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Drowned Fishermen Identified By Their Knitted Sweaters

Learn How The Pattern In Their Aran Sweaters Help With Identification

The traditions of the Aran sweater goes back hundreds of years. It takes its name from where it originated, a group of islands off the West coast of Ireland.

The inhabitants on the islands were farmers and fishermen and the Aran sweater has been linked to the family clans and their identities. Those who know how to interpret the many stitch combinations you can find on the sweater, can glean a vast amount of information from the patterns.

As the Aran sweaters were a reflection of the lives of the knitter and their families, the patterns were something they zealously guarded and kept within the clan for generations. Thus, the Aran sweaters were often used to help identify the bodies of fishermen washed up on the beach following an accident at sea.

aran sweater | the knitting space

In fact, at the Aran Sweater Market on the Aran Islands, you will be able to see an official register containing a compilation of these historic patterns.

A finished Aran sweater will typically contain about 100,000 knitted stitches and can take up to 60 hours to complete. The stitch combinations may very and many of the sweaters are reflective of Celtic Art. The Aran sweater stitches have a fascinating symbolism, for instance:

  • The cable stitch depicts the fishermen’s ropes and symbolize a wish for a fruitful day at sea
  • The diamond stitch reflects the islands’ small fields and symbolize a wish for success and wealth
  • The zigzag stitch typically reflects the twisting cliff paths of the islands

One of the many attributes of the Aran sweater is that it can absorb about 30% of its weight in water before feeling wet, making them ideal fishermen. The natural fibers in the wool would draw water vapor away for the skin, helping the fishermen’s bodies to maintain their temperature.

Due to lack of skilled knitters, hand-knit Aran sweaters have become rare and valuable as demands for them continue to grow.

Click on the NEXT button below to watch a video about the unique history of the Aran sweater!

Would you like to explore cables in more detail? Craftsy is running online courses in knitting cables. Click on the images to learn more:

cable 3
cable 2
cable 1

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