Monday, March 14, 2011

irish fisherman knit sweater

one of the enduring icons of irish style is the fisherman's knit or aran sweater. it comes from the aran islands off the west coast near galway where knitting was an important cottage industry in the early 1900's. women developed patterns and stitches inspired by the motifs they found in nature, such as moss, blackberries, a crooked road, rosebuds, and honeycomb, and family sweaters were identified by the unique patterns the women designed and knit into their family heritage. originally made of oiled wool from the local sheep, they were naturally waterproofed and warm for the fishermen who wore them out at sea. As they are washed, they become softer and whiter, and are known as "bawneen" which means "little white" in irish, referring to the natural wool. the cable knit technique (using a third needle) allows for raised patterns and more intricate designs and it is said that fishermen who were lost at sea were later identified by the family pattern in their sweaters. they were worn with pride and were a tradition that lives on today. A woman would knit for her husband and sons and on giving them the sweater, would say " may you live and wear it well". what a wonderful gift to us that lives on today.


  1. wonderful to know this... i adore these sweaters.

  2. I have a stash of old family sweaters that I've saved just because I love the way they look...time to get them out again!

  3. Hi Tricia,
    I've always loved aran knits. I have 2 that my mother knitted for me that I treasure - especially since she has Alzheimer's now and can't knit any longer - it's amazing how much we can take these things for granted, until...
    enjoying your entries here, Margot

  4. Hi Tricia,

    Is the sweater above available in stores or did you say it is one of yours from your family? I love it. I'd love to find one like it. The cable pattern is beautiful. If I did not read correctly and it is not one of yours, will you please post where you got it?
    Thanks ;)