Love it or hate it, the Aran Sweater has long been and continues to be a statement item of clothing for many people worldwide. Originally believed to be designed as a fisherman’s jumper, aran sweaters can now be seen on men, women and children of all ages, all over the world. In Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, they are known as Aran jumpers. It is only really in American that they are labelled as “Aran sweaters”. They first surfaced in the early 1900’s in Ireland. Back then, it is believed that women would hand craft the jumpers for their fisherman husbands and also to sell them to earn some money. They were knitted with thick, unscoured wool and it took quite a significant amount of time to make each garment, given the skill that was required to make the garments.
In the 1950’s, exportation of the jumpers worldwide began. The demand came after the success of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, an Irish folk music group whose signature style involved wearing Aran sweaters. As their popularity as musicians grew, they gained TV appearances in America and the UK. These television appearances showcased the Aran Sweater in front of a worldwide audience. Soon, demand and orders began to flood into providers in Ireland and what was once a craft now became a worldwide industry.
Today, the construction of Aran sweaters by hand is a very rare occurrence. In order to fulfil mass demand, they are now machine knitted or at the very least, produced using a hand loom. The jumpers produced by such methods do differ slightly from their hand knitted counterparts. They are not as tightly knitted and do not feature the traditional, more difficult stitch patterns. For these reasons, hand knitted Aran sweaters can command a much higher price due to the time it takes to make them and the skilled involved. Many of the machine knitted sweaters available consist of a basic cable stitch and sometimes the popular diamond stitch.
Aran sweaters are but one of a selection of clothing items available using the crafty patterns. Hoodies, cardigans, turtle necks, jackets, coats, shawls, scarves, ponchos and blankets all featuring Aran stitching can now all be widely purchased. An aran sweater can now be purchased for any family member. It is more the style of the stitching that people long after now rather the style of the traditional Aran sweater that the Clancy Brothers made so famous. The Aran Sweater paved the way even for lines of household goods such as rugs and throws, all of which are made with the iconic Aran stitching.
What began as a garment for keeping fishermen warm as they worked in rough seas has now turned into a worldwide industry with a broad range of different products available. This has ensured that the Aran sweater and its famous stitching patterns will continue to live on for many years to come. The future of the Aran sweater is a bright one.
About the author:
This article was written on behalf of The Donegal Shop. The Donegal Shop is a 100% independently owned Irish shop which has been in business since 1995. The Donegal Shop are specialist in Donegal home-spun tweeds and knitted products; a shop that caters for what is essentially the finest of Irish craft and tra