Tag Archives: aran sweater

Inspiration: St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

Have you all drank your green beer and eaten your corned beef yet?   No?  Well, what are you waiting for?!  (Though, to be honest, it’s far too early for beer for me, and I’ve never actually drank a green one, even in college.  Also, I’m vegetarian, so no corned beef for me.  But, maybe I’ll make some Irish soda bread for dinner.  Yes, that sounds good.  Irish soda bread and a beer around 6:00 tonight.)

I’m not really sure how to celebrate St. Patrick’s day, really.  I’m not Catholic, so I won’t be going to mass.  I’m not a big drinker, so I’m not going on a bender.  And, I’m only part Irish, anyway (maybe- my family history is fairly muddled, but my maiden name was kind of Irish).

What I am, though, is a knitter.  And if you thought I was going to let a day like this pass by without talking about Irish sweaters (Aran jumpers, in particular), you were wildly mistaken.

Aran jumpers are simply gorgeous, and they’ve been on my knitting bucket list for years.  Originating from the Aran Islands (just off the coast of Ireland), Aran jumpers are the old-school version of an all-weather coat.  They are traditionally made with untreated wool, so the yarn retains all that good lanolin, making the sweaters perfect for wearing in the rain (something that happens a lot on the Aran Islands), or while fishing on the ocean.  Supposedly, each family has a favorite Aran pattern- specific cables that everyone in the family wears, something like each clan having its own tartan.  I’m pretty sure that’s a myth, but I love the idea anyway.

Of course, these days, people use Aran cables to decorate anything, not just sweaters.

This shawl may be simple, but you can definitely see the Aran jumper influence with that gorgeous braided cable along the bottom.

Celtic Myths by Asita KrebsThis designer took the opposite approach, and crammed every square inch with cables!  I can only imagine how cuddly and warm this blanket must be.  (Can you spot the same braided cable in this project, too?)

Celtic Aran Afghan by Sharondipity DesignsI just love this sweater.  It’s a modern take on the Aran jumper, oversized and cozy, but still undeniably Aran.  And, there’s that cable again, running right up the front!

Katla by Lars Rains

Do you have plans for St. Patrick’s Day?  Have you ever knit up an Aran sweater?

Inspiration: Aran Knitting

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and instead of drinking (virtual) green beer and wearing obnoxious glittery green shamrock jewelry, let’s talk about something that’s more traditionally Irish (and way less racist).

partypatty[1]Aran Sweaters are gorgeous and so cozy.  They are traditionally made on the Aran Islands, located off the west coast of Ireland.  And with most traditional crafts, they live in a fog of tradition and old wives’ tales.   Supposedly, they were supposedly knitted in untreated wool for fishermen by their wives.  They left the lanolin on the wool to add an extra water-proofing layer.  (I suppose this makes sense, but can you imagine the stink of a fishing boat full of people in unwashed wool sweaters?  Ugh!)

Some people say that families (or individual knitters) each had traditional motifs that they would use on each sweater.  I’m sure there’s some truth to this.  Everyone has patterns they gravitate to and patterns they can’t stomach.  But, as a knitter who gets bored when she has to make a second sock, I can’t imagine that someone would tie them self to making sweaters with the same pattern over and over forever.

My favorite piece of lore surrounding the Aran sweater is the idea that each motif has a symbolic meaning.  I don’t know how true it is, but it’s a great thought.  The traditional honeycomb pattern  means “hard work”, cables mean “safety,” and diamonds mean “prosperity.”  It’s like the sweater is a good luck charm for your family member to wear, which is an idea I really like.

Want to try your hand at Aran knitting?  Here are a couple (more or less traditional) patterns:

Staghorn Aran Second Edition by Janet Szabo

5280327608_aa0025b2ac_z[1]Baby Poonam by Norah Gaughan

baby_poonan_lg_medium[1]Aran Felted Hot Water Bottle by Ann Budd