I love to check out yarn whenever I have the chance and Irish yarn is one of my favourite! I do not care much for the fancy yarns offered these days and prefer the wholesome lasting skeins in earthly colours produced in smaller mills or even better by tiny cottage industries.
The Aran stitch has always held a mystical appeal and I count myself lucky to own a geansais (sweater). The untreated white sheep's wool or bainin features symbolic embossed patterns and designs. Contrary to popular belief it does not represent family names (such as kilts) but instead projects a wish list for successes in life such as wealth, good fishing, health...
There are always myths and lore associated with most Irish things but we know for sure that creating a Aran sweater was not a hobby but rather a very important part of Irish source of income. In fact knitting first came to Ireland in the 17th Century with Christian monks teaching the trade in poor rural communities.
Aran sweaters knitted from black sheep wool (my favourite) comes in many shades depending from which sheep and region it comes from and rarely is actually black, being more heather grey, true grey or even brown.
Long ago the geansais was in fact called the bridal shirt because young women knitted such a sweater to give to the one they loved. If the fisherman accepted the sweater it meant he reciprocate her love.
I discovered Cushendale Mills (located in Graignamanagh, County Kilkenny) and loved their wide variety of yarns as much as the history behind it. Woolen mills have been established there since 1204 with the building of a monastery by Cistercian monks after they discovered the pure quality of the water of River Duiske.
Flemish weavers brought their quality art and expertise in the 1600's and the rest is history!
It is still to date a family run business offering wonderful home furnishings and fashion whilst supporting Irish sheep farmers, selecting their finest wool and producing a true natural Irish product!
I like that most of all!
And since I plan to knit a 6 x 6ft blanket in Aran stitches shortly, I will enjoy knitting even more knowing where it came from!
Note: I was not asked to write a review about the mills and this post reflects only my opinion!