The Aran sweater originates from the most westerly point of Ireland, the Aran Islands. Life on the islands was a simple and isolated one for many years, until in just the 70’s that electricity came to the island. It’s no wonder that the residents needed to have the warmth of wool wrapped around them.
A History of the Aran Sweater
The beauty of the islands are perhaps it’s ruggedness of stone walls, and cliff edges crashed by the waves of the wild atlantic sea. Native Islanders were once plentiful and their main industry was farming and fishing. Farming sheep for mutton, but also sheep to shear for wool, fine merino wool. This merino wool became the raw material crafted in beautifully woven sweaters.
Can you believe that the average Aran sweater comprises 100,000 stitches! It would have taken weeks to knit an Aran sweater for the local fishermen. The wool was unbleached and oiled which would endure the harsh weather that fishermen of the islands had to face every day, as well as farmers to endure the shelterless fields. These days, machines weave the sweaters allowing for even more detail and warmth. A craft that continues to be so popular.
Over time, the Aran sweater grew in prominence worldwide, driven of course by celebrities wearing the sweaters from time to time. It really became a sweater to have. Celebrities like Elvis and the iconic Marlyn Monroe were just some of those that have worn them over the years. Just recently, Taylor Swift was seen wearing one during a publicity shoot for her latest album. I wonder what inspired her to wear one? Artists have an appreciation for meaning, symbolizm and perhaps she as well as other artists have an appreciation for the craft of the knitting of each sweater.
So what is the stitching in the sweater? The traditional crew neck sweater is known by the intricate stitches throughout. Let's examine these more closely.
The honeycomb stitch represented the busy bees of the island symbolizing a just reward for their hard work.
This represented good luck, strength and safety for the fishermen,
The basket representing the baskets used by fishermen for catching fish.
The diamond stitch represents the farming lands of the farmers of the Islands and the wish for good luck, and an arable catch from the fertile land.
As Islanders from Inishmor, Inisheer and Inishmaan began to emigrate and as the population of the islands declined, it was not the case for the Aran sweater. These days, the sweater is a must have for any good wardrobe and like the Irish themselves, they have made an impactful presence worldwide!
The sweaters today come in many shades, designs and sizes. The classic Honeycomb stitch Aran sweater. There are many to choose from, and the quality of the stitch is even better than it ever was. Any time of the year, the merino wool is a cosy knit and feels absolutely cosy!