10 Aran stitches you need to know
Many things have been told about the Aran sweater: how versatile and soft merino wool that they’re made of is, how rich Aran sweater history is, how many celebrities have worn it both in real life and in the movies (our latest obsession being Adam Driver’s fisherman sweater in the House of Gucci), as well as how classy and sophisticated this garment looks. We can’t help but agree with the last point, so today we’re going to discuss the exact things that make an Aran sweater so unique and appreciated: the stitches.
So, what are the Aran stitches and what do Aran patterns mean one may ask? Aran stitches are the knitted stitches that were first used about a century ago when creating the rugged wool sweaters worn by the fishermen of the Aran Islands. According to Irish folklore, these stitches have unique meanings and symbolism, and are to this day used as unspoken blessings to their wearer for good luck, wealth, harmony, and protection. The Aran knitting style is easily distinguishable, due to solid color, heavy texture, and unique patterns of the sweater that are made of more than 10,000 stitches each. Some of the now-traditional stitches, which you might think have been around for centuries, were actually created a little more than a century ago on this little group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean. While we're on this subject, we can't forget about the clan patterns, which were developed by the women of a local family solely for their husbands and are still recognizable today.
1. Cable stitch
The cable stitch has always been, without a doubt, the most popular pattern that was used for the Aran sweaters ever since their origins, in the beginning of the 20th century. One of the easiest and most basic stitches, one may assume that it has been around for centuries, but would be surprised to find out that it was actually created when knitting the Aran sweaters. The cable knit is said to represent the fishermen’s ropes and the local women knitted them for their husbands as a wish for safety and good luck when going out into the sea. A cable knit wool Aran sweater is a wonderful purchase, whether you buy it as a gift for someone whom you love or as an addition to your own wardrobe.
2. Diamond stitch
The Aran Islanders used to depict not only designs that symbolized a wish for the fishermen, but also many elements of their surroundings, such as landscapes, cliffs, and even roads. The charming pattern of the diamond stitch represents the little farms that were scattered over the Aran Islands, and it was also a symbol of prosperity, wealth, and success when in the sea. If you have a special occasion coming up and want to wear something that will bring you good fortune, an Aran sweater knitted with the diamond stitch is sure to bring you the famous luck of the Irish.
3. Honeycomb stitch
The lucky honeycomb stitch is thought to represent hard working bees and the sweet rewards they receive for their efforts. A sweater with this knitting pattern was intended to be a wish for good luck and a great catch for the Aran fishermen, as their labor was the main source of income for the islanders, despite being difficult and oftentimes dangerous. These days, when knitted together with other decorative stitches, such as the cable and the diamond stitch, the honeycomb creates a beautiful and unique pattern for an Aran sweater, as well as other garments and accessories such as scarves or mittens. A honeycomb knit sweater for men will surely draw attention to its wearer.
4. Moss stitch
When it comes to the depiction of the natural elements of the Aran Islands, the moss stitch is one that should not be overlooked. This tiny, but distinctive pattern represents the carrageen moss that can be found on the shores of the islands and is a symbol of abundance, prosperity, and a big harvest. This lovely design gives texture and volume to your sweater and can be used as an overall pattern or as a decorative element, like as on the sleeves or as a "filler" in the diamond stitch.
5. Tree of Life stitch
The Tree of Life, also known as the Ladder of Life, is a stitch whose origins can be traced back to the Bible, where it is described as a tree of knowledge that connects the heavens and the underworld in the Book of Genesis. It was a representation of wisdom and strength for the Celts, the Irish's forefathers, as well as the importance of one's ancestors. Today, the tree of life stitch is used as a symbol of strong and protective parents, represented by the roots, and healthy children, the branches, overall signifying the unity and harmony within the family. Such a pattern on an Aran sweater would be a wonderful and thoughtful gift for a member of your family, regardless of their age.
6. Zig-zag stitch
The zig zag stitch, sometimes also called the zig-zag path, was used by the islanders to depict the twisting paths of the islands that lead the fishermen to the Atlantic Ocean. The fact that this stitch is also known as the marriage line stitch and is a representation of the ups and downs of married life and matrimony adds to its uniqueness. In combination with the fine and luxurious merino wool, an Irish sweater decorated with the zig-zag stitch makes an elegant, practical, and considerate garment that is a lovely present for newlyweds or someone who is celebrating their wedding anniversary.
7. Blackberry stitch
The blackberry stitch, like so many others that have been mentioned, reflects the natural beauty of the islands that surrounded the citizens, as well as the natural riches that it provided them. Same as the moss stitch, the blackberry can be used as a decorative element amid other stitches, as well as a filler for the diamonds, to give the sweater a more complex and intriguing design. It is also believed to have religious connotations, as it is also known as the trinity stitch, portraying the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
8. Trellis Stitch
The trellis stitch is another symbol of the nature of the Irish from the Aran Islands. So similar to the basket stitch, yet so different at the same time, the trellis pattern is represented by overlapping knitted ropes which look like a fisherman’s basket. When knitted together with other stitches, it gives the garment a three-dimensional volume to make it even more elegant and exquisite. The trellis stitch reflects the natural beauty of the Aran Islands, specifically the small, dry stone-walled fields created to shelter islanders from the Atlantic Ocean's strong winds. You will be well protected if you wear a sweater with a trellis stitch knitted pattern.
9. Basket stitch
Just like the name says the basket stitch, sometimes also called the lattice, represents a fisherman’s basket and is intended to wish for good luck and a big catch. The basket is also one of the key Aran stitches of the clan pattern of the McGrath family, which together with the honeycomb and the blackberry knits create a beautiful and truly unique design for the people who are related by blood.
10. Clan patterns
Speaking of the clan patterns, the women of the Aran Islands used to hand knit the most beautiful and original designs by putting together all kinds of stitches. The local folklore states that the pattern of one’s family was so distinct that if a fisherman happened to die in the sea, his body could be identified by the sweater that he was wearing even long after his death. This pattern, like the last name, was usually determined by the family's men's profession or origins. The Cusack clan, for example, takes its name from the historic French region of Guyenne, where it was known as de Cusack before being Anglicized to its current form. Probably one of the most complex designs, their pattern incorporates cable, rope, honeycomb and braid stitches, together symbolizing that the Cusack family members are lucky and hardworking people.
The Aran stitches have a multitude of interpretations and symbolic meanings. Today, we’ve presented to you the most popular and widely accepted ones that are inspired by the Celtic mythology and local folklore. Here at Tara Irish Clothing, we combine the craftsmanship of the traditional Irish stitches with the finest modern types of wool in order to create warm, elegant, and beautiful clothing for our customers. By purchasing an Aran sweater from our store, you’re getting more than a simple garment: you’re also buying a timeless piece of Irish history and heritage. If you're keen to get your hands on one, we invite you to browse our selection of Irish knitwear for one-of-a-kind Aran sweaters of the best quality.