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The Wool Shop

Northern Ireland The Wool Shop in BANGOR, NI
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Fabric Retailers

The Wool Shop

The Wool Shop
4 Railway Court
BANGOR
County Down
BT20 3BU (MAP)
Visit The Wool Shop website
ContactAndrew McQueen
Telephone02891 452801
Email
Website
Hand knitting, like weaving, is a craft with deep roots in the life of the Irish Countryside, the Aran sweater, in particular, having a rich history. It was Oscar Wilde who said (of the Aran Sweater) "it comes not only from the hands, but from the head and the heart too."

He was certainly right about the heart because to live and prosper on the Aran Isles of which there are three, Inishmore, Inishman and Inisheer, not only required a stout heart but also strong constitution.



Set in the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of Galway Bay the islands are the most Westerly edge of Europe. The environment is harsh, the soil poor. The islanders eaked a living from farming, fishing and the harvesting of kelp and seaweed.

Warm protective clothing was essential in such a windswept climate and the locals wore several layers. They took great pride in this distinctive clothing, their badge of identity.

Both the men and women wore knitted blue socks with white feet and heels and "pampooties" as shoes. It was said that upwards of forty pairs of these shoes could be made from a single hide. Whilst the men wore dark flannel shirts under v-necked "bainin" jackets with waistcoats over the ladies wore equally home spun materials in the form of jackets pulled together with "crios" (braided girdles) over which they had "shawleens" or shawls to complement their brightly coloured petticoats.



Not part of this distinctive dress the Aran sweater only emerged in the 1900s when the fishermen began wearing the white heavily patterned sweater (folklore has it that when disaster struck at sea the victims could be identified by the stitches embodied in the sweaters they were wearing).

Knitting skills were an everyday part of island life and it was said at the time when the islanders began selling their sweaters that this was one home craft which kept the smoke going up the chimney. Young and old came together for the communal activity of knitting often using goose quills or bicycle spokes.

Skills and patterns were passed on, nothing was written down and the idea of sizing had not occurred to these ladies. Quite simply if their husband happened to be of large proportion they knit a big sweater.



So evolved skills which in turn produced patterns of great beauty and simplicity as befitted those who lived on the islands. Symbolic and dignified the Aran stitch (of which Sheila Hollingsworth in her book on Aran knitting refers to no less than 71) was both traditional and religious. The Trinity Stitch created by working three stitches from one and one stitch from three is thought to signify the Holy Trinity.

Children of these families didn't often get anything new having to do with hand-me-downs. Thus when they were given a new sweater the neighbours would say to them as we now say to you "go ma tu is go gcaithe tue" - may you live and wear it well.


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hand knitting, like weaving, is a craft with deep roots in the life of the irish countryside, the aran sweater, in particular, having a rich history. it was oscar wilde who said (of the aran sweater) "it comes not only from the hands, but from the he