Today’s bucket list challenge brings the traditional style of Irish Aran knitting to scarves and afghans
Today’s Knitting Bucket List Challenge comes courtesy of Patricia from Facebook. Her three-word response, “Irish Fisherman Afghan,” sent me on quite a journey!
When I first searched Ravelry for “Irish Fisherman,” I did not come up with any free afghan patterns. Digging a little deeper, I discovered that what I was really looking for was a regional style of knitting called Aran knitting.
Aran knitting originated in the Aran Islands, a group of islands off the west coast of Ireland. The stitches used in Aran knitting were used to identify the origins of the individual islander. Each stitch pattern had its own unique meaning. Some different types of Aran stitches include cable, diamond, zig zag, honeycomb, trellis, blackberry or raspberry, basket, Irish moss, and Tree of Life (or trinity) stitch.
The cable stitch, of course, is the most commonly seen Aran knitting stitch. It has actually been the most closely associated with fishermen, as the cable was used to represent fishermen’s ropes. Other types of Aran stitches represent farmer’s fields (diamonds), matrimony (zig zag), hard work and its rewards (honeycomb — also popular with fishermen), stone walls (trellis), and the importance of family and/or religious salvation (Tree of Life/trinity). A fisherman’s net (basket), a good harvest (Irish moss), and the bounty of nature (blackberry/raspberry) are other stitch meanings.
Aran knitting has traditionally been used to create sweaters, which of course fishermen wore not only to keep themselves warm during their work, but also as identification and to bring themselves good luck for their fishing journeys. These days, of course, the Aran stitches are used in many other types of projects, including hats, scarves, mittens, afghans, and pillows.
Free Knitting Patterns Using Irish Aran Stitches
On Ravelry I found only two free knitting patterns for Irish Aran afghans. However, I did find several other scarf patterns. You can knit them as is, or you could extend them into afghans. To do this, just multiply the number of cast-on stitches until your width matches the width you want for an afghan. You’ll also need to repeat the entire pattern of the scarf at least once, to match the length you’ll need for an afghan.
Braidheart Scarf: This is a pretty simple (and easy) cabled scarf pattern. To make it into an afghan, you’ll need to multiply the cast on stitches by at least 4 or 5.
Simple Celtic Cable: This beautiful pattern features a Celtic-style cable. Again, this is a scarf pattern. Since its cast-on is just 15 stitches wide, you’ll need to multiply it by at least 10.
Raspberry Stitch Scarf: This scarf pattern features the interesting texture of the raspberry stitch. With a cast-on edge of 26 stitches, you’ll need to mutliply it by at least 5 in order to create an afghan.
A Tale of Two Rivers: This lovely scarf pattern, according to its designer, “tells the story of two rivers flowing through an Irish rocky landscape.” For an afghan, you should multiply the cast-on by 5 or 6.
Staggered Cable Throw: This is an actual afghan pattern, and I just love the way its cables resemble real ropes. Perfect for the fisherman in you!
Irish Cable Scarf: This very simple cabled scarf pattern requires a multiple of at least 6 for the cast-on, if you’d like to convert it into an afghan.
St. Patrick’s Day Afghan: This final pattern, another true afghan pattern, is composed of 16 different blocks, each with various kinds of Aran stitches. Use as many or as few of the different blocks as you want.
I hope these patterns have inspired you to try knitting either a scarf or an afghan with some of the traditional stitches of Irish Aran knitting!