There are as many myths about the origins of Irish Aran knitting as there are patterns, but no matter when and how they came to be, the thick, textured sweaters of the Aran Islands have become a worldwide symbol of Irish craft and culture. The honeycomb stitch in this cream-colored cardigan represents the rewards of hard work, while the classic cable stitch is inspired by the ropes and lines of a fishing boat.
Made in Ireland. 100% merino wool. Men’s sizes M (38–40), L (42–44), XL (46–48).
Hand-wash or dry-clean.
In just a century since they first appeared, the textured wool sweaters of the Aran Islands have become “as tenacious an international symbol of Ireland as the harp and Shamrock,” writes historian Dierdre McQuillan. Women on these small, craggy islands in the mouth of Galway Bay had always made clothing by hand, but it wasn’t until the home crafts movement at the end of the 19th century that this practical skill blossomed into an iconic design known around the world. Then as now, the sale of handcrafts was encouraged as a way to continue local traditions and bring extra income into poor farming and fishing communities. Knitters from Donegal, the Channel Islands, and even emigrants returning from America traded techniques, and sweater patterns became more complicated as local women worked together to master new stitches.
National Geographic first commented on the sweaters in a 1931 article, referring to “the blue jersey of the fisherman.” Eventually white became the most popular color for Aran sweaters, and many children on the islands wore a design made just for them for their first holy communion. Early efforts at exporting sweaters through nearby Galway were a challenge until the craftswomen got the hang of standardized sizes rather than knitting for the way their family members were built.
Today, from tourist shops to fashion shows, one can find sweaters based on stitches that were invented by grandmothers and great-grandmothers only a couple of generations ago: cables, diamonds, blackberry stitch, crooked road, half-eights, bird’s eye, honeycomb, and many more. As they say on the islands, Go máire tú is go gcaithe thé—May you live and wear it well.