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Home & Garden:Home Décor:Pillows & Throws:Traditional Irish Aran Pillow

Traditional Irish Aran Pillow

Price: $89.00

Item#:2002997

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Few things are more evocative of Ireland than the intricate knitting of the Aran Islands. Traditionally, the sweaters of the Aran fisherman were made by their mothers, sisters, and daughters—each sweater providing vital warmth and a tie to home and family. Bring the cozy feel of Aran knitting home with this soft, 100% merino wool pillow. The patchwork pattern incorporates three distinct Aran stiches: the diamond stitch represents prosperity, the honeycomb stitch represents the hard work of the honeybee and the rewards of an industrious life, and the cable stitch stands in for the fishing rope that was so essential to livelihood on the Aran Islands.


Knit in Westport, County Mayo, Ireland. 100% merino wool. Poly insert. 17H" x 16"W.


Hand-wash or dry clean.


The thick-knit, cream-colored sweater that we often associate with fishermen has its origins on the Aran Islands at the mouth of Galway Bay in western Ireland. Enterprising women on the islands began knitting the sweaters in the early 1900s, using untreated, lanolin-rich wool. The goal was not only to provide a heavy and water-resistant garment to keep their families warm in Galway Bay's rough weather, but also to supplement the island's fishing economy by making a craft that could be sold year-round and utilized traditional skills and patterns. Journalist and Irish culture activist Pádraig Augustine Ó Síocháin helped make the Aran sweaters especially popular in the mid-20th century by organizing the export of hand-knit sweaters to other countries.


There is a myth that families each have their own patters of stitches, and that a drowned fisherman could be recognized by the designs on his sweater, much like a Scottish clan tartan. While it's true that certain stitches have come to take on symbolic meanings, the diversity of patterns is more accurately attributed to the creative group of artisans who started making the sweaters. Always eager to show off new ideas, creative knitters developed new patterns and taught them to their friends, who added their own twists and passed the pattern along again.


Today, folks on the islands and visitors from around the world often choose sweaters based on the symbolism that the different intricate stitches have taken on. Just some of the patterns found include:

  • Cable stitches represent fishing ropes and therefore the tools of a hard worker and safety on the water.
  • Braided cable stitches evoke the strength of close family ties.
  • Moss stitches represent abundance in nature.
  • Diamond stitches mimic the shape of fishing nets mesh, the key to success on the Arans.
  • Basket stitch represents a plentiful catch.
  • Honeycomb stitches represent the hard work of the honeybee and the rewards of an industrious life.
  • Trinity stitches are traditional Celtic motifs and signify cultural pride.