washable,” Ursula laughs.

“I’m hoping to do coloured Aran jumpers for cream-coloured dogs as there are a lot of them around.”

A selection of Ursula’s knitwear, including Aran hats for humans, can be seen in the Passage West Creates pop-up craft shop on Main Street in the town

Located near the Post Office, it’s hard to miss the Craft Shop, with its bright blue door bedecked with daisies and sunflowers.

Passage West Creates is a collective made up of craftspeople from the Passage West and Lower Harbour area, with the support of Cork County Council.

The group came together to create a space where local people could display and sell their work at an affordable price.

Assumpta Lydon, quilter and Manager of Passage West Creates.
Assumpta Lydon, quilter and Manager of Passage West Creates.

“We are a little family,” says Assumpta Lydon, quilter and Manager of the Craft Shop.

“We look out for each other. We’re quite proud of the fact that we are bringing people in through the town.”

The shop is owned by John Daly, who ran a glass cutting and stain glass business for many years. John’s beautifully designed stained glass door at the back of the building looks as if it was specifically made for a craft shop.

“With John Daly’s support, we opened a pop-up craft shop here in the run up to Christmas, 2018,” says Assumpta.

“Everyone was on a high afterwards and the craftspeople asked if it could be opened up again.

“We had a good year last year, from the time we opened in April up to Christmas. We closed this January to re-stock and because we needed a rest. The shop is staffed by all volunteers,” she adds.

The pop-up shop reopened on February1 and will remain open from Thursday to Sunday all year. However, the building is currently for sale.

“We are sussing out another premises in case this shop is sold,” says Assumpta. “We’re enjoying it so much and it’s doing so well that it would be a shame to lose it.

“The shop is a lifeline for a lot of people. It’s lovely to have a place to go and be part of the community”, says Assumpta.

Local councillor, Marcia D’Alton, keeps the Passage West Creates Facebook page constantly updated.

The shop is open from Thursday to Saturday: 10am to 5.30pm. Sunday: 11am - 2pm (5.30p.m. from May on).

Irish Dog Designs website: www.irishdogdesigns.com

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