Lessons Learned From a Decades Old Aran Sweater


Decades ago I designed and made an Aran sweater. I was very proud of it, and still am, but I will make changes to the next one based on how my taste has evolved and on what I’ve learned about knitting and design. Such an interesting exercise to take a hard look at this garment. Try it yourself with a  project from the past. See what you know now that you didn’t know then.

  • The Front

    I designed this sweater before stitch charts were as common as now, and me being me, I had to have lots of variation in the cables. What I didn’t know at the time was – it was sensible, and sanity-saving, to make cable choices based on row counts, not just on their appearance.

This photo is the sweater front. Look at where the circles formed by the horseshoe cables, to the right, are in relation to the bobbles on the cables, to the left. The cable rows are repeating at slightly different rates, making them harder to keep track of. I could have adjusted the cable lengths, making the number of rows the same. I will for the next sweater. And next time I will use charts, not written instructions.

  • The Hem – 1

    In my post, 5 Things I Love and Hate About Knitting Patterns, I wrote about my deep aversion to ribbed hems. Apparently I’ve felt this way for a long time and so constructed the hem of the Aran Sweater with alternating ribbing and cables. The problem is the ribs and the cables don’t flow into the body of the sweater, as they should. This looks like the hem and body of two different sweaters. Better planning will be required next time.

  • The Hem – 2

    The other problem with this hem is cable splay. The large cable pattern above the hem pulls in, as cables do, causing the hem to spread out, or splay. Stitches have to be added to the cable or the hem needs fewer stitches cast on. Luise O’Neill has a terrific discussion, Cable Splay Demystified, that explains both the problem and the solutions.

  • The Shoulders – 1

    Moving right along to shoulders, I’m finding lately that I just don’t care for set-in sleeves on cabled sweaters.  I now prefer a flow of cables from wrist to neck, achieved with raglan sleeves or saddle shoulders. My sweater bothers me less than others I’ve seen, because the 2 stitch twist pattern, that is part of the front cable sequence, meets the arm hole, giving it a more finished look.

  • The Shoulders – 2

    If I choose a set-in sleeve on the next Aran sweater, (who knows what inspiration will bring?) I will use Kitchener stitch on the shoulder seam, not just sew it together as I did on this one. It’s rather embarrassing to show this photo of my shoulder seam, but it sure makes the point. Megan Goodacre has an excellent, detailed technique lesson on Kitchener stitch. I think the most important thing about successful Kitchener stitching is to do it when you will not be disturbed by husband, children, dog, or cat. Well, the cat may be OK.

  • Something I Really Like – the Side Seam

    I used a 2 stitch twist pattern right before the selvedge stitch on the side seam. It’s hard to tell there’s even a seam there. The mattress stitch I used to sew the front and back together isn’t visible at all. It shouldn’t be anyway, and I am one of those who loves to do a perfect mattress stitch, but I find it rather nice that you don’t even know that the side seam is there.




Give me another 10 years and I’ll likely find other revisions I’d make to this sweater. I may even find other things I really like about it.

Knitting = Learning

5 Replies to “Lessons Learned From a Decades Old Aran Sweater”

  1. It was a superwash worsted wool that I bought from a store on Bloor Street years ago. Can’t recall the brand and my note keeping is notoriously faulty.
    Thanks, Barb.

  2. I love the sweater. How on earth did you keep track of the row repeats when the stitch patterns don’t line up?! I think making all the row repeats correspond is so important for the final look but also for ease of knitting. This would make a great prototype for a new version and a new pattern (?).

    1. A new pattern? Learn from my observations and apply them to a new sweater? That wasn’t my intention when I wrote about this, but it almost seems like I must redesign it now, in more sizes than just my own.

  3. Oh, I so agree on your points. Making the cables complementary really makes a difference!
    Hopefully we never stop learning from our knitting!

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