Every Sweater Tells A Story

More than just a layer of warmth, Aran sweaters tell a story rich in heritage and tradition, detailed in every stitch.  These centuries old designs from the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland were originally knit with natural oiled wool (bainin) making the garment water-resistant and well-suited to the harsh climate and outdoor work of a fisherman or farmer. 

An Aran knit sweater averaged two months in the making and consisted of intricate patternwork with twisted cables and vertical panels of textured stitches.  Patterns were taught hand-to-hand, passed from one generation to the next, far too complex to be written down.  According to legend, each Aran sweater was designed and knit to signify a particular clan, a customary way to identify fishermen drowned at sea.

The cable stitch represented a fisherman’s rope and hope for abundance in fishing

The diamond pattern represented the island farms and a wish for prosperity

The zig zag pattern represented the jagged cliffs of the island

The trellis pattern represented the stone walls between farmlands

The blackberry stitch represented The Holy Trinity, an important spiritual symbol

The honeycomb stitch symbolized hard work

1960's Sirdar Aran Pattern Booklet

A peek inside the Sirdar vault, and its the early sixties.  The fisherman style sweater drifted into mainstream fashion, gaining popularity with knitters first in Britain, and picking up momentum as it crossed the ocean to North America.  Pullovers, vests, and cardigans were knit with traditional bainin (oiled) wool.  The fit was slim and tapered with raglan sleeves.

1970's His and Hers Styles from Sirdar

Aran pullovers knit in a conventional cream shade carried through into the next decade.  The look was more relaxed, with polo necks and v-necks added for extra interest.  Machine washable wool/acrylic blends were introduced by Sirdar as a lightweight option for indoor wear.

Sirdar Book #384

Skip forward to 2010.  Aran knits are back in the spotlight, bringing an element of folklore to a whole new generation of fashionistas.  This collection of Favorite Aran Knits 3 from Sirdar proves that true classics stand the test of time.

Favorite Aran Knits by Sirdar

His design features plenty of detail with honeycomb panels, a symbol of a hard-worker.  Her style highlights a combination of two cable techniques, and the current trend towards three-quarter sleeves in jackets.  Both are knit in Hayfield Bonus Aran, an easy to wear blend of wool and acrylic, available in twenty-six shades of marls and solids.  Sirdar features these two styles and a full selection of Aran knits for the entire family in Book #384.

Cable Jacket Book #384

A shade of crimson red in Hayfield Bonus Aran adds a fresh spark to a classic design.  The longer length jacket fits right in this season, layering over tunics and leggings.

6 Responses to “Every Sweater Tells A Story”

  1. Amy says:

    i like the historical aspect of these sweaters.
    quite interesting to read.

  2. KELLY T says:

    i have a real oiled aran sweater knit by my aunt, at least thirty years ago she knit it. when its damp outside i put it on and i can say its warm and truly water repellent. i find this fascinating about the different stitches and will try to decipher some of the meaning in my sweater.

  3. Angela M says:

    it is nice to see some things never change
    these newer sirdar sweaters look exactly as they did in the 1960’s

  4. R H Perrin says:

    how true! classic sweaters do stand the test of time…i am wearing the same fisherman knit sweater jacket from 1979 and it is still like new.

  5. helen (Oftroy) says:

    the Clancy Brothers, who first toured US in 1959 (iirc) all wore aran sweaters for their performances, and they helped make the style popular in US.

    their first tour was colleges and universities, (Fordham U, for 1)
    the audience were mostly immigrant irish, and well educated listeners of Folk music.-.(a very mixed bag) –and a few year later, both were wearing aran sweater.
    I have one that my aunt (in ireland) knit for me in 1963 that i still wear.
    (my parents attended the Fordham u concert–as irish immigrants.. and blue collar workers, they found them selves in the company of many with PHD’s.)

  6. Nicole says:

    i had no idea there was more than just stitches in a fisherman sweater, you tell a good story about the heritage

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