Aran Islands are a group of three regions at the mouth of Galway Bay, off the west coast of Ireland. Here, the Islanders combined fishing and farming to make a living; fishing being the most prominent due to the infertile lands. The classic Irish Aran sweater was created in this environment and has since been handed down through the centuries to be regarded as an important symbol of the Irish Clan Heritage. It is still widely worn by people who respect its history and symbolism and is still highly adored in many knitting communities. But what is an Aran sweater and how did it originate? This article answers these questions.
What is An Aran Sweater?
The name “Aran sweater” refers to a particular type of sweater that was first made many generations ago on the Aran Islands. They are characterized by the use of multiple sophisticated textured stitch patterns that are merged to create a single garment, giving them the common name “Fisherman sweater.” Aran sweaters were originally knit with un-scoured wool that kept its natural oils, making the clothing water-resistant and able to be worn even while wet. The majority of modern Aran Cardigans & Sweaters are made from a softer yarn called Merino, and they come in a variety of colors that reflect the Irish countryside, including the natural báinn (pronounced ‘bawneen‘) color.
Where Did Aran Sweaters Originate?
Aran Sweaters (Fisherman Sweaters) originated on the Aran Islands, about 9 miles off the west coast of Ireland. The women of the Aran Islands made their husbands Aran sweaters to keep them warm in the 1950s when many of the men were employed as fishermen. This gave rise to the name “fisherman sweaters” that we are all familiar with today. They were also marketed on the island because of their appeal to the local Irish fisherman, helping some of the families support themselves and creating a thriving new local economy. Guernsey, an island located 400 miles to the southeast of the Aran Islands, is where the Aran sweater first appeared. The fishing industry accounted for a large portion of Guernsey’s trade, and fishermen had very specific clothing needs. A fisherman’s clothing is required to be robust, simple to mend, stain resistant, easy to move in, able to keep the user warm, and if at all possible, keep out water. These requirements birthed the gansa sweater.
The Gansa’s simple design allowed for unrestricted movement. Its deep blue color was stain-repellent, and the tight knitting kept the wearer dry. As the Gansa gained popularity, knitters improved the stitching, with unique variations in Ireland and Scotland. Ropes, diamond lattices, plates, and the Celtic Knot pattern were among the different kinds of cable stitches that were used. As it evolved, the modern Aran sweater was created with thicker yarn, was knit flat, had its seams sewed together, and had more loose stitching. As a result, more Aran sweaters were produced because it took less time. The Aran sweater is renowned for its beautiful embroidery patterns and is regarded as both a fashionable and durable item.
Qualities of the Aran Sweater
The special qualities of the Aran sweater, which made it a valuable piece of clothing in the Aran islands, are still beneficial to the wearer today and they are as follows:
1. Water Resistant
Aran sweaters are water-resistant thereby protecting the user from the rain and the waves. The Aran sweater is so water-absorbent that it can hold up to 30% of its weight in liquid before feeling damp.
2. Protects Against Adverse Weather Conditions
The most important feature, particularly for fishermen from Aran Island, is that it keeps the user warm during chilly days and nights at sea. Aran sweaters, which are made of breathable natural wool, help to maintain a person’s body temperature and act as natural insulation to keep the user from becoming overheated or extremely cold.
3. Gives a Historic Feeling
Every stitch pattern on an Aran sweater has a traditional interpretation and a special story, often one of religious significance but mostly one of life’s experience and journey. Each Aran sweater radiates history. For instance, the honeycomb stitch represents the diligent bee. The cable stitch, signifying the hustles of a fisherman’s daily life, is said to represent a wish for protection and luck while fishing. The diamond stitch symbolizes the fisherman’s basket, which is a request for prosperity, wealth, and treasure, and the basket stitch, which is a wish for a bountiful catch. Most knitting designs have been handed down from generation to generation through the use of up to 24 different Aran stitches that can be combined in countless ways.
What is a Traditional Irish Sweater?
The Traditional Irish Sweater is simply another name for the Aran Sweater also called the Fisherman Sweater. The Traditional Irish Sweater, having stood the test of time, has emerged as a national symbol. People still wear and adore the sweater globally, which serves as a connection to Ireland. The Aran sweater has been a fashion icon for decades because it is cool, cozy, and made from the finest wool.
Aran Sweaters Today
The Aran Sweater is still an item of timeless beauty and a symbol of Irish national pride. Many Aran sweaters are now knitted by machines due to rising global demand, however, they lack the beauty and value of the classic hand-made Irish sweaters. Traditional hand-knitted Aran sweaters are exceptional and expensive. They have been knitted on the islands for many hundreds of years, and now they are held in high esteem for their durability, quality, history, and tradition
Overall, there is no denying the importance of the Aran sweater or its significant background. Due to its rich history, tradition, warmth, comfort, and flexibility, it is a very valuable article of clothing. When you add an Aran sweater to your wardrobe, you’re not just adding any old sweater; you’re adding one that’s rooted in tradition and history. Visit us today at Aran Sweaters Direct and find a wide range of beautiful, handmade, stitched Irish Aran sweaters that are just perfect for you.