Studio Donegal Woollen Mill is based in Kilcar, Co Donegal, where a tradition of hand weaving and woollen textiles has been in existence, dating back to the late 1700s and earlier, prior to the Industrial Revolution. Textiles provided an important income for rural dwellers in the cottage industry.
Local farmers supplemented their income by handweaving tweed from the rough homespun woollen yarn, which had been spun by the women, from the indigenous blackface sheep. In the late 1800s, the Congested District Board (CDB) was established by the British Government, to alleviate poverty on the western seaboard of Ireland and Scotland. This led to the first established industry in Kilcar, the famous Donegal hand-knotted carpets.
The fly shuttle, invented by John Kay, was introduced to Donegal by the CDB around this time. After partition, the Irish Department of Forestry and Fisheries took over the work of the CDB. The first woollen mill on this site, Round Tower Tweeds, established in the 1930s, continued the tradition of handweaving into the 1960s when it introduced modern power looms. By the early 1970s, all handweaving had ceased.
A plan was put in place to move the operation to Co Galway, and a new brand, Connemara Fabrics, was created. A change of mind saw the mill continue in Kilcar, but the new name, Connemara Fabrics, remained. Two separate firms developed, in new purpose-built mills, one for the woollen spinning and one for the machine weaving, Connemara Fabrics.