What is Aran Knitting?

aran knitting

Aran knitting patterns are heavily textured knitting patterns which are named after the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland. The patterns are most commonly used in sweaters, traditionally knitted in an off-white colour, although nowadays are also used in many colours in socks, hats, scarves, mittens, afghans and even pillow covers.

The stitches that create the Aran knitting patterns are often fairly complex and the completed items are time-consuming to create. You use one solid colour of yarn and essentially make patterns and cables by using a variety of stitches and needle techniques. A typical adult Aran sweater will have over 100,000 stitches, and may take several months to finish.

I believe that the three dimensional effect of the twisted stitches used in the patterns increases the warmth of the clothing by creating air pockets, and is the reason it is so popular in colder climates.

Example Aran stitch patterns

While the cables and designs of Aran knitting look terribly daunting, they are created by moving stitches over to the cable needle and then back to the main project surface again.  You will be varying the order in which you knit the stitches and this forms the cable designs. 

The trick to Aran knitting is that you want the patterns you knit to stand out – not the yarn itself like in many other knitting projects.   You do not want to use a yarn with a lot of fluff or extra bulk to it.  Stick to the easier yarns for your first couple of projects and then branch out from there into the more creative yarns and fibers if you so desire.

Cable Needles

To make a garment using Aran knitting, you will need traditional knitting needles and a cable needle, along with row counters and stitch markers.  Cable needles come in various shapes and sizes.  The shape and size you choose to use in your knitting is mostly about personal preference as they all perform the same function.  Personally, I know that I prefer wooden cable needles because they are less likely to slide out of my projects. 

Aran yarn

Yarn selection is probably the most important step in knitting anything and even more so in Aran knitting.  When you’re putting so much time and effort in to creating a garment, go with the best quality you can afford. Invest in a single colour good quality wool or cotton for your project, but if it’s your first time, go with a cheaper alternative until you are confident in your Aran knitting skills.

If you want to learn Aran knitting I would suggest picking up one of the many books on the subject or even better have someone show you how it is done.  By learning a few basic techniques you can create some intricate looking patterns to add to your garments and blankets. 

Here are some useful links for books with stitches and patterns to get you started.

Aran Knitting: New and Expanded Edition

50 Fabulous Knit Aran Stitches

Traditional Aran Knitting

The Complete Book of Traditional Aran Knitting

You can also have a look at a few Youtube videos for guidance and some of the ones I’ve found useful are listed below.

Aran moss stitch diamond

Learn to knit an Aran Shawl – part 1

HOW TO KNIT A BOBBLE – Traditional Diamond Aran Cable With Bobbles.

Classic Aran Honeycomb

Aran yarn is readily available from your local yarn store and online.

I hope you found this article useful and get to grips with Aran knitting soon. It really is a pleasure knitting up a special sweater with these intricate cables.

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