What is a Gansey?
This BBC article describes a gansey as a hardwearing, hand knitted, woollen jumper which has been worn by fishermen around the coast of Britian for many years.
My partner’s family is from Ireland and they call them Aran Island Sweaters. Back home in Newfoundland I’ve heard my grandmother just call them fisherman sweaters. She knit them for many years for Nonia. If you go to the shop section of the website and look at the adult sweaters you’ll see that they’re called Fortune Bay Pullover or Cape Freels Pullover. You may also find that Nonia has a really cool history that’s worth looking into.
But perhaps a gansey is different than a sweater because of the way it is knitted in one full piece. Or perhaps the design itself is special. I’m going to go on a gansey journey. It will be the side dish to my current main of mitten making. I started a cable sweater last winter using some bernat cotton in a salt & pepper. I’d really like to finish that one before venturing into a real gansey but I can’t promise that I will.
Not too long ago I read an article in the Spring Issue of Interweave Knits about Upton Yarns. It mostly focused on the owner, Sarah Lake Upton. This is a case where the story of the yarn and her own knitting experience really sold it for me. It’s amazing how that works isn’t it? I’m finding myself wanting to just hear more about Sarah. The yarns sound great, but I’m far away in Nova Scotia where I have ample yarn for my mittens. So instead I have fallen for the story of a seafaring knitter -who like myself – enjoys a good strong wool.
This blog post by her is a great example of exactly the kind of information I like to read as a fellow knitter. She gives explanation for the details of the gansey (take a look at that armpit gusset!) and discusses why she likes wearing them.
Of course. Now I am on a gansey tangent. It was mentioned in the Interweave Knits article that Sarah first learned about ganseys from the book Knitting in America. So I ordered both that one and Dutch Traditional Ganseys.
The Dutch book is great so far. It’s the kind of knitting book I love, full of information and history as well as patterns. Fun tidbits so far:
- Men would wear gold earrings with their initials so if they died at sea and were found they could not only be identified but also the earrