Understanding the stitches of your fisherman sweater AKA Aran sweater.

MenOctober 22, 2020

The King-of-Cool Steve McQueen, President John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley, Robert Pattinson, Captain America‘s Chris Evans and most stylish men all have one thing in common; the fisherman sweater. Also known as an Aran sweater, the hand-stitched pullover is famous for its intricate patterns. Did you know that behind the stitches of your fisherman sweater, lie stories of family clans, and each Aran sweater stitch represents different symbolism and meanings? 

First, why are they called Aran or fisherman sweater?

The cosy pullover originated on the Aran Islands, in Ireland, in the 17th century, mostly populated by fishermen and farmers. Because of the harsh weather, the fishermen’s wife started knitting warm and water-repellent sweaters that would protect their husbands from ocean water and rain. In fact, the cable-knit jumper made of natural wool can absorb 30% of its weight in water, before you’d feel it wet. The jumpers also needed to be durable, easy to mend and comfortable so that the fishermen could move freely. Women took up to 8 weeks to hand-knit an Aran sweater and the intricate stitches that became popular on the island.

In the ’50s and ‘60s, the Aran sweater grew in popularity not only in Europe but also in America, after appearing in Vogue and yachting magazines. The fisherman sweater with its beautiful stitches became chic. People like John F. Kennedy and Princess Grace of Monaco were seen sailing in the Hamptons or the Riviera wearing Aran sweaters.

Recently, after Chris Evans appeared in the movie Knives Out in a classic cream fisherman sweater, the cable-stitch pullover went viral. In fact, the Irish Blarney Woollen Mills, for example, had a 150% increase in Aran jumper sales, proving that the heritage sweater is totally timeless. Additionally, the hand-made jumpers are sustainable and show incredible craftsmanship, which we value more and more.

Fisherman sweater stitches 

Far from being merely decorative, the intricate combination of stitches forms unique patterns that each clan passed down from generation to generation. This is why the Aran sweater is the quintessential symbol of the Irish clan heritage. Some say that each family had its own stitch, like a crest of arms, so that if a fisherman should drown, the family could identify his body by the sweater design. Others say this is only a myth, but se non è vero, è ben trovato! Keep scrolling to find out the meaning of the different Aran sweater stitches.

Illustration with some of the most popular Aran sweater stitches.
Some of the most popular Aran sweater stitches
Cable Stitch

The Cable Stitch represents the fishermen ropes, so an Aran sweater with these stitches promise safety and good luck when fishing, no wonder it’s the most popular pattern.

Diamond Stitch

The Diamond Stitch symbolises the mesh fishing nets, and hopes for success and wealth.

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life stitch represents the family clan, and the fishermen sweater baring this stitch hopes for family unity, strong children and a long-lasting family line.

Ladder of Life

The Ladder of Life stitch hopes for the good health of the person wearing that fishermen sweater.

Honeycomb Stitch

This Aran sweater stitch is inspired by the bees. The Honeycomb stitch represents the sweet rewards of hard work.

Trellis Stitch

The Aran Islands have a unique landscape; small fields are divided by a lacework of ancient stone walls. The Trellis stitches on the Aran sweater represent the farming communities and the stone walls that protect the islanders against the strong winds on the island.

Zig Zag

The Zig Zag stitches of the Aran sweater represent the ups and downs of marriage.

Irish Moss

The Irish Moss stitch promises a good harvest. It represents a seaweed found on the Irish coast, carrageen moss, which is used on the fields as a fertilizer.

Trinity Stitch

The Trinity stitches represent the Holy Trinity hence the religious faith of the Irish. It also a blessing, promising long life and a healthy family.

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And why not enjoy your warm Aran sweater near the Alps, at the Hotel Elephant? Watch the video to learn about the hotel’s unbelievable story.

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