Warmth from
the edge of
the world

Inis Meáin is one of the three Aran Islands that lie on the far edge of Europe, thirty miles off the western shore of Ireland. It’s a place of wild and rugged beauty that has enchanted many a visitor. But to make a living on the island has always called for a spirit of independence, resourcefulness and innovation.

For centuries, the fishermen’s garments have been designed, knitted and woven by the women of the island. Stitches that have evolved through the generations reflect the unique island environment: turbulent, amazing seas and skies, wild flora and labyrinths of stone walls. They are all echoed in the diamonds, cables, tree of life, moss and other patterns.

 
 

The Aran Sweater

—How a Local Craft went Global

The great Anglo Irish and Gaelic literary revival of the early 20th century brought many to Inis Meáin in search of the authentic spoken Gaelic language and folk traditions. Among them, playwright J. M. Synge, Douglas Hyde – the first President of Ireland and Lady Augusta Gregory – patron of the arts and mentor to W. B. Yeats.

The new flow of visitors led to a growing appreciation of the creativity of the handcrafted garments and the unique style of the islanders. A cottage industry was born and by the mid-20th century most island women were supplementing the family income through their knitting work.

Merchants supplying tourist shops around Ireland and Irish interest stores in the USA contracted home-based knitters to supply a growing market. Patterns varied from knitter to knitter – each using their individual stitch combinations. Some of the commissioning merchants introduced innovations such as the use of cashmere and silk yarns, but the basic formula of highly decorated classic shapes was maintained.

The simplicity
and unity of the
dress increases in
another way the
local air of beauty

J. M. Synge
—The Aran Islands, 1911

Inis Meáin
Knitting Company

—Reinventing Tradition

Inis Meáin Knitting Company was founded on the island in 1976 by Tarlach de Blácam and Áine Ní Chonghaile, inspired by the unique spirit, environment and heritage of the place.

Tarlach was a graduate in Celtic Languages from Trinity College Dublin and had gone to Inis Meáin in the late sixties like the previous scholars to immerse himself in the language and culture of the island; Áine was a native of Inis Meáin working as a teacher in Dublin in the early ‘70s. When the pair married in 1973, they were determined to make their home on the island. The only question was how to make a living there.

Tarlach and Áine became involved in a series of development projects aimed at stemming the tide of emigration and providing the permanent work needed to support a sustainable community on Inis Meáin. These included the provision of electricity and running water as well as new harbour and airstrip facilities.

Drawing on the island tradition, Tarlach and Áine went on to equip a small factory with six knitting machines and set about working with young islanders whose mothers knitted at home for the tourist industry. The younger generation were more inclined to emigrate in search of work on the mainland or overseas. Inis Meáin Knitting Company offered regular work in a factory setting, attracting young people who would otherwise have left the island forever.

Today, Inis Meáin Knitting Company continues to delve into the rich knitting heritage of the island for inspiration, reinterpreting traditional stitches and styles in the finest yarns to create beautiful and sophisticated garments for contemporary living.

We are proud to supply our unique, high-quality knitwear to some of the best stores around the world.

 

Our Knitwear

—Authentic, Sophisticated, Unique

Inis Meáin Knitting Company designs and produces individual, unique pieces of knitwear in the finest yarns, all exquisitely finished by hand. Our range is continually updated with new styles as well as variations on our customers’ old favourites.

We are a very modern company, with a highly-educated, well-trained workforce using the most up-to-date machinery. But how we use our machinery differs from most other companies with the same technology – because we choose not to mass produce. Instead, we specialize in small runs of new styles and we change the settings on our machinery up to several times each day, so that we can produce up to 50 different styles each season.

The authentic heritage, sophisticated design, beautiful yarns and impeccable finishing of Inis Meáin knitwear are appreciated by our customers around the world. Our range of styles continues to evolve as we explore the vast Aran knitting repertoire.

 
No. 1

Decorative Formalwear

—The classic Aran Sweater

The Aran sweater popularised in the mid-20th century as the “fisherman’s sweater” is in fact based on the highly decorated styles that islanders prized as formal wear for special occasions. Inis Meáin Knitting Company has interpreted and reinvented the traditional designs over the years by introducing a wide range of colours and luxurious yarns – wool, silk, cashmere, alpaca, linen and silk, sourced from mills across Europe and South America.

No. 2

Authentic Workwear

—Restrained simplicity

As we explored the photographic archives of island life and spoke to the older generation of island knitters, we rediscovered the simpler designs that the women knitted in dark grey and navy for practical, everyday workwear.

These authentic, functional workwear styles had a restrained quality and innate elegance that we found very appealing. We designed a range of new variations in softer, wearable yarns and colours that have found great favour with our customers.

Fishermen wore
simple sweaters, usually
in dark colours

Island Shop Siopa an Oiléain

Fáilte romhat chuig Siopa an Chniotáil agus tú ar do chuairt go h-Inis Meáin, áit a bhfuil na h-earraí is deireannaí ar taispáintas agus ar díol.

When on your visit to Inis Meáin you will find many of our latest products in our island shop. Our opening hours vary from season to season. See here for our current opening hours.

Monday 11am–1pm
Tuesday 11am–1pm
Wednesday 11am–1pm
Thursday 11am–1pm
Friday 11am–1pm
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed