Turtlenecks are the clothing of choice for the Fisherman of the Aran Islands in Ireland. The turtleneck has become a popular item worldwide, a symbol of Irish textile methods with its’ complex stitches. The clothing was made to stand the harsh weather of the North Atlantic, and was worn by hard-working artisans. Traditionally, the stitches were made to create honeycombs and diamonds, which stood for fishing nets.
The origin of this sweater begins in western Ireland, at the mouth of the Galway Bay on the Aran Islands. During the 1900’s, women used their intricate knowledge of patterns and wool to begin a creative enterprise. Utilizing untreated wool that was rich in lanolin, their goal was to expand the market of the fishing industry, by creating an item that the town could sell throughout the entire year. The garment was made to be water-resistant and heavy, to stand against the gloomy and rainy weather conditions.
As time progressed, myths associated with the sweaters began to emerge, such as the belief that families would etch custom stitches into their loved one’s turtlenecks in case they should die at sea; this would ensure that their loved one could be identified if found post mortem. More likely, artisans just created unique designs, stretching their imaginations for each piece. They were even known to take suggestions from friends and family.
People today, both locally and internationally, choose their turtlenecks based in part on their patterns. Here are some of the more common symbolic stitches intricately woven into the sweaters:
- To remind people about the importance of strong familial bonds, the braided cable stitch is used.
- The fishing net, the key ingredient to success in the fishing industry, is symbolized by diamond shaped stitches.
- The concepts of hard work and safety while at sea are represented by cable stitches.
- Prized catches are represented by basket stitches.
- Nature, which is an integral part of Ireland, is seen in Moss stitches.
- The country’s ancient pride in its’ Celtic religion is represented through Trinity stitches.
- Honeycombs represent the rewards of an industrious life.
These turtlenecks are made from 100% merino wool, and are traditionally sold in a narrower range of sizes. For men, they are traditionally available in Medium (38 to 40 inches), to XXL (50 to 52 inches). It is recommended that you dry clean this sweater only, in order to maintain its’ unique patterns and intricacies.
This piece of clothing is made to stand up to the harshest colds, even in wet weather that would leave most drenched and uncomfortable. Since the 1900’s, artisans have been perfecting their craft, adding meaningful designs over time.
Tourists and locals alike share their love for turtlenecks. Just as the people of the Aran Islands would have wanted, this sweater can be sold all year around, helping to preserve the town and allowing it to thrive. Be sure to pay attention to the patterns you see, and decide for yourself which of the popular symbolic stitches you enjoy most.
Inspiring Ideas gives a huge selection of arts and also homemade projects as well as cross stitch, tapestry, quilting, papercrafts, glass paint, artists paints, candle making, lino cutting and more!
Florin is a Digital Marketing expert and blogger who likes to research the latest trends in business, technology and marketing and writes about a range of topics.