And then the knitting and other textile crafts. Synge observes in 1903 'The simplicity and unity of the woman's dress increases in another way the local air of beauty. The women wear red petticoats and jackets of the island wool stained with madder, to which they usually add a plaid shawl twisted round their chests and tied at the back.........The men wear three colours: the natural wool, indigo, and a grey flannel that is woven of alternate threads of indigo and the natural wool. Many of the younger men have adopted the usual fisherman's jersey, but I have only seen one adopted on Inishmaan.'
The so-called Aran knitting, usually in an off-white wool, emerged around the nineteen twenties. Knitting was mainly done for family purposes, but with some of the fishermen now going around the British isles, seeing other jerseys, and the first tourists appearing on the islands, women started to knit and sell. They became very creative in creating new types of stitches- such as diamonds, zigzags- and designing patterns.
Today the tradition is still alive. Although many of the jerseys seen in shops are machine made. It's easy to distinguish whether it's hand- or machine made. An Aran pattern is centered and similar towards both ends of the front and back. If the vertical cable pattern is mirrored seen from the centre, it's handmade. If the cables are turning in the same direction, it's machine made.
It was hard to learn, but once I managed to do it, my skills improved quickly. It's very time consuming, but also here: making takes time and that teaches us to value it!