Monday, August 2, 2010

Knitting My Way To Ireland...With Guinness

My arse is going to Ireland at the end of the August and I'm so excited. Ireland is known for many things I love: pubs, U2, words (Yeats, Joyce, Oates, McCourt, Binchy) and gorgeous Aran sweaters. To get ready for the voyage, I decided to knit my own Irish fisherman sweater.

I may not be fully Irish, but I sure do appreciate the pure joy in knitting and wearing a cable knit sweater. There's something about the rich texture and cozy feel that's so appealing to me. Plus I love the fact that this beautifully crafted sweater serves a purpose and has meaning.

I've decided to knit Deirdre from Rowan's Lima Collection. I bought 17 skeins from Knitty City in an oatmeal colorway. The beautifully soft Lima yarn is made from a blend of baby alpaca, merino wool and nylon and is available is 12 natural shades including greys, greens, blues, browns and gold. The cloud-soft wool, intricate stitches and easy, swing shape will eventually turn into one extraordinary sweater.

Rowan's Lima collection


As you can see I still have a ways to go on knitting my sweater, but this intricate pattern really is nice to work with.

This ball of yarn will turn into something beautiful and amazing.

The start of my fisherman sweater.

Knitting and wool have enjoyed a long, rich history in many European countries and especially in Ireland where there might be as many sheep as their are pubs. Although the exact origin of the Aran sweater is unknown, there is a strong relationship between Aran stitches and Celtic art. Many Aran patterns are found on ancient Celtic stones, crosses and jewelry. The popular Irish cable knit fisherman sweater were first seen when the wives and mothers of fishermen on the Aran Islands began to knit them for their husbands and sons. The sweaters were to keep them warm through the harsh island conditions and as a way to identify them if they got lost at sea. The variety of stitches used have different meanings and each sweater is knit with a custom pattern special to each family. The off-white, natural color comes from the unprocessed, unbleached wool used. Wools that are still unprocessed contain natural sheep lanolin which makes the sweater virtually water-repellent. This obviously was ideal for the person who spends their days at sea. While many different patterns can be used, the cable is one of the most frequent because the fisherman uses cables and it represents safety and good luck.

Of course, nothing goes better with this traditional Irish sweater than a Guinness.

Shawn, Abby, Rob, Michael and I having some Guinness at Beer Around The World.

If you have ever visited Ireland and have some tips on places to visit, I would love to hear any suggestions.

Happy Monday everyone and Happy August!