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.
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.
—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.
—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.
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.