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Hand-Knitted Aran Sweaters

Listed under Original Gifts in West Coast Ireland, Ireland.

  • Photo of Hand-Knitted Aran Sweaters
  • Photo of Hand-Knitted Aran Sweaters
  • Photo of Hand-Knitted Aran Sweaters
Photo of Hand-Knitted Aran Sweaters
Photo by An Púcán
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Bounded an all sides by the North Atlantic Ocean in Ireland’s Galway Bay, the Aran Islands are three unspoiled, windswept green jewels, where Irish is still commonly spoken and traditional industries such as fishing and small-scale cattle and sheep farming are still respected. Tourism is in fact the only industry that has expanded to the same extent there, and has allowed some of the old crafts to survive where they might otherwise have become irrelevant.

Aran knitting is one such art, characterised by rich, chunky texture and twisting, symmetrical, curved patterns. Legend has it that Aran sweater patterns are closely-guarded, hereditary family secrets, and are similar in significance to Scottish clan tartans, but although there is no evidence to support this, the individual designs which are knitted in different combinations often have a specific symbolic meaning. Cable stitching, for example, is said to represent fishermen’s ropes, and basket or net shapes are supposed to bring luck and the promise of a good catch to their fisherman owners.

Although Aran sweaters were worn widely in the islands due to the often harsh weather conditions, they do have a special association with the island’s fishing industry, since they are hard-wearing and warm, and were originally made of wool ‘spun in the grease’, meaning that the natural lanolin was left on the wool so that the result was an almost entirely waterproof garment.

As often happens with any traditional industry that generates a worldwide following, Aran sweater-making soon became mechanised – a method of production which, although more efficient, sacrifices some of the quality and almost all of the charm. Machine knitting requires the use of finer wools and can not achieve many of the more detailed, old-style patterns. For something far more authentic and really toasty warm, you can order from An Púcán online; they are a family business based in an adorable thatched cottage in Kilronan, and all their sweaters and other knitted items are hand made by local women using pure wool. They will even do custom-made pieces.

Available online here.

Written by  larapiegeler.

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