A common misconception about Aran sweaters is that the chunky, creamy white wool makes them Aran. In fact, what defines an Aran sweater are the stitches used. Unique stitches that have been handed down through generations. These complicated stitches and patterns were once only used on a small group of islands off the Irish coast. Here’s everything you need to know about Aran Sweaters.
Interesting Facts About the Aran Sweater
1. Aran sweaters originated in the Aran Islands, which are situated off the Galway coast in Ireland. Not to be confused with Aran Island in Donegal (also Ireland) or the Isle of Arran in Scotland, UK.
2. Aran sweaters were created by the women of the Aran Islands for the farmers and fishermen. The islands lie in the Atlantic sea and are prone to harsh winds and driving rain. The menfolk needed something that would protect them against the elements, and Aran sweaters were the solution.
3. Aran sweaters repel wet weather. The original Aran sweaters were made with untreated wool, which contained lanolin. Lanolin is a natural water repellent.
4. Using the wool of sheep that they reared locally suited the islanders for their needs. As word got out about the brilliant sweaters made off the coast of Ireland, demand rose, and other wools were needed. Merino wool is now used to make most Aran sweaters. Its soft and fine qualities are closely matched to the original wool used.
5. Each Aran sweater stitch tells a story. Each clan living on the Aran Islands created its own distinct stitch. The variety of stitches tells us that these were skilled craftspeople. Some of the stitches have a particular meaning, such as:
- Cable Stitch – to represent the ropes of the fishermen but also to represent luck.
- Trellis Stitch – to represent success.
- Ladder Stitch – to represent good health.
- Irish Moss Stitch – to represent nature.
- Diamond Stitch – to represent good wealth.
- Tree of life stitch – to represent the family.
6. There are more than 500 registered clan Aran stitches in Inis Mor, Ireland. It’s even possible to order a framed sample of your own clan’s stitch. Better still, you can get sweaters and homeware items made using your clan stitch too.
See Also: Types of Shirts & Tops for Women
7. There is no firm record of when the islanders started making Aran sweaters. Experts have estimated it to have been in the early 20th century. Irish folklore suggests that Aran stitches appear in the Book of Kells (circa 800 AD) but this was never proved.
8. The Aran sweater is officially part of fashion history. In 2017, New York City gallery MoMA featured the Aran Sweater as part of an exhibition. That exhibition displayed clothing that had a strong impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries.
9. It would take an average of two whole months for an experienced knitter to complete an Aran Irish sweater.
10. First sold on the Irish mainland in the 1930s, Aran did not become globally popular until the 1950s. It was thanks to the fashion bible Vogue and Ireland’s favorite actress cum princess, Grace Kelly, that Aran became famous. A cover shot of Kelly wearing the jumper caused an instant surge in popularity for Aran sweaters in the USA.
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