Question about Aran sweaters

Let me start by saying I’m not a knitter. I have a question but I don’t have anyone to ask since I don’t know anyone who knits, so I’ve turned to your forum. I hope I’m not breaking any rules.

I’ve been wanting an Aran sweater for a while, long story short I finally found a local (Canada) place that sells them, Irish-made and 100% wool.

My question is about the density or “tightness” of the weave, because these are the first Aran sweaters I’ve seen in person. As they were originally formulated for fishermen, I was expecting a very heavy, dense sweater. The one I got is beautiful to be sure, but I feel like it takes very little effort to “open up” the threads to the point of being able to see my skin through the knitting. Is this normal? It makes me feel like it’s less durable, and I can’t imagine it surviving on a fishing boat for very long (not that it was my intent). It snags very easily, for example just by putting it on while wearing a watch.

Here are a couple of photos: my hand inside the sleeve with my fingers slightly opened, and then my hand underneath the honeycomb pattern on the front. What do you think? Thanks


I think what you have is an ‘Aran style’ sweater. It wasn’t made for rough wear. As you already know the knitting is pretty loose. It’s lovely. I’m sorry it’s not what you expected. I’ve never done an Aran sweater myself but I think others here have and can tell you more, probably more accurate, about Aran sweaters.

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I don’t know about the jumpers knit for/by and worn by fishermen, but I have the same thoughts as you about the jumper you bought - it wouldn’t be what I’d expect to receive if I bought a jumper that could be worn to keep me warm while out on a fishing boat.

Lovely looking sweater.

Aran has different meanings.
A yarn used for knitting can be of aran weight which means a certain thickness, but may not even be wool. I can easily buy aran weight yarn made of acrylic or cotton. So that’s one thing, it wouldn’t be untruthful to call an acrylic lace vest aran so long as it was aran weight yarn. And a lacey vest wouldn’t offer much protection from the elements.
Aran is also a style, the cables, and stitches used which give a certain fashion look. An aran style sweater can be of that fashionable style without even being in aran weight yarn, or made of wool or made in Ireland.

If you read around the Internet you will find many stories and myths about the aran sweater, and some sites which explain the myths have been debunked. Many will maintain the myths as it’s nice to have a story to sell a sweater.

To be honest you probably wouldn’t want a “real” traditional aran sweater. An item made for work wear would be coarse and hard wearing, coarse wool from the local sheep (which would have been a coarse wool, not the soft merino often used now) which would be unwashed to maintain the lanolin to help repel water.

Modern aran sweaters are more preferable, made with a much softer sheep wool, better than the coarse wool which would have been stiff, itchy, heavy.

Most modern aran sweaters will be machine made rather than hand made which effects how loose the knit is too. Not as thick as you were expecting.

In terms of your sweater, as “Aran” sweaters are a fashion item now rather than a work wear item, it’s down to deciding for yourself if you like what is being sold. Perhaps you would prefer a hand knit fisherman sweater which you would likely need to pay several hundred £$ for and advance order then wait for it to be knit.

Slightly different subject but still relating to work-wear. I’ve worn army surplus shirts, sweaters, combat trousers and overalls in my work life (not in the armed forces but I wore these for their hard wearing properties) and personally I couldn’t bare to wear new items as they were SO stiff and coarse. The army surplus items were previously owned and had been worn-in making them softer and easier to move in. Combat trousers are now a fashion style and can be made in any type of fabric with the combat style - similar story - a fashion item wouldn’t hold up to the amount of wear and protection I needed from my combat trousers and overalls.
Similarly denim jeans used to be really thick and coarse work-wear and now are an everyday item which many people want to be thinner, lighter, stretchier, softer, easier to move in, and they don’t need the protection of the very thick denim which was once used.

If you are not happy with the quality of your sweater you could return it perhaps and look out for a different sweater. Or layer up with a wool skinny rib underneath for extra warmth.

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Thanks so much for the input. I really appreciate it. I don’t think I’ll be returning my sweaters (wound up buying two different colours) as I still find them comfortable and appealing despite not being as dense as I would have liked, and they were still an acceptable price for a 100% wool sweater (around $100 canadian each).

Nevertheless, I’m going to continue hunting for the elusive traditional Aran.

I really agree with what Creations said about some materials not being what they used to. I also remember denim being heavier. When I was a kid I’d have to put on my denim jeans to pick berries because they were tough enough to resist the brambles. Not so anymore.

Thanks again for the information. I might have to learn to knit after all to make myself a heavy Aran one day.