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Smile like you mean it

Now this is interesting (provided, of course, that by "Now" you mean "No one in the entire world but Eunny Jang will think").

This is one of the links that shows up regularly in these AdSense boxes I'm testdriving. They handknit and sell sweaters using "traditional clan patterns" traced from your last name. Like, if your name is Ó Caomhánaigh (or, you know, Cavanaugh), you'll receive a sweater patterned with honeycomb for work and cables for good luck.

It's a beautiful sweater - but I thought it was well-established that the Aran sweater as we know it had nothing to do with family crests, ancient symbols or identifying dead fishermen washed up an shore. The Aran sweater - drop-shouldered, saddle-strapped, and patterned in a symmetrical fashion with any number of textured stitches - is a commercial product of this century, born with the arrival of big fishing outfits and tourism to the Isles. The Scottish gansey, with its utilitarian gussets and quick-knit construction, is a traditional fisherman's garment, but the Aran is purely an item for export. The motifs have no traceable meaning or symbolism; Alice Starmore even goes so far as to say that most of the "traditional" textured stitches we know were made up over a period of years by one woman whose name has been lost to time.

The idea of an ancient homespun tradition is mighty appealing, though, especially when combined with the thought of discovering a heritage you may not have known you had. This company (which seems to have a pretty big footprint in the economy of the Aran Islands) has certainly done its research. They know exactly what your average baby boomer American tourist wants to hear. They make wonderful things - and I bet they do a bang-up business selling them.

Don't you just love it when you go to pull out the center end of a new skein, and this happens?

I really think it's my favorite part of knitting. I can't decide what I like best about it - the tangled ends, the snarled center, the inability to transport the ball...it's awesome, really.

The sweater jacket is moving a bit faster now:

I finished both back sides and knit across them to join, and am at the first few increases. It's hard to get a sense of scale in a picture, but it looks...curiously tiny. It's been pinned to meaurements for the photo, but it looks like doll clothing. I don't know if it's a function of the pattern, or the shape, or what, but hey - if it looks the same way on me, that'll be a good thing, right?

I leave you with this - a booklet published by the Chungsong company, promoting their cotton crochet thread. It doesn't contain patterns, but instead just has pictures of the things you could make, I guess, if you bought their yarn. It's mostly stuff like badly photographed and utterly irony-less antimacassars and doilies, but the cover shot is worth note:

Knitting as art therapy for the deeply, deeply insane.

Comments

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