BUSINESS IS PLEASURE Pat Overton is enjoying life having relocated with her husband Gordon to Kilsallagh in 2005.
Creative crocheting on the edge of Clew Bay
Pat Overton has developed her and her mother’s pastime into a prosperous business
CREATIVE crocheting since childhood has woven a multi-stranded thread through the life of sexagenarian Pat Overton. In many ways the millions of loops and stitches – Butterfly and Solomon’s knot, Shell and V-Stitch – she has made with her hook symbolise everything that is important to the Dublin native who now lives with her husband, Gordon Overton, in the rolling hills at Kilsallagh, overlooking spectacular Clew Bay and the Sheefry Hills.
The Mayo News can vouch to the fact that Pat Overton is both a craftswoman and a perfectionist. Even though there was refurbishment works ongoing in her kitchen last week, she seamlessly guided this writer to a soft-scented and sumptuous oasis on the top floor of her dormer bungalow. Perfectly percolated coffee and wickedly fat chocolate biscuits await us on a coffee table in her light-filled studio.
It is filled with samples and photographs of models showing off her beanies and berets, slouchies and corsages, scarves and gloves. In the photos, taken by Pat, a keen photographer, brimmed ‘Gwens’ a la the Downton Abbey fashion craze are worn by local model Caroline Bourke, who happens to be a film extra on the Titanic, while Peig Needham captures the more casual craze for sloucheys. Pat has also created hats for women who have suffered hair-loss through chemotherapy and alopecia.
Born and reared in Dublin, Pat Hudson was undoubtedly a little star-struck after her late father, Kevin, became a hairdresser to many of the celebrity actors who treaded the boards in some of the very first films shot at Ardmore studios.
But Pat explains the pretty pastels and soft furnishings of her studio are a world away from the sepia-tinged Dublin of the 1960s and Pat’s first job at a printing works on Ormond Quay.
“My late mother Lily was always a great crocheter. As a young child I remember the first time I saw her crocheting a christening blanket for her sister in London who was having a baby. I was just fascinated by what a little hook could create and at the speed the blanket grew.”
Aged ten, Pat asked her mother ‘for a go’ and felt she was ‘the bees knees’ when she completed her first square.
“Even though my mother was approached by a boutique owner in Dublin to supply her creations she declined because she said she couldn’t bear to do such creative work for money. Each item she made for her friends and family – including báinín coats, dresses, she even made her own buttons – was special to her.”
LIKE many of her generation, Pat moved to London at the tender age of 21 and was soon in a serious relationship with her husband-to-be, Gordon Overton, whom she had met back home while he was on holiday. Always determined to improve her quality of life, Pat returned to study and did her A-levels, learned shorthand and typing and was soon working in office administration while busily preparing for her wedding.
“I clearly remember thinking wouldn’t it be great if my mother could make my wedding dress. And she did. It was made from delicate pico yarn and comprised 300 motifs graduating in size. It really was a work of art,” she says.
Naturally, it was an emotional moment when the young bride-to-be saw her beautiful dress just three days before the wedding. Then, when, three-and-a-half years later, her daughter Jeanie was born Pat returned to her childhood craft and started making little hats with bobbles on top. But that was the extent of her crocheting, soon the busy working Mum had returned to her working life which culminated with a position at Pepsi Cola as a Personal Assistant while Gordon continued his career with the BBC as a Studios Lighting Technician, at the national broadcaster’s News and Current Affairs division at Shepherds Bush.
IT was during the heatwave in the Summer of 1995 when Pat Overton first visited Mayo. Within a year, after staying at her cousin’s home near Westport, the couple began considering the possibility of buying a holiday home in Ireland.
“Gordon wanted to throw the net out wide and so we started in Kerry and worked our way up along the west coast. I remember being somewhere in County Clare and the light was fading and urging Gordon to drive to Mayo. As we came the scenic route through Connemara I saw bog cotton for the first time and thought it was sheep’s wool!”
Their new holiday home at Upper Kilsallagh was ready by Easter 1998 but it would be seven more years and a rather stressful voyage across the Irish sea – with a screaming cat in a cage – before the couple moved to Mayo full-time.
Since 2005 Pat has been busy with the Kilsallagh Ladies Book Club and the Croagh Patrick Community Network Society. There has also been lots of projects extending and upgrading the couple’s comfortable home.
AND, unsurprisingly, during these less frenetic years that childhood craft of crocheting managed to quietly creep back into her life when her nephew and his wife had a baby. But it wasn’t until after a visit by her friend, Roie McCann, that the seed of developing her cottage industry and exclusive brand was sown.
Pat explains: “Roie is an Interior Designer and she happened to be giving me some advice on the house when she noticed some hats I had designed and crocheted. Next thing Roie is walking around the house, wearing various hats, tilting them this way and that way and checking the effect out in the mirrors. Within no time I had a stall at the Linenhall Arts Centre’s Christmas Fair of 2008 and was effectively sold out by the end of the weekend.”
Roie McManus and the Linenhall Arts centre were not the only stimuli propelling Pat towards the establishment of her new business. She has nothing but high praise for the staff at Mayo County Enterprise Board who, not only gave her great advice, but enrolled her on one of its marketing courses which has proven invaluable.