An Amusing Muse

At lunch-time last Friday, I was stopped by an elderly couple in the middle of Swords, looking for directions to Superquinn. I told them how to get there and added “I’m going there myself”. I walked on ahead of them, checking every so often in the reflections on shop windows that they weren’t going astray. They kept up behind me all the way into the Pavillions Shopping Centre and when I relaxed I remembered “I didn’t want to come to the Pavillions at all, I wanted to go to Subway for lunch!” I am a bit of a goldfish at times.     

There must have been a higher power at work because as I veered towards Hodges Figges (I have a strange walking impediment that makes me tend to veer towards book shops and yarn shops) what was the first thing I saw in their sale bins at the front of the shop?     


At €6 I had no qualms, what-so-ever, about adding this to my stash of knitting books.     

There are some beautiful designs in the book. I particularly like the evening dresses – such as the one on the front cover. And there are some classics worthy of note: the two-piece jumper and skirt sets; belted wrap coats or the “sackcloth” series.    

Unfortunately most of the photographs of his work in the 60s and 70s are in black and white. While much of the outfits are described as being in “Báinín Wool” (and I’m getting less and less clear about what is meant by that), some descriptions mention some very vivid colour combinations: melon with bottle green; Peacock blue with natural;  Poppy Red with Black and Buttercup Yellow. It’s a pity we can’t get to appreciate them in full.     

Along with the classic designs and chic styling there’s a fair helping of Paddy-whackery:             

Trés Amusant

Cyril designed the sweater worn by the lead man, Fred Astaire, in the film Finian’s Rainbow. The image on the left above shows a series of quirky postcards featuring real wool inserts of mini-Aran sweaters.     

And this debonair-looking fellow, on our left, is non-other than Terry Wogan – he of the silvered-tongue and senior-moments. This is an excerpt from the RTV guide (a fore-runner of the RTE guide, I’m guessing). Given the date – in the run-up to St. Patrick’s Day – I suppose he’s to be forgiven.   

The image on the right is enough to give one pause for thought  – thoughts such as “I hope she sued his ass for making her wear it!”    

Check out the crochet vest and particularly the shorts in Báinín wool with Aran-style cabling! Err… itchy?    

And while you do, take a look at the smug face of the model sitting down. You just know she’s thinking “That’s what you get for arriving late for the photo-shoot.”    

You can look forward to learning more about Cyril Cullen and his work as I know I’m going to be dipping into this again and again.


8 Responses to “An Amusing Muse”

  1. deirdre Says:

    I found it an interesting read myself and the fact that the patterns appear to be complete is a nice bonus too.

    • undermeoxter Says:

      Initially, I thought there were just the three patterns at the back of the book. This evening I’ve realised that they’ve reprinted some of the patterns previously given in magazines – in their entireity. I wonder would people be interested in a Cyril Cullen KAL? We could knit the cabled dress, modeled by Thelma Mansfield.

  2. Bridget Says:

    Oh that looks like such a great book! For the photos if nothing else. (And wow – the Aran shorts … how, um, “interesting” – yeah, that’s it …)

    • undermeoxter Says:

      It’s laden with photos but what little of the text I’ve read so far has been very interesting.
      The overall impression is one of vanity project by the author in celebration of her father; which is sweet.

  3. Sinéad Says:

    Ah the 60’s and 70s. Just when I thought I’d seen it all, you delight me yet again with those 3/4 length shorts of fabulosity. The cheeky flash of knee between the shorts and the socks really sets off the whole outfit.

  4. sheknitupthatball Says:

    I think I’d find that book interesting too. I wonder whether he was concerned about yarn quality at all though, or yarn alternatives to wool, or about weaving etc. Does the book address any of those issues, or is it one of those die-hard Oirish Aran books? Also, is it cable stuff only or does he do plainer/lace/intarsia stuff? 😀

    • undermeoxter Says:

      I wouldn’t call it a die-hard Oirish book. He was interested in re-interpreting Oirish cliches in a quirky way. He had a series of “peasant-chic” outfits – using the colours and shapes of the classic black and red long skirt and cross-my-heart shawls; his early arans, before he turned professional, had cables as interesting and different as any Japanese stitch pattern book. I suspect he was “of his time” / under pressure to “sell” Ireland in a particular way: think Makem & Clancy and the invention of Irish Folk Music in the US around the same time.
      I haven’t got to any specific references to concerns re yarn quality (& there’s no index in the book) so my guess is that his primary concern (again, given the time period) was that the yarn was indigenous. He’s of the same ilk as Nelli Mulcahey, so I imagine there would have been incentives and grants (or at the very least, political pressure) to use home-grown yarns. He uses linen as well as natural and dyed “báinín” (whatever that is!). His “signature” style would be a 1 x 4 rib, rather than cables. In the 80s he uses cables in a very loose-knit / lacey way.

      It’s a pity I can’t come along on Sunday to the inaugral Monthly Spinning Club, as I had planned. I could’ve brought the book with me for you to have a look.

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