Aran Knits: Artistry in Wool

honeycomb stitch-AranAran knits are considered a major part of the traditions of the Aran Islands, with each pattern having a meaning and deep cultural context. There are several stories regarding these patterns, the most popular of which is that long ago the women of the Aran Islands knitted sweaters in special patterns to indicate which clan they were from, this was used to identify the bodies of fishermen who were caught at sea and drowned. This is, while romantic, not the case. In reality, the Aran patterns originated in the 1900s and are mainly decorative, although the layering of the yarns provides extra warmth. An article in the Irish Examiner quotes Carol Feller, an Innishannon-based knitting pattern designer as saying “The traditional Aran that we would have been led to believe existed for a long time actually never existed,” she goes on to say “Aran knitting as we know it was invented in the middle of the last century in order to create income for the women of the Aran Islands.” These sometimes intricate patterns have come to represent the beautiful craftsmanship of Ireland, and each has a name all its own. The Celtic Ranch carries gloves, hats, and sweaters in several of these designs, which include: The Link Stitch: The eternal link for those who left the islandBoyfriend sweater, link and trellis stitch Carraig donn knitwear Boyfriend sweater, link and trellis stitch (photo courtesy of Carraig donn Knitwear) The Trellis Stitch:An intricate pattern of plain stitches worked to form a trellis effect over purl stitches, represent the stoney fields of the west, and the nets of the Fishermen. honeycomb stitch-Aran Honeycomb Stitch (picture courtesy of Erin Knitwear) The Honeycomb Stitch: This looks like its name and is made by twisting stitches forwards and backwards across the panel. It is a tribute to the bee. It was considered a lucky omen if a fisherman saw a swarm of bees before setting out to sea a good catch was assured. The Moss Stitch, or Carageen Moss: (Seaweed with medicinal properties - also used for making Blancmange) It represents wealth to the Fisherfolk. Also called poor man's wealth.Moss Stitch, Carrageen Stitch (picture courtesy of Erin Knitwear) Moss Stitch, Carrageen Stitch (picture courtesy of Erin Knitwear) The Diamond Stitch:Usually formed in Moss Stitch and is said to represent wealth and success. The Ladder Stitch:Purl or twist stitches worked to form the poles and rungs of the ladder of life, against a plain stitch background. It symbolises the pilgrims road to eternal happiness. Today these stitches are made into modern, fashionable sweaters, perfect to keep you warm, fashionable, and add a little romance to your sweater collection! (stitch names, pictures, and descriptions courtesy of Erin Knitwear, see more on their wholesale only website.)

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