“They last a lifetime,” says Megan O’Meara of the thick, 100 percent wool sweaters of varying colors – green, beige, black, and brown – on display at O’Meara’s Irish House in Fish Creek. Calm Celtic music, the soft scent of a lavender candle, and Seamus, a friendly Wheaten Terrier with white shaggy hair, provide a pleasing Irish atmosphere in the shop that features everything from Claddagh rings to Guinness jerseys to Irish tea.
One nook of the shop features O’Meara’s wide selection of cozy, hand-knit sweaters. “Traditionally they were worn by fishermen,” explains O’Meara. “They were called Arans and were worn for very practical reasons – to stay warm on the open sea. And each family had their own pattern, so if the unthinkable happened, [the fisherman] got lost at sea, they could recognize them.”
O’Meara’s selection reflects the variety of patterns and stiches – from the classic cable, zig-zag, and trellis stiches to the more modern Celtic curls, Celtic swirls, and Tree of Life stiches. “Each knitter has their own style,” says O’Meara who points out that each hand-knit sweater is signed by the knitter.
The recognition of the quality of a hand-knit Irish sweater and the desire to show off that “classic Irish look,” according to O’Meara, spreads beyond Ireland’s borders.
“We have customers who are not Irish at all – but like the high quality of our woolens,” she says. “Customers come in who bought one of our sweaters 20 years ago, and they still look as good as the day they bought them.”
O’Meara glances at her own sweater, thick and cozy. “It’s not ‘trendy.’ They’re always in fashion,” she says, admitting “I have too many [sweaters] to count.”
O’Meara’s Irish House is located at 3970 Highway 42 in Fish Creek. For more information visit http://www.omearasirish.com or call 920.868.3528.