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Irish sweaters are rich in symbolism

Aran knitting stitches tell tales of Nature and the fishing way of life

Irish wool sweaters


Two women wearing Aran sweaters


Handknitting is one of Man's oldest crafts. Although Irish sweaters cannot claim to be ancient, the stitches associated with them may have evolved from more traditional designs.

You may not want to know: Discover the truth about those 'clan stitches' in Irish sweaters.
They are widely believed to be rich in symbolism of nature, the sea and the daily life and worries of the fisherfolk of the Aran islands.

Below are some of the most popular stitches used in Aran jumpers and cardigan sweaters:


Irish sweater stitch, basket stitch


Basket Stitch: Represents the fisherman's basket and the hope of abundant catches.





Aran sweater Blackberry stitch


Blackberry Stitch: Symbolises the rich bounty of Nature. It may also have religious connotations.





Irish sweater 'cable' stitch

Cable Stitch: Perhaps the most frequent stitch on Irish sweaters, a plain cable depicts the ropes of our fishing ancestors and promises safety and good luck while at sea. A plaited stitch additionally evokes the interweaving of family life with daily toil.




Aran sweater 'Tree of Life' Stitch

Tree of Life Stitch: Also known as the Trinity stitch. Promises long life or immortality and a crop of sturdy children. It also represents ancient religious beliefs.


Aran sweater stitches, trellis pattern


Trellis Stitch: Symbolises the landscape patterns (see right) created by fields fenced in with roughly hewn stones that offer protection from strong island winds.

Irish sweater 'moss' stitch

Irish Moss Stitch: Often knitted as a diamond 'filler', the moss stitch suggests a good harvest. It depicts carrageen moss, a type of seaweed found on the Irish coast, which is used as a food and as a fertiliser of barren fields.



Irish sweater 'Honeycomb' stitch


Honeycomb Stitch: This stitch is a reminder of the hardworking bee and promises reward for honest labour.




Diamond stitch used in Irish sweaters



Diamond Stitch: Represents the shapes of fishing net mesh and is also a traditional symbol of wealth and success.





Zig-zag stitches are common in Aran jumpers

Zig Zag Stitch: Represents the twisting coastal paths that lead to the sea, and (especially with double zig-zag stitch) the ups and downs of married life.


Stone walls on Inishmore/Inis Mór.
Life on the Aran Islands, where the garments we now call Irish sweaters originated from, was precarious for our ancestors. An existence was eked out by fishing and collecting seaweed, and the annual harvests were critical to the well-being of the islanders.

They lived and died close to Nature, so it is little wonder that nearly all Aran knitting stitches reflect their concerns and hopes for survival.


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