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Tweed! Just the word makes me swoon, all those flecks of color. Tweed yarns, like Tahki Donegal Tweed and every Rowan tweed yarn, made me want to be a knitter. Tweed yarns are always the yarns I’m magnetically attracted to, the first I squeeze in a LYS. Tweed yarns were one of the reasons I learned to spin, just to figure out how it’s made.

I recently co-hosted a trip to Ireland and our group was lucky enough to tour Donegal Yarns, the home of the ultimate tweed yarns. Donegal Yarns makes their own yarns and also spins tweed for lots of other yarn companies like Tahki, Isager, and Kelbourne Woolens. If a yarn label says anything about Donegal tweed, it was spun at this mill.

To say I was excited about this tour is an understatement. It was one of the best days of my knitting life. Our tour was comprehensive from clean fibers to finished and tagged yarn. We even got a peek at the yarn design process.

Making the yarn

Clean fibers come in from all over, some from Irish sheep, but many are imported. The first thing is to dye the fiber. Different amounts of fiber are dyed depending if the fiber will be a base color or a fleck color.

Based on the color formula for a particular yarn, after dyeing the colors are mixed with air.  All of the colors are shoveled into a machine, that then drops them from the ceiling with the help of a giant slow-moving fan, the flecks and base color are mixed via the swirling air. 

They let me get in the machine. Covered with flecks, it was better than Christmas.

A finished mix looks like this. There are so many more colors and shades of color that go into tweed yarn than I thought. Yes, I touched every fiber pile we passed.

After mixing the fibers are the carded twice to further mix the colors and add air to fiber.

Then the fiber is pulled and divided into narrow strands in preparation for woolen spinning.

The spinners waiting to add twist to the fibers lined up above. After spinning, the yarns are plied. Most of the yarns made at this mill are 2-ply or single-ply.

After plying the yarn wound into giant hanks for scouring and drying. This is the part of the process that takes the most time. You can’t rush drying wool without the chance of felting it.

After the yarn is dried, it’s skeined and labeled. All of the labeling is done by hand. So much of the work at this mill is done in the same way it has for decades, and the quality shows.

Designing the colors

One of the most frequent questions I get asked about tweed yarn is, “How do they pick the colors that go together?”

You might think that in our knitting year of 2023 it’s all about computers picking colorways from photos. Nope, not at Donegal Yarns.

The colors are still picked and made into a color recipe by hand, at this table.

Each cubby is filled with a different color, and the expert colorist hand cards them together to make a colorway based on a color idea, a trend, or an image.

Here is the very start of a color recipe for a client company. Looking at the recipe the base color is 88% of the yarn, and the flecks are 12%, 2% each of six different colors.

Do you even need to ask about shopping? I bought a sweater’s quantity of tweed that reminded me of all the green fields in Ireland. 

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About The Author

Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Keep up with her exploits at


  • Thank you for unraveling this mystery for me. I’ve recently been gifted some Donegal Tweed and want to truly appreciate its origins.

  • I’m envious of your visit. It looks fascinating!!!

  • The WOW factor is huge here, from the fiber to the equipment, to the smile on your face that looks like it couldn’t get any bigger!

  • The WOW factor is huge her from the fiber to the equipment to your smile that looks like it couldn’t get any bigger!

    • How interesting and enlightening this tour has been. Thank you so much!

  • Totally fascinating.

  • Absolutely LOVE tweedy yarn and your tour of the mill. Your choice of green is perfect.

  • Oh my, that green has my name all over it. How do I find out about tours Jillian sponsors? This sounded fabulous!

  • Wow! So cool to see the process.

  • Thank you SO much for this! Your happiness is contagious; the process was so much fun to see and the yarn is gorgeous!

  • So much more complex than I’d imagined!

  • Fascinating, thank you for sharing your trip!

  • Thanks so much for this, Jillian. I am watching Adrian Brody tour Ireland on TV and this report of your adventure is another great glimpse. I loved your tour and will do the same when I get to go. Love, love the green yarn you selected.

  • this was very interesting. What a wonderful trip. This reminds me that when i complain about the high prices of yarn I have to remember how complex the journey is to get to the store.

  • Absolutely wonderful!

  • Mixing air, fiber and color – that is so interesting. I’ve been to several mills but haven’t seen anything like that. And to learn that there are 6 different colors in that carded tweed sample. Now I will more carefully examine flecks in my tweed yarns to see how many colors are there.

  • great touring article and that green tweed is luscious! thanks Jillian

  • Great article, loved the tour

  • I love this inside look at the making of tweed yarn! I had no idea it was so complex. Or fun. I would also want to get in the machine, lol.

  • Agree with all the WOW’s stated above. The entire process was enlightening. Appreciated seeing the math part of tweeds. I always wondered if the combinations were just a bit random. What a wonderful experience you’ve related.

  • First thing I want to say is “Cool!” (that probably dates me!) but then, the only other word is “Fascinating!” Absolutely, positively fascinating. What fun to be able to go there and see all this in person. (Btw, the photos are great and really communicate the process to us armchair viewers so well!)

  • Yes, as others have said, this is truly fascinating. So many beautiful colors in the end. Thank you.

  • Oh my goodness!! Thank you for the trip! Some of my early “good yarn” purchases were Tahki Donegal Tweed!

  • You say here that the Donegal Tweed wool is sourced from Ireland but some imported from other countries. Is one of the countries China?

    • I visited the Donegal mill last September. I recall our wonderful guide explained that the raw wool comes from all over, and she mentioned New Zealand as one place. Don’t know where else they source from.

  • Love Jillian’s posts – deep expertise delivered with such joy!

  • Just returned from a trip. Visited Cushendale, Kerry Woollen Mills and McKernan Knitting Mills. Fascinating tours and information at each business.

  • Lovely photos and so glad you enjoyed Ireland. I live in Scotland but my family is from Donegal. Knitting is my meditation

  • I visited Donegal Yarns last year, and SO enjoyed all the colors! An amazing place, filled with creative people and skilled workers.

  • Oh joy! The look on Jillian’s face in the photos! I have always wanted to visit Donegal Yarns and Jillian has just confirmed my aspiration.

  • I’ve been there!

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