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Aran Stitches & Their Meanings 0

The Aran jumper (Irish: Geansaí Árann)

The Aran jumper (Irish: Geansaí Árann) is a style of jumper that takes its name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. There is debate about when island residents first started making the jumpers, but it is commonly believed that it was in the late 1900's that the Aran Sweater emerged on the Aran Islands. Before that the woman knitted nothing fancier than a pair of sock for their men. Knitting was encouraged by the Congested District Board as a way to stimulate economic growth on the Islands. Once the women of the Aran Islands started to knit there was no stopping them.  Each pattern and style become personallised to families and patterns were safely guarded secrets only passed down through generations of the same family line.

A traditional Aran Sweater usually is off white colour, with cable patterns on the body and sleeves. Originally the jumpers were knitted using unscoured wool that retained its natural oils (lanolin) which made the garments water-resistant and meant they remained wearable even when wet. The islanders

These are the meanings most often associated with commonly found stitch patterns in Aran knitting. Every Aran jumper will have some if not all of these stitches. Some stitch patterns are believed, erroneously, to have a traditional interpretation, often of religious significance. These interpretations were fabricated by Heinz Edgar Kiewe, a yarn shop owner who noticed a chance resemblance between Aran stitches and Celtic knotwork.

Some of the different stitches below will be seen in Aran jumpers all over the world, the mixture and variations will vary to each individual family and knitter. This is what makes the Aran Jumper so unique. A story being told, superstition and religious beliefs intricately woven through it.

Lattice or Basket stitches Represents the fisherman’s basket – again an omen of a good catch.

The Blackberry stitch represents nature. Some call it the trinity stitch and give it religious significance

The most commonly seen Aran stitch is the Cable, of which there are many variations. These are said to symbolise fishermen’s ropes.

Diamonds to represent the shape of the fishing mesh, and wealth and success.

The Honeycomb is a said to be a lucky stitch, signifying plenty and in the case of fishermen a good catch.

The Ladder of Life and Tree of Life represent the stages of life. They are sometimes given a religious significance, symbolising a pilgrim’s path to salvation.

The Moss stitch, said to symbolise abundance and growth. It is often used as a ‘filler’ in diamonds.

Plaited or Braided stitches said to represent the interweaving strands of life.

For some people the idea of knitting their own jumper or cardigan is a possibility and they can use the various stitches and designs to create a beautiful piece of art work. However for most of us that is more likely to be only a dream and something we could never even attempt. These would not be for the amateur, only the more seasoned knitter could master these. If you are feeling brave and would like to try your hand at knitting your very own Aran Jumper I have found a good patttern at The Wool Shop

If you fall into the later dont worry these beautiful pieces of Aran knitwear can be bought from us at Lee Valley Ireland.

  • Aran Wool Sweater Ladies - Natural (C1949)

    This traditional Aran Wool Sweater is made in Ireland to last for generations. A traditional Irish sweater beautifully knit using Aran honeycomb  and herringbone stitches that were believed to bring luck, success, and health to the wearer. Made using 100% Merino wool so it feels soft and cosy. This sweater has just the right styling whether you're heading out on a cold winter afternoon or spending a relaxed weekend around the house. A wardrobe classic to keep you warm season after season.

  • 100% Wool   €72.00

  • Marnie Walsh

Irish Flat Cap 0

The Irish Flat Cap

I think everyone will have a memory or an image that comes to mind when we think of the Flat Cap., in fact there is probably one in most houses in Ireland.

An Irish Flat Cap is traditionally a rounded wool cap with a stiff brim at the front. Modern flat caps can be made of cotton, tweed or leather. The origins of the flat cap lie with 14th century Ireland yet there are some sources that claim the cap was worn before that in England, which we may dispute here in Ireland as it is a part of our history too much not to have originated from here. People in Scotland and Southern Italy wore a similar style cap, although they referred to it as a bonnet.

In Law!!

