An Aran sweater is one of the most reliable items that you can have in your closet. Since it’s practically iconic of Ireland, with more than a hundred years of tradition behind it, you can expect an authentic Aran sweater to be long-lasting and well-crafted. The thick yarn and complex stitching patterns set it apart from other types of sweaters, and its design has stood the test of time.
Aran Sweaters are Durable and Intricate
As the story goes, Aran sweaters were originally knitted by island women to help their husbands, who were farmers and fishermen, weather the elements. Because their main purpose was protection, they were made of unscoured wool back then. This allowed them to be waterproof, which worked well for braving the Atlantic Ocean.
Now that our priority has shifted to day-to-day comfort, modern Aran sweaters are generally made of Merino wool. This is an extremely soft material, even compared to other wools. It also has special properties that sets it apart from ordinary wool, such as being able to regulate body temperature and absorb more water than usual.
Add this to the fact that Aran sweaters are intricate. A single sweater has around 100,000 stitches! Whether an Aran sweater is hand-knit or machine-made, both the quality of the wool and the detailed stitching ensure that it lasts for a long time, even decades.
Repairing Your Aran Sweater
Still, no matter how naturally durable an Aran sweater is, what we do with it also plays a part. As with any sweater, you might have mishaps such as accidentally smearing it with ink or snagging it on your watch and tearing a hole. If this happened with your Aran sweater, no need to pack it up and declare it a lost cause right away! Most of the time, you can repair it yourself or, worst-case scenario, send it off to a professional for a higher price.
Let’s delve into the different situations where your Aran sweater needs repair:
How to Fix Holes
Finding a hole in your Aran sweater can be stressful. The smaller the hole, the more easily you’ll be able to patch it up. Although the stitches in an Aran sweater can be complicated, you don’t have to follow their exact pattern, so even if you’ve never knitted before, you can still close up that hole.
The most common way to repair a hole, whether among socks or sweaters, is darning. You’ll essentially be covering up the hole by knitting new yarn over it in a criss-cross pattern. The yarn will weave in and out of the Aran sweater’s original fiber inconspicuously.
To get started with darning, you’ll need yarn, a needle, and an optional darning mushroom, which you put underneath the hole to hold the sweater in place. The new yarn should be as close to the original yarn as possible. Ideally, this is also made of Merino wool, with the same color and thickness. Because finding matching yarns can be tricky with Aran sweaters, you can simply bring your sweater to the store and ask the clerk to check for you!
The actual process of darning is straightforward. First, thread the yarn through the needle and tie a knot at one end so the yarn won’t slip out.
Choose a spot that’s half an inch to the left of the hole and half an inch below. This will be your starting point. Pull the needle through from front to back and form a vertical stitch going up. Keep making stitches in a straight line as you move up. Once you’re already half an inch above the hole, reverse direction and make vertical stitches all the way to the bottom, next to your first stitch. Continue adding columns of stitches until you reach half an inch to the right of the hole. Once you’re done, you can tie the yarn into a knot on the inside of the sweater then cut the yarn.
Next, you’ll be sewing in another layer, although this time with horizontal stitches. Repeat the same procedure, weaving the horizontal stitches through the vertical ones.
While you’re not exactly replicating the original stitches of your Aran sweater, the added patch should blend in as long as its yarn is a good match. You can then wear your sweater as usual!
How to Repair a Snagged Thread
Snagged threads don’t happen that much with Aran sweaters, unlike with more lightweight fabrics. However, that’s not to say it’s impossible. You might snag your sweater on your watch or piece of jewelry!
Cutting the thread may seem like a quick fix, but don’t do it. This will leave you with a hole, which is a whole new problem altogether. Besides, dealing with that snagged thread will probably take you less than ten minutes.
The simplest solution is to invert the snagged thread so that it’s pointing in and only looks slightly puckered from the outside. To do this, get a needle or crochet hook that the thread can fit into. Push the needle from inside the sweater so that it emerges on the other side, right next to the thread. Insert the snagged thread into your needle, then pull the needle back into the inside of the sweater, dragging the thread along with it. This way, the thread won’t be an eyesore anymore on the sweater.
Another method is to adjust the area around the snagged thread until the thread stops protruding. Trace where the thread comes from and look for stitches that seem tight. Pull on these stitches so that they become looser. When you’ve gone through enough stitches, making sure that everything looks fairly even, the snag will have disappeared.
How to Get Rid of Stains on the Wool
On the bright side, Merino wool naturally resists staining, so you won’t be washing this as much as your other sweaters. That doesn’t mean it’s immune, though. Luckily, unless you’re dealing with paint or dye, you might be able to remove any stains on your own.
Soak your sweater first in water with a mild detergent or wool wash. Rub the stain gently until it fades, then wash the sweater to get rid of the soap.
If this doesn’t work, you might need to use a stronger stain remover. For ink, use milk or white spirit with white vinegar; for blood, undiluted vinegar; for grease, baby powder or baking soda; and for makeup, turpentine or spot clean spray. Don’t be too vigorous with the rubbing because this might make the stain worse or even damage your sweater.
Aran sweaters are meant to be low-maintenance, and as long as you take care of it properly, your sweater should last you for at least several years. In case you encounter problems like snagged threads, holes, or stains, you’ll most likely still be able to repair your sweater. An Aran sweater possesses high value, both because of its good quality and ties to Irish tradition, and it’s made to stay around around over the long haul.
Originally published on Oct 24, 2019