Knitting has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity in recent years. According to research conducted by the Association for Creative Industries, a trade association that represents producers of creative arts products, more than 28 million Americans participated in knitting and crochet activities in 2016. And this growth popularity is reflected across every age group and demographic.
Knitting is more than just a hobby, many practitioners cite creative fulfillment and stress relief as important benefits of taking up knitting. The repetitive nature of needlework has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce levels of harmful stress hormones.
For knitting enthusiasts, Ireland is a popular destination
Knitting was first introduced to the British Isles in the 17th Century and the mountainous landscape has long been ideal for keeping sheep for mutton as well as wool. Wool was a cottage industry in most agricultural areas, used mainly for home use until the late 19th Century and spinning wheels can still be found in use in some rural parts of the country.
Along Ireland’s west coast, in particular, knitting was an important skill that brought communities together as women and girls would gather to share knowledge and pass along skills. Regional variations in stitch patterns developed and young women would make a traditional sweater called a gansey for their sweethearts to demonstrate their domestic skills and suitability for marriage. This romantic history has even given rise to myths of distinctive clan or family patterns in these iconic garments known as Aran Sweaters.