Aran knitting is a proud Irish tradition, dating back over 100 years and handed down through generations of Irish families.
Originated in the wild landscape of the Aran Islands, off the rugged West Coast of Ireland, it uses a rich and distinctive range of beautiful and intricate stitches and patterns, but did you know that there’s actually a story and a meaning behind every single stitch?
1.Inspired by their natural surroundings
Every Aran jumper is made up of over 100,000 stitches and the hidden meanings behind these stitches give us a unique insight into Irish history and culture down through the years and tell us about what life was like for the people of Ireland. The stitches take much of their inspiration from the nature that surrounded them – the sea and the landscape feature heavily.
2. Reflecting the work they did
They reflect the work people did, which was often outdoor physical labour, like fishing and farming. Times were tough, food was scarce and the work was hard and these jumpers were worn as a shield, designed to provide protection from the sea and shelter from the unforgiving winds that swept in from the Atlantic.
They were naturally water-repellent and could absorb a lot of water, which helped to keep the wearer dry, while the wool provided insulation and kept them warm – ideal for people who were out working in all weathers.
3.Here are some of the most common stitches and the meaning behind them:
The Cable Stitch – Good Luck
The Cable Stitch symbolises the fishermen’s ropes. It was intended to bring good luck to the fishermen who wore a jumper with this stitch, ensuring that they had a plentiful catch and guiding them home safely.
The Basket Stitch – Abundance
This stitch takes its inspiration from the baskets used by the fishermen and expresses hope and bestows good luck for an abundant catch.
The Trellis Stitch – The Landscape
Represents the pattern of the landscape, with fields surrounded by simple stone walls that shielded them from the biting winds that swept in from the sea.
The Moss Stitch – Growth
This stitch was inspired by the Carrageen moss that grows on the stone walls along the Atlantic Coast. Prized for its medical properties, it is also used as an ingredient in Irish recipes. It symbolises abundance and growth.
The Diamond Stitch – Wealth and Prosperity
The Diamond Stitch reflects the pattern of the fishermen’s nets and offers hope for success, wealth and prosperity. It is often found in combination with the Moss Stitch, which is used to fill it in.
The Zig Zag Stitch – Love and Marriage
Represents the cliffs and the twisting cliff paths found on the islands. It also symbolises the twists and turns of family life and the ups and downs of marriage.
The Tree of Life – Family
Like the traditional family tree, the branches symbolise the branches of families, as they connect people down through generations.
The Honeycomb Stitch – Work and Prosperity
This stitch uses nature and the honeycomb pattern to symbolise work. It pays tribute to the hard work of the bees and reflects the rewards that can be gained from it. It is a lucky stitch that is designed to bring prosperity to the wearer.
The Blackberry Stitch – Nature and Abundance
Symbolises the abundance of rich fruits in the hedgerows that are provided by nature. It brings three stitches together and is also referred to as the Trinity Stitch, which represents God.
Plaited / Braided Stitches – Intertwining Paths of Life
Represent the interweaving paths or aspects of life. There was a deep interconnection between life and work and between different families and neighbours at the time and a sense that everyone was connected on the journey of life.