Oct 30

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Aran Knitting Patterns

Aran Knitting Patterns

Overview of Aran Knitting

Aran knitting is a type of knitting that comes from Ireland and is surrounded by myths. Aran knitting patterns are noted by having different patterns going up and down. Some of these patterns can be simple, but others are very complex. Part of the mythology around the Aran knitting patterns, are that the patterns on the sweater marked which clan you were from. If you would like to learn how to knit like this I recommend Celtic Cables Knitting Class

Some of the most popular things to knit are Aran socks and Aran Jumpers or Sweaters. The Aran sweater is also referred to as the fisherman’s jumper which is a bulky garment with prominent cable patterns on the chest and often cream-colored. The sweater is made of a fiber that has not been scoured. This leaves the lanolin that occurs naturally in the wool and adds a small amount of waterproofing to the sweater. Though leaving the lanolin in can leave a sort of greasy feel.

Aran Cardigan

Aran Sweater that shows the complex aran knitting patterns

Aran Knitting

Aran knitting can be characterized as featuring 4 – 6 texture patterns. Each texture pattern is about 5–10 cm (2–4 in) in width, that move down the jumper in columns from top to bottom. Typically, the patterns are symmetrical on a center axis extending down the center of the front and back panel of the jumper. The patterns also usually extend down the sleeves as well. The same textured knitting is also used to make socks, hats, vests and even skirts.

The Myth of Aran Knitting

Aran knitting may have been invented as recently as the early 1900s by a small group of enterprising island women, who planned to sell the Aran sweaters as a source of income. These women took what was the traditional Gansey jumper by knitting with thicker wool and also modifying the construction. This led to a decrease labor and an increase productivity.
One idea, the myth of the Aran pattern might have came from the play “Riders to the Sea” (1904) by J.M. Synge. In the play there is a body of a dead fisherman that is found and the dead fisherman is identified by the hand-knitted stitches on one of his garments. It should be noted that there is no reference to the Aran-type pattern in this play.

Heinz Keiwe, from Germany, wrote an article in 1938 that gave meanings to the different type of stitches and cables used inside the sweater. The bit of irony is that Mr. Keiwe never visited the Isle of Aran, or even met anyone from that area who was wearing an aran styled sweater. The article did do great to market the aran sweaters though.

Lastly, there is a book written by Alice Starmore called “Aran Knitting.” In this book Ms Starmore seperates the fact from the fiction about Aran textiles. In closing I will leave you with a small exceprt from her book. If you enjoy it her book can be found here

    • The most common stitch is the cable, of which there are many variations. These are said to symbolize fishermen’s ropes.
    • The blackberry stitch represents nature, and some call it the trinity stitch to give it religious significance, of which there is none.
    • The moss stitch, said to symbolize abundance and growth, is often used as a ‘filler’ in diamonds.
    • The honeycomb is said to be a lucky stitch, signifying a good catch for the day.
    • The lattice or basket stitches represent the fisherman’s basket and, again, an omen of a good catch.
    • The ladder of life and tree of life represent the stages of life.

They are sometimes given a religious significance, symbolizing a pilgrim’s path to salvation. Plaited or braided stitches are said to represent the interweaving strands of life. Finally, diamonds represent the shape of the fishing net and wealth or success.


If you wish to learn how to knit some of these cables I recommend the following


Custom Cable Pullovers

Mastering Cable Design

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