The smell of autumn is a blazing bonfire. The sight is a pile of orange pumpkins. The sound of the season is crunching leaves underfoot.
After a long, hot summer it takes just one brisk day to make us cheer, “Hurrah for Sweater Weather!”
Of course in Ireland, sweater weather spans at least three-quarters of the months of the year. The reason the Irish are considered such experts on sweater design and construction is that sweaters, sometimes called jumpers in the British Isles, are far more than a fashion statement in a climate where doing anything outdoors often relies upon finding a way to stay both warm and dry.
What often comes to mind when people think of Irish sweaters are the fishman cable knits of the Aran Islands. In fact the heavy knit sweaters originated there as a way for the fishermen and farmers to combat the wet, windy weather. Knit from untreated sheep’s wool, the intact oils made the sweaters both warm and water-resistant. It also made them the iconic cream color of undyed wool.
Their popularity spread throughout Ireland when the Congested Districts Board promoted knitting as a good source of income utilizing local materials. Irish women quickly took to the project and began creating intricately-designed sweaters, scarves, hats, socks, gloves and more. As laypeople had not as much need for water resistance, the sweaters became available in treated wool, but the truly traditional remain still the well-recognized cream color.
After decades of popularity in Ireland, the designs took off in America in the 1950s when the famous Irish Kennedy family wore them for football games and sailing.
There are hundreds of different patterns knit into the traditional sweaters. Some marketing touts the myth that certain clans and families can search for their own particular design. The truth is that the designs came about in as many variations as there were different knitters.
So no matter your family name, your heritage, or your career choice, you can find a sweater just right for you. Check your forecast, pour a mug of Irish coffee, and wrap up in a bit of Irish warmth.
Come celebrate Autumn at our Applefest celebration October 3 and 4 in downtown Weston, Missouri.