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 originally made of oiled wool from the local sheep, they were naturally waterproofed and warm for the fishermen who wore them out at sea.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.