A Look at an Island


To be honest, I find a lot of “heritage marketing” tiresome. Everyone wants some deep, storied history, even if they have to borrow or invent it. Every once in a while, however, you find out a little bit more about a place or company, and it gives you a new sense of appreciation for what they do. My latest find is this documentary clip on Inishmeain (or Inis Meain in Irish, meaning “middle island.”). Inishmeain is one of the three Aran Islands located off the west coast of Ireland, seated just in the mouth of the Galway Bay. In his book, The Aran Islands, John Millington Synge wrote about it in stark and graphic terms. Residents are constantly waterlogged by thunderous storms and crashing waves, but despite such violent sea-tempests, the area seemed quite idyllic. Women were described as being in deep-red petticoats, bracken gleamed after the rains, and men rowed together in curraches (a type of Irish boat that looks like a canoe). That kind of peacefulness and beauty comes out really well in this video. 

The island has a whooping population of 160, and in that relatively small group of people is the sixteen person team that comprises one of my favorite knitwear companies, also named Inis Meain (after the island, obviously). Long ago, they were just one of the island’s many knitting co-ops, but at some point, Tarlach de Blacam, a non-native Irishman who came to do community development, began heading the operation. Though he retained the local knowledge and knitting expertise, he also introduced new machinery; substituted local yarns with British wool, Italian cashmere, and South American baby alpaca; and injected a bit of savvy business know-how. Before long, the co-op became a luxury knitwear brand with an international cult following. 

I bought my first Inis Meain sweater two years ago. It was a quiet Fair Isle pattern set on a chunky rollneck. Admittedly, I bought it mostly because its design, but when I received it, I was completely floored by the quality. Plusher than my best cashmeres, and yet thicker than most of my merinos. It was really something quite remarkable. I’ve since acquired four more of their sweaters, and they remain the best in their respective categories.



Though I’ve always found their sweaters appealing, these two videos have given me a new sense of appreciation for the place they come from. And through that, a better sense of appreciation for their designs. For example, one my sweaters from them, a basketweave with an open interlocking lacing over the front of the body, is clearly inspired by the ancient stone walls seen criss-crossing the island in the first clip. The natural, undyed yarns also evoke images of the island’s imposing limestone cliffs. Likewise, their Hurler sweater – a v-neck knit with two seemingly non-functional buttons placed at one side of the neckline – seems strange until you see the second video, where Tarlach holds up one of the homemade sweaters he received from a local woman. The thing looks like it was torn to bits through a lot of hard wear, but lovingly restored by the owner’s wife, who cut a placket down the front and placed two buttons for enclosure. Now I want to own one and wear it every day with corduroys.

Incidentally, Inis Meain recently opened an e-commerce store at their website. The prices aren’t cheap, and they’re unlikely to hold sales, but at least it gives fans of their knitwear another place to purchase them. I picked up a navy Aran from their new store this winter, and as expected, it’s one of the best Arans I’ve ever handled. 


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  1. thornproof reblogged this from stoer1 and added:
    A branch of my family is from here. Cheers.
  2. stoer1 reblogged this from dieworkwear and added:
    Details over onze aanstaande wintercollectie…
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