The Beauty of Aran Knitting
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The Beauty of Aran Knitting

Aran knitting originated from the Aran Islands which are near Ireland.The population was mostly made up of fishermen and their wives knitted up these sweaters to keep their men warm in the harsh temperatures they were exposed to while out fishing.Nowadays they are still used to make fashion garments, mostly machine made but the art of hand knitting them remains among keen knitters.

Many countries have their own particular knitting patterns, for which they are known. A distinctive and very popular style has emanated from the islands of Aran (which are near Ireland) and is now widely referred to as 'Aran Knitting'. The patterns eveolved through the knitting of thick warm sweaters, worn by the fishermen to combat the harsh weather conditions they encountered. These sweaters had different bands of pattern on the back, front and sleeves, and at one time it was said to be possible to tell from which village a man came, to which family he belonged and which son-in-the-line he was, just from his sweater.

The patterns of Aran knitting include honeycomb and diamond designs, zig-zag lines, raised 'bobbles' and the use of moss stitch and cable stitch. Cable stitch produces a 'twisted' or 'woven' effect into the pattern and is done in stocking stitch using special cable needles in addition to ordinary knitting needles. At a certain point in the pattern a few stitches are slipped onto the cable needles and then knitted back onto the row a few stitches further on, which gives the twisted effect.

All the stitches used in true Aran knitting were evocative of the country and fishermen's life. The cables, mentioned above, were the ropes and chains of the boats. The zig-zag lines were the twisting rocky paths that led down to the sea, and moss stitch or block stitches were used to indicate sand and shingle. The fishermen's nets are shown in the honeycomb and diamond patterns and the stout stone walls which protect the little homesteads from the fierce gales, and the rocks that present a perpetual danger to the fishermen, are represented by small knitted 'bobbles'. Working these garments is an art in itself and seeing the cables and honeycombs take shape is amazing.

Aran knitting is so beautiful and rewarding that every sweater knitted is like a piece of art. The wool used is known as Aran wool and it is quite thick to work with but the finished result is worth all the time spent on the intricate cable designs. Aran sweaters have remained in fashion for both men and women throughout the years and these intricate designs are also suitable for hats, scarves, mittens, cushions and even bags. The finished item is sturdy and will withstand many years of cold weather and laundering. The young generation should be taught how to do these things and a little of their history.The era of ready-made garments seems to have brought the folklore of certain knitwear to nothing. No-one cares to know why there are Aran sweaters and Fair Isle sweaters when they are looking for just another fashion garment.

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Comments (1)

I love knit-wear, well-done!