Spotlight on Technique: Aran

7th Aug 2015

Aran Islands 

The Aran sweater has been seen on everyone from Steve McQueen to Katie Holmes.

These iconic Aran knitted pullovers or sweaters have vertical panels that contain different but complimentary stitch patterns. Typically, narrower panels with symmetrical cable patterns surround a showpiece center panel. In the past, the complex textured stitch patterns often reflected elements of the Celtic arts, such as crosses or trinity symbols.

Originating from the Aran Islands, a group of small islands in the Galway Bay just off the west coast of Ireland. Not to be confused with the Isle of Arran, off the west coast of Scotland. Many think that the Aran sweater is centuries old like Guernsey or Fairisle technique, in fact this pattern was created in the early 1900s. Ever since the 17th Century, hand-knitting was essential for maintaining community spirit and producing their colourful traditional dress. Women and girls came together to knit accessories and later garments from memory, none of their intricate patterns were ever written down. Aran knitters were known for the complexity of their designs and their ingenuity.

It used to be said that drowned fisherman were identified by the patterns on their sweater, sadly this romantic notion has been disproven by Richard Rutt.


If you would like to read more about Aran Sweaters, we recommend:

The Aran Sweater by Deirdre McQuillan

A History of Hand-knitting by Richard Rutt

Irish Knitting by Rohana Darlington


Image Source: