Warmth in a chunky knit. The appeal of the classic fisherman sweater is ongoing. Perhaps deemed as “Winter” in a sweater of creamy delight, the warmth and classic style of the casual cable knit has never gone out of style. A textured yarn with surface interest, the timelessness of warmth with bulk has an appeal that never unravels its knitted yarns…
The classic “Fisherman” Sweater is termed as a “Jumper” (or “Sweater”, “Pullover” or “Jersey”) which is distinguished by its use of complex textured stitch patterns. Interestingly, several patterns are often combined in the creation of a single garment. The original fisherman’s “Jumper” were knitted from unwashed, unscoured wool that retained its natural oils (lanolin). The oils made the garments water resistant to an extent and were said to have been wearable even when water soaked the fibers. Indeed, a fisherman’s delight!! Who knew? The jumper typically features 4-6 texture patterns (each with a width of 2-4″) in columns from top to bottom. Usually, the patterns are described as “symmetrical to a center axis extending down the center of the front and back panel.” These patterns typically extend down the sleeves, as well. Certainly a knitted pattern that is easily recognizable. The cable sweater is timeless and the creamy white colored fibers knitted in classic style have become a fashionable icon, holding strong to its pattern of perfect symmetry.
Of interest, it is debated as to whether these jumpers were widely used and if, in fact, the untreated yarn, both originally of a thick and stiff knitted yarn, would have enabled a fisherman to move properly while fishing. However, what is also referred to as the traditional “Gansey Jumper”, this sweater served as a model for the Aran Jumpers which have been worn for centuries throughout the British Isles by both fisherman and seamen. The Gansey Jumper, however, used a different method of construction and were knitted from a finer wool. Traditionally, an Aran Jumper was made from un-dyed cream colored yarn made from sheep’s wool (sometimes “Black-Sheep” wool). It is said that it was the wives of the fisherman who first knitted the jumpers. Made up of a small group of entrepreneurial women that initially began knitting with the goal of creating garments for their families had quickly evolved into a source of income. It is said that between 1892 and the early 1900’s these local knitters began selling these woolen garments through the Aran Sweater Market on Inis Mor, Aran Islands in Ireland. Unique patterns (each of which are said to have a certain meaning) were used with the adaption of the Gansey Jumper through knitting thicker wool. Thus, the construction of the garment was modified, resulting in decreased labor and increased productivity. Knitting soon became an important part of the Island’s economy. It was during the 1940’s that Aran knitting patterns were published by Patons of England (a yarn manufacturer), creating a widespread access to its knitted style. During the 1950’s Vouge magazine even printed articles on the garment. Eventually, the fashionable knitted appeal of style paired with warmth would result in Ireland’s export to the United States during the early 1950’s. Timeless even today. (Visit aransweatermarket.com to acquire the original tradition of this timeless sweater…)
For the man or for the woman, the tradition of warmth and style carries onward throughout knitted fashion. Alas, a long tradition of knitted pattern which follows in a fashionable style that derived from purpose and function. Knitted, cabled style. The pattern-work of long standing tradition with wide multi-cable and often complex stitches will remain a fashion icon. A heritage of style, for certain. Whether knitted by hand or by the modern hand of machines, the layering of this classic sweater is timeless. Warmth in a timeless knitted style, indeed.