The Aran Islands
The Aran Islands, made up of Inis Oírr, Inis Meain and the largest island Inis Mór, are located along the rugged west coast of Ireland and are mainly accessible by ferry from either Rossaveal in County Galway or Doolin in County Clare. From Waterford, it takes just over 3 hours to reach Galway City and then a further 35 minute drive to reach the ferry at Rossaveal. Doolin would be a further distance and is closer to the Cliffs of Moher.
The Aran Islands are a Gaeltacht district and all natives primarily speak Irish. On each island you will come across a unique variety of flora and fauna, and find a number of ancient forts, churches and monuments. On top of the breath-taking views to take in, the islands give a real insight into their unique culture and way of life.
Every great icon has a great back story! And the story of the Aran jumper begins on the wild Aran islands –three rugged isles peeking out of the Atlantic Ocean off Galway, along the west coast of Ireland. They were first inhabited by the Celts, who are thought to have inspired the intricate and unique designs found in Aran jumpers. The first Aran jumpers were made using unscoured wool –which retains its natural oils –to make the iconic fisherman’s garment. The end result was waterproof, breathable, warm and barely needed to be washed (although the smell wasn’t the best!). Fishing was a huge part of life, and so these jumpers quickly became a staple of the Aran families. Rumour has it that families designed their own patterns so they could identify drowned fishermen. Although this has never been confirmed, it would certainly explain the unique patterns adopted by each family.
It's all in the detail. The intricacy of the stitches used are not for the faint-hearted knitter. Each Aran jumper contains around 100,000 stitches and takes the Aran knitter approximately 60 days to complete! Plus, each stitch has its own special meaning, with many reflecting Celtic art and relating to island life...
The Cable: A depiction of fisherman’s ropes, it represents a wish for a fruitful day at sea.
The Diamond: This stitch is a wish for success and wealth! It reflects the small fields of the islands and are often filled with a Moss stitch, which represents the seaweed used to fertilise barren fields and produce a good harvest.
The Zig Zag: A half diamond, this represents the twisting cliffs and paths on the islands.
The Tree of Life: One of the original stitches and unique to the earliest examples of Aran knitwear, this reflects the importance of family and a desire for family unity.
To find out more about the Aran Islands as well as the abundance of beautiful locations around the country visit https://www.ireland.com/en-gb/
The Aran Collection
Design inspiration for the Master Craftsmen of Waterford is never far away, just off the West Coast of Ireland lie the Aran Islands, the jewel of Galway Bay. These rugged islands are the home of the iconic Aran sweaters. Originally crafted for the island’s fishermen from local wool, these beautiful knits reflect the essence of the wild Irish spirit and landscapes. The traditional crafts of Ireland, whether crystal cutting, weaving or knitting are intrinsic to its heritage with time-honoured skills that have remained unchanged for generations.
A striking new Master Craft crystal collection from Waterford takes its inspiration from the different Aran patterns and stitches which hold symbolic meanings for wealth and success and the stages of life, representing old Irish clans and overall good fortune for fishermen. Using the finest materials, each of the five pieces showcases the depth of cutting and the brilliance and clarity of Waterford crystal, synonymous with quality since 1783. With the best crystal artisans applying their skills, they create a stylish linear, crisscross pattern in a new, spell-binding collection of minimalist pieces making the Master Craft Aran collection beautiful in its elegant simplicity.