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Aran Island sweaters - Ireland

On our May 2019 trip to Ireland, I wanted to find an authentic Aran island fisherman knit sweater. Here is what I learned:
Everywhere we went I found sweaters labelled Original Aran Co. The attached label stated that these are authentic patterns, but are carefully worded to not claim that they were knitted in Ireland, or of Irish wool. Nevertheless, at €100 they are nice sweaters. I am wearing mine as I type this.
Just to the left of the entrance to Dun Aengus on Aranmore Island is Dun Aengusa Knitwear, where Sarah Flaherty has been selling her hand knit sweaters for decades. These are beautiful sweaters, and I probably should have purchased one there, but the colors I had in mind for cardigans in stock in my size, were not there. Sarah told me that any sweater under €100 I find will not have been made in Ireland.
The next day at O’Maille, 16 High Street, in Galway I found what I wanted. Hand knit of undyed Irish wool in Cork County, this sweater jacket was exquisite. I do not remember the exact price, but I do remember it was around $300 when I received my VISA statement in June. It even came with the name of the woman who knitted it. At O’Maille I was told that they are running out of knitters, and probably will not be able to offer these sweaters much longer.
In any case, I hope this helps any other travellers seeking out hand-knit, Aran style sweaters that are actually made in Ireland.

Posted by
672 posts

I learned a bit about this during our Ireland tour. One point was that the wool produced in Ireland tends to be fairly rough and unpleasant to wear. Most sweaters there are made from New Zealand merino wool. Softer and more color choices.

Also the real deal Aran sweaters are very heavy. Was told that was so that if the ship went down the fisherman would sink quickly rather than a long drawn out death. Not sure how true that story is but it put me off a bit.

If you find a sweater there and it's quality for the price, I say go for it and enjoy. I considered buying one from a place in Grafton st but decided I didn't need the extra luggage weight. Had seen very similar ones on Amazon so knew I could buy one stateside if I still wanted.

Posted by
608 posts

CJ,

If it makes you feel better, the fishermen's sweaters were made with wool with a lot of lanolin in it. Lanolin is a waxy substance that helps make the sweaters water resistant so they would shed much water encountered on their fishing trips. It does make the sweaters quite heavy, but is not meant for their quick demise.

Posted by
1915 posts

I believe it may have been Sarah Flaherty who we met years ago while walking back down the path from Dun Aengus to our car. Saw a lady knitting on her back porch as we passed by so my wife, who is also a keen knitter, had to walk over to say hello. There then ensued a lengthy chat as the two of them bonded over their common interest and, of course, as we were leaving we had to buy one of her sweaters as a functional souvenir. It wasn't cheap, but it appears to be indestructable and will likely outlive both of us. Comes in very handy during Colorado winters - it'll stop the rain, the wind, and a small caliber bullet (though we've only tested the first two).

Posted by
618 posts

Any local handicraft and art form can be co-opted and cheaply imitated.

Careful and thorough research prepared me for my trip to Scotland so I would know what to expect in the finer woolen goods shops. I asked our guide for assistance and I easily walked to smaller shops that catered more to the Scots than to tourists. I examined labels and prices carefully, found some beautiful pieces, happily contributed to the local economy, as they say, and bought some nice things and had them drop-shipped home.

Posted by
359 posts

The Aran Sweater Market is one of the first buildings you'll see after stepping onto the dock in Kilronan on Inishmore. Its website states that its sweaters are 100% wool and made in Ireland. They're pricey but will probably outlive us all.

[https://www.aransweatermarket.com/][1]

Correction: Dun Aengus is on Inishmore, Aran Islands. Aranmore is an island off the coast of County Donegal.

Posted by
1353 posts

Last winter I bought a beautiful heavy cardigan in Marshall's.
It says "Aran Mor" on the label, and 100% Merino wool, made in Ireland.
It's heavy, very warm, and really stylish with an offset collar.
I paid $69.Canadian for it.
It will be machine made, I'm sure.

Posted by
12129 posts

Apparently most are now made with merino, and the sheep are being raised there. More information in this blog:

https://www.sweatershop.com/blog/ultimate-guide-aran-sweater

Note that there are machine-made sweaters that are made in Ireland too, so the “Made in Ireland” label does not guarantee that it was hand-knit. The price will tell, however.

I knit one by hand, long ago, and I assure you that the high price they command is small compensation for the amount of time that goes into one. (Even assuming the experienced hand knitters can produce one much faster than I did). I do have a purple Grand Champion ribbon in handcrafts from the Alaska State Fair to show for it, though.

I have a machine-made “made in Ireland” sweater that I bought from Lands End about 40 years ago. The quality is fine, and the color (dusty rose) is one that no self-respecting hand knitter would use, but I like it.

Posted by
1 posts

Dun Aengus is on Inishmore (apparently, there is an Arranmore off of County Donegal), and a much more strenuous hike than they would lead you to believe. 🤣

I was told at the Aran Sweater Market that almost none of the yarn comes from Ireland anymore. The sweaters might be knit by someone in Ireland, but little of the yarn comes from there, and especially not from the Aran Islands.

Posted by
1 posts

Just a small suggestion that we found very useful especially when packing light -- the Irish knit sweaters can be very bulky and take up a lot of precious suitcase room. I packed a couple of medium size packing cubes and zipped the sweaters into those -- it compresses them without causing harm and then takes up way less room.


https://www.tripadvisor.ie/ShowTopic-g551521-i10641-k4275360- five nights at freddy's WheretofindgoodAransweater-InishmoreAranIslandsCountyGalwayWestern_Ireland.html