'Aran' is a style of sweater that takes its name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Often known as a Fisherman sweater, they are distinguished by their use of complex textured stitch patterns, several of which are combined in the creation of a single garment. Originally, Aran Sweaters were knitted using unscoured wool that retained its natural oils which made the garments water-resistant and meant they remained wearable even when wet. However, today most Aran Cardigans & Sweaters are knit with a softer yarn called Merino in the natural báinín (bawneen) colour and in other colours reflective of the Irish countryside.
Each Aran sweater exudes history and every stitch pattern has a traditional interpretation and distinctive story, often of religious significance, but mostly of life’s experience and journey:
For example, the honeycomb is a symbol of the hard-working bee. The cable, an integral part of the fisherman’s daily life, is said to be a wish for safety and good luck when fishing. The diamond stitch is a wish of success, wealth and treasure, while the basket stitch represents the fisherman’s basket, a hope for a plentiful catch. Most knitting patterns were never written down but passed down from generation to generation using up to 24 different aran stitches with infinite combinations.