History Of Aran
Hand knitting, like weaving, is a craft with roots deep in the life of the Irish Countryside. Hand knit “ganseys” or sweaters, caps, stockings, trousers and shawls were once commonly worn, but the Cottage industry of Irish Hand knits has lasted longest along the Western Seaboard. The hand knit sweaters of Donegal and Aran are world famous made of heavy oiled wool, guaranteed to keep out wind and weather, they are the traditional costume of the Fisherman. Equipped with the sweater, homespun Bawneen Trousers and Jackets, they braved the stormiest of seas in their currach’s. The knitters working for Erin will verify that it takes 40 hours of hand kitting to produce one garment.
It was said that if a fisherman were drowned at sea and washed ashore far from home he might be identified by the stitches or pattern of his Gansey or other garment.
John Millington Synge who based some of his most famous plays on the stories he has heard, and the life he had experienced on the Aran Islands, describes in “Riders to the Sea” how a girl identifies the body of her drowned fisherman brother by the stockings he wore, “it’s the second one of the third pair I knitted, and I put up three score stitches and I dropped four of them.” In places like Aran and Donegal they will tell you that the stitches in a Gansey have meaning or tell a story relating to the life of the Fisherman – Sea, Earth, Sky, Marriage, Sons to take his place, many too, are supposed to have a religious significance.