Aran Jumpers“The Museum of Modern Art were doing an exhibition on garments that have stood the test of time, like the little black dress, or the Levi’s jeans, and, of course, the Aran sweater.” 

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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Even though Taylor Swift’s Folklore, the new album she unleashed on an unsuspecting world last week, has been garnering widespread acclaim from critics, it seems that here in Ireland, we’re less focused on the music and more excited by the jumper. Yes, the fact that the hugely popular singer is wearing an Aran jumper in publicity shots for her new album has generated quite a level of excitement – possibly surpassing the levels seen when Captain America wore one in the 2019 film Knives Out. 

On Tuesday’s Ryan Tubridy Show, Oliver Callan spoke to Anne and her “secret agent” daughter Helen in Cork about their Aran knitwear business. Every Sunday, Anne and Helen take their knitwear to the Burren Arts & Crafts Fair in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare. And Helen told Oliver how, as well as Taylor Swift and Chris Evans, MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, has added an original Aran sweater (as they call it) to their collection. 

“The Museum of Modern Art took over one of the earliest garments knitted. They were doing an exhibition on garments that have stood the test of time, like the little black dress, or the Levi’s jeans, and, of course, the Aran sweater.” 

Arts and crafts run in the family, it seems: Anne does the knitting, Helen is a tailor and Helen’s 13-year-old daughter Daisy makes “shelly” mirrorsAnd although Helen’s tailoring business is on hold – it’s hard to measure someone for a suit when you have to stay two metres away from them – Anne and Daisy’s work is on sale at the Burren Arts & Crafts Fair, which has reopened in the last few weeks. Helen gave Oliver a taste of the logistics that go into getting to and from Ballyvaughan of a Sunday: 

“I get up at 5 o’clock and pick my mother up at 7 and then we’re up there for 9 and then we have to have our stall ready for 10.” 

Helen’s mother Anne told Oliver that she’s been knitting for “a very long time”, starting with her mother and, when she discovered the Aran stitching, she decided that was the way to go for her. Now she knits every day, she says, as she gets orders from all over. So even during the winter, when the Burren Arts & Crafts Fair doesn’t open, Anne is still knitting away.  

“I get orders from America, there’s a lot of old customers that I have back along, in France, in Italy, and England and Germany and everywhere.” 

You can hear Anne take Oliver through all the various Aran stitches that she’s mastered, as well as the story of the order she got from the “very large” ex-priest, and how she went from show jumpers to Aran jumpers, by going here. 

(Mind you, nobody could say why Taylor Swift spends her summer wearing an Aran jumper…) 

Niall Ó Sioradáin 

© The Listener 2020

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