Here’s another great article on the background of Aran sweaters. From Stitches at Sea, by Linda Cortright:
Up until the latter part of the 20th century, most islanders (total population 1,218) were still engaged in either fishing or farming – each one presenting a formidable set of challenges. But times have changed all that and tourism is now the main source of income for most. Subsistence farmers along with their livestock have all but disappeared, and only a few fishermen still uphold the same traditions sustained by their forbearers.
Yet, with so many ways of old having all but vanished, the Aran sweater flourishes as never before – thanks in part to the souvenir seeking tourist who can nab an “Aran” sweater – Made in China – with wool from Australia, like it was a pashmina from a New York City street vendor.
There is also this interesting bit on the wool that Inis Meain uses for their sweaters:
Although their sweaters are elegantly designed, and carried by the finest stores, from trendy boutiques in Tokyo to high-end shops in Milan, the wool non longer comes from the local sheep, in fact not even Irish sheep. Tarlach recalls, “By the early 1980s we had to stop using Irish wool, it was just too scratchy for the average consumer.” Now, the f wool they use has crested to the luxury of cashmere and alpaca, almost all of which is imported from Michell & Co. in Peru; a leading manufacturer in luxury yarns.
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