‘Reading Aran knitting: stitches, text andinterpretation’

Siun Carden

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    The densely textured surfaces of Aran knitting seem to invite interpretation. They have been ‘read’ as identity documents, family trees, references to natural and spiritual phenomena, or even maps. This paper traces the search for meaning in Aran knitting, examining how these stitch patterns have been ‘read’ in the contexts of tourism, fine art and fashion. As Jo Turney (2013:55) argues, the idea of knitted textiles as communicative media in non-literate societies ‘consigns the garments to a preindustrial era of more rural and simple times’, situating them in an imagined state of ‘stasis’. Thus the ways in which Aran stitches are ‘read’ sometimes obscure the processes through which they are ‘written’, whether in terms of individual authorship and creativity, or in terms of their manufacture. Regardless of the historical veracity of claims that particular Aran stitch patterns index features of the social, natural or spiritual worlds, analysing the ways they have been ‘read’ in the context of comparable textile traditions, other crafts which have taken on ‘heritage’ souvenir status, and Irish national identity, reveals how Aran knitting has performed broader communicative functions (see Sonja Andrew 2008), which continue to be subverted and elaborated by fine artists, and translated into couture and mass market fashion products.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2015
    EventIn the Loop 4. Knitting: From Craft to Couture - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
    Duration: 25 Aug 201528 Aug 2015


    ConferenceIn the Loop 4. Knitting: From Craft to Couture
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • Tourism
    • Migration
    • Textiles
    • Irish Studies


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