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The Knotted History of Knitting in Ireland

Skilled craftspeople have always held a very special position in Irish culture. So it’s no surprise that celebrating the work and stories of gifted makers around the country is a big part of what Cruinniú na nÓg is all about.

Knitting has a deep history all over Ireland, not least of all in the Aran Islands of Galway, birthplace of the iconic Aran jumper. These beautiful but weather-beaten islands at the Ireland’s westerly edge endure their fair share of wet and wild conditions. Aran jumpers were favoured by the islanders for their ability to withstand the wet weather typical of the isolated location they called home.

Of course, you would be forgiven for wondering how a thick wool sweater is any use in lashings of rain. Well, the very first Aran jumpers were made using unwashed báinín — a traditional type of yarn made from sheep’s wool. The báinín was left untreated and as a result retained its lanolin, a natural wax from the sheep, which made the wool impervious to water.

An Aran jumper is said to contain close to 100,000 carefully constructed stitches, and can take the knitter months to complete. One of the most fascinating aspects of the culture surrounding Aran jumpers is the wide variety of stitching patterns they have been known to showcase. Many believe that the various stitching patterns associated with the jumpers can be traced back to the different clans that lived on the island and much of the stitching patterns used in the Aran sweater are reflected in Celtic Art.

This year, as part of our Cruinniú na nÓg celebrations, we’re bringing the Irish knitting tradition all the way from Aran to Airfield farm. Our “Let’s Get Knitting” and “Dying to Knit” online workshops will be great fun for both practiced and novice knitters alike. 

As well as connecting children with the heritage of Irish wool, the art of wool processing, and natural plant dyes, participants will be guided through some traditional knitting stitches and discover some creative ways to personalise their work.

To sign up to Saturday’s online classes,visit: www.airfield.ie/cruinniu-na-nog/

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