The Irish Aran Sweater

The history and making of the beautiful aran Sweater

Around the World Irish Aran Sweaters are famous

The Irish Aran Sweater can easily be recognized and is known for its good quality Irish Knitting, Warmth and Style. These sweaters have stood the test of time and can now be seen in every country on the planet. Where these sweaters came from and how they became so popular is an interesting story and one that we hope you enjoy reading.

History of the Irish Aran Sweater
The Irish Aran Sweater originated on the Aran Islands that are located off the West Coast of Ireland. The Aran Islands are a group of small islands that are very flat with a recognizable lack of trees, they are divided up with stone walls that map out different families land and property boundaries. The lack of Trees and flat landscape along with the location make these islands subjected to very severe weather all year round. They face every kind of weather the atlantic ocean can throw at them. People still live on the Aran Islands and it has become a very popular tourist destination for both Irish and Visitors from abroad. While nowadays some of the Aran Islands, Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr are accessible by plane and the rest by boat year around, this was not the case for the people who lived on the Aran Islands years ago, they were cut off from the mainland for many months at a time as the rough sea was too much to cross in the small boats they had. Back then on the islands there were communities of people who were mostly farmers and fishermen; these people passed down farms and boats from generation to generation and passing down these items plays an import ant part in the beginning of the Aran Sweater Tradition.

The First Aran Knitting
While the exact origin of The Aran Sweater and Aran Knitting can be debated we do know Aran Knitting took place when the Celts moved to the Aran Islands at the end of the 1st century ad. The Celts are known to have wove woolen blankets from thick white wool that were fashioned to protect against the harsh weather. It is known that the Celts used needles to make these blankets and there can be a direct connection made with Aran Patterns as many Celtic Crosses, Celtic Jewelry and Celtic Art have the same patterns as can be seen on many Aran Sweaters.

After the Celts Christian records have references to Aran Garments being worn and at the end of the first millennium we can read about the Aran Patterns these garments were made from. Stitches such as Jacobs Ladder, the Tree of Life and the Holy Trinity Stitch have been referenced in many manuscripts by early Christians. The ideas for these stitches came from the Islands themselves. The Tree of Life Stitch signifying the Clans and Families of the Island, Jacobs Ladder Stitch representing how the Islands worked together and the Holy Trinity Stitch adapted from the artwork the Celts had left on the islands.

One Stitch that is very popular and is still the most commonly used in todays Irish Aran Sweaters is the "Irish Moss Stitch". This stitch was said to be adapted from Carrageen Moss that can be found on the Islands. This Moss can be found on the Rocky Coast of Of the Aran Islands that face the wide open Atlantic Ocean. This Moss played an important part of everyday life on the Aran Islands as people collected it for eating and health benefits, it was also known to be given to ill animals as it helped them eat better. The significance of this moss to daily life shows why the Irish Moss Stitch is so popular in Irish Aran Sweaters. Other most common stitches that were used in Irish Aran Sweaters are the Diamond Stitch that is said to represent the walled in fiefs of the Islands; the Cable and Trellis Stitch that represents the fisherman's ropes and nets.

As Irish Aran Sweaters became known for their warmth and strength their popularity grew and they spread to the mainland. With the increased interest in the sweaters traditions and styles started to appear on the sweaters. Fishermen started to wear these garments every time they went to sea believing they were protected from the harsh seas by wearing an Irish Aran Sweater made from the Holy Trinity Stitch. It became a tradition for families to wear these sweaters and they were handed down from generation to generation. Clans around Ireland started to develop unique patterns in their Irish Aran Sweaters making them unique to their name. Most of the modern Irish Aran sweaters are made with the most common patterns but there are known to be 450 different Aran patterns.

During the 19th Century as the popularity of Irish Aran Sweaters grew the first known commercial Irish Knitting business was established. This was set up to sell Irish Aran sweaters to wealthy British lords who needed warm clothing for hunting and outdoor use. This process was very slow as a Hand Knit Irish Aran Sweater would take 60 hours to make, these sweaters would have had over 100,000 stitches in them. Before the knitting took place the wool would have to he brushed and spun in the traditional way to ensure good quality.

As time passed Irish Aran Sweaters grew in popularity with Irish people wearing them regularly and tourists picking them up and bringing them home to wear and give as gifts. The Aran Sweater was starting to become recognized internationally as an excellent quality garment that was guaranteed to keep you warm and last for several years. In 1956 the Irish Aran Sweater became very popular in the U.S after Vogue carried an article on the garment. The sweater was not only seen as a practical garment but now it was seen as a fashion statement. From this date on the Irish Aran Sweater grew in recognition and popularity both in Ireland and internationally.

Aran Sweaters Today
Today the Irish Aran Sweater is one of the worlds most recognizable brands. The popularity of the Aran Sweater has grown to all time high with Fashion Week models shimmying down the catwalk at the London, Milan, New York and Paris at the Autumn/ Winter 2013 Fashion show.

The Irish Aran Sweater was called "The Winter Must Have" Hand knit Irish Aran Sweaters are still being made in Ireland but they have been mostly replaced by machine knit ones. Machine Knit Aran Sweaters can be made with the Traditional stitching, Irish Aran Wool and is much faster times than the 60 hours needed to knit a hand knit. Irish knitwear has grown to be Internationally recognized and now there are large selections of Irish Aran Clothing available around the world. This clothing is excellent quality and carries the same stitching as the traditional Irish Aran Sweaters. Irish Aran Coats, Irish Aran Cardigans, Irish Aran Hoodies, Irish Aran Blankets and Irish Aran Socks, these are to mention only a few of the Items that are available today but they all have one thing in common; they follow the same pattern as the original Irish Aran Sweater.

Irish Aran Sweater Facts:

- An Irish Aran Sweater can typically absorb 30% of it's weight in water before it begins to feel wet.

- The First Irish Aran Sweater to appear in Vogue was in 1956.

- The Irish Aran Sweater has become one of the worlds most recognized symbols.

- Irish Aran Sweaters Appeared on the Catwalk of the Autumn/ Winter 2013 Fashion Week

- Originally Irish Aran Sweaters had two other names: Aran Isle Sweaters & Cable Knit Sweaters.

- The Original Irish Aran Sweaters were knit with unscoured Wool (with natural oil) this was changed when they were made for export as the wool gave off a scent.

- The first know picture of an Aran Sweater is in the Book of Kells.

- The first commercially available Aran knitting patterns were published in the 1940s by Patons of England.

- Carraig Donn is Ireland oldest knitwear manufacturer , it was established in 1965

The Most Popular Aran Stitch's and Their Meaning.
The Honeycomb Stitch: The honeycomb stitch represents hard work and its sweet rewards.
The Cable Stitch: The cable stitch represent a fisherman's ropes.
The Diamond Stitch: The diamond stitch represents and reflects the small fields on the Aran Islands
The Zig Zag Stitch: The zig zag stitch represents the ups and downs of life and the twisting cliff paths that are on the Aran Islands.
The Tree of Life Stitch: The Tree of Life stitch represents the importance of the clan, clan unity, strong parents and healthy children.
Holy Trinity Stitch: Holy Trinity Stitch adapted from the artwork the Celts had left on the islands.
Jacobs Ladder Stitch: Jacobs Ladder stitch representing how the Islands worked together.
The Trellis Stitch: The trellis stitch represents the stone-walled fields of the Northwestern farming communities.
Irish Moss Stitch: This stitch was said to be adapted from Carrageen Moss