In 1571 the Act of Parliament to stimulate domestic wool consumption and general trade decreed that on Sundays and holidays, all males over 6 years of age, except for the nobility and "persons of degree", were to wear woolen caps on pain of a fine of (3/4 penny) per day.  This was one way of keeping the wool consumption up, in today’s world it is hard to imagine a Law being put in place to force the population to buy an item of clothing to stimulate the economy. The Bill was not repealed until 1597, though by this time, the flat cap had become firmly entrenched in everyone’s daily dress and people continued to wear the cap without the fear of a fine enforcing it.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, when men predominantly wore some form of headgear, flat caps were commonly worn throughout Ireland, almost predominately by men. and mostly by workers.

In the US the caps were worn from the 1890s but never associated with the working classes. The cap grew in popularity at the turn of the 20th century and was at the time standard boys' wear. They were worn to school, for casual wear, and with suits. Flat caps were almost always worn with knicker suits in the 1910s and '20s. In the 1930's, knicker suits and flat caps were on the decline. The flat cap is often associated with the newsboys. Newsboys were the boys who stood on the street corners selling newspapers .

But the eventual flip side to the history of the Flat Cap is that it as it was no longer a requirement or law, meant that they were now a style choice, and a fun choice at that. Hence, where we are now: Samuel L. Jackson wears a flat cap. So does Jon Hamm, and Justin Timberlake to name a few. All men of vastly different fashion sensibilities, ages, and looks. But the versatile cap suits them all. It’s stuck around for over 500 years, and isn’t going away any time soon!

 

 

Aran Sweater 0

AN ARAN JUMPER is to feature in a major new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York after it was chosen as one of the 111 most iconic fashion garments and accessories over the last century.

The jumper, which has been loaned by the National Museum of Ireland at Turlough Park, Castlebar, Mayo, will be displayed at the US museum this month as part of its ‘Is Fashion Modern?’ event.

The jumper will feature alongside an example of the biker jacket from the 1950s, a Wonderbra, a Birkin bag and a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans from the 1940s.

This traditional Aran Wool Sweater is made in Ireland to last for generations.

Get a piece of this iconic history for your self. Here in Lee Valley we are proud to stock this very Irish of items.

A traditional Irish sweater beautifully knit using Aran honeycomb  and herringbone stitches that were believed to bring luck, success, and health to the wearer. Made using 100% Merino wool so it feels soft and cosy. This sweater has just the right styling whether you're heading out on a cold winter afternoon or spending a relaxed weekend around the house. A wardrobe classic to keep you warm season after season.

  • Marnie Walsh

The Traditional Cotton Flannel Grandad Shirt 0

The Irish ‘Grandfather Shirt’ often referred to as a ‘Grandad Shirt’ remains a firm favourite for many men and women around the world. This classic shirt, is forever linked with Ireland’s past and continues to remain stylish, it only improves with age. For me this collarless shirt has many memories, and brings me back to my childhood in rural Ireland.

An Crannóg - Mehigan's Island 0

Loch Allua is a small lake but here lies an archaeological curiosity - a little island encampment dating to medieval times or before, it was reached via a submerged causeway, known only to its defenders.

The Irish Cottage 0

The Irish Cottage.

Lee Valley and Irish Farmers Market 0

Back in November we spoke of how farmer’s markets in West Cork and in Kerry were where we began selling our flannel collarless Grandfathers shirts. Today we are going to discuss what products are available for us to buy at modern farmer’s markets.

  • Caitriona Hurley

The Traditional Irish Cottage 1

The Traditional Irish Cottage.

We are all familiar with postcards from Ireland. The pictures on these postcards are pictures of sheep, donkeys, green fields, castles, cliffs or cottages. A case can be made for the uniqueness of the green fields of Ireland. but let’s face it, cliffs are cliffs and animals are animals.  On the other hand the traditional Irish cottage is the one image that is always associated with Ireland.

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