How to knit Irish knit sweaters

Updated April 17, 2017

You don't have to visit Ireland to acquire an Aran sweater with intricate cable patterns; rather, you can knit your own Irish sweater. If you know how to knit and purl, and you're ready for a challenge, try knitting your own Aran sweater. An Irish knit Aran sweater will allow you to experiment with making warm, insulating cable patterns. Even if you're a new knitter, you can quickly work up a sweater with Aran-weight yarn and a simple cable technique.

Choose an Aran sweater pattern. Alice Starmore's book, "Aran Knitting," provides several traditional pattern choices, as does Gladys Thompson's "Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys & Arans."

Practice knitting cables. Irish knit sweaters feature both intricate and simple cable designs, and you won't be able to knit an Aran sweater if you can't make cables.

Knit stockinet stitch cables on a reverse stockinet stitch background. For right-leaning cables, place the first half of a group of knit stitches on a cable needle and hold it to the front of your work. Knit the remaining half of the knit stitches, slide the held stitches onto your left hand needle and knit them. Place stitches on a cable needle and hold to the back of your work to create left-leaning cables.

Knit swatches for each cable motif present in your sweater pattern. This will allow you to check your gauge ( the number of stitches and rows that fit into a square inch) and practice knitting cables, seed stitch and twisted rib stitches.

Wash, block and measure your knitted swatches to determine your gauge. Aim for the gauge specified in your pattern instructions; adjusting a cable knit sweater pattern is more difficult than knitting the sweater with smaller or larger needles to achieve gauge.

Cast on for your Aran sweater using the cable cast-on method to create a neat edge. Make a slip knot around the left-hand needle. Knit into the slip knot, and instead of sliding it off the left-hand needle, leave it in place and set the new stitch right next to it. Slip the right-hand needle between the two stitches, wrap the yarn around the right-hand needle, and pull it back through to create a third stitch. Repeat this stitch until you've cast on the correct number of stitches.

Knit your Aran sweater in pieces, rather than in the round. Knit the sweater front and back separately and knit the sleeves flat.


If you want to knit a traditional Irish knit sweater, purchase natural-coloured Aran weight yarn, which is slightly heavier than worsted weight yarn. When you're finished knitting the Aran sweater pieces, wash them in a bath of lukewarm water and no-rinse wool wash. Block them to the correct measurements before sewing them together.

Things You'll Need

  • Aran sweater pattern
  • Knitting needles
  • Yarn
  • Cable needle
  • Measuring tape
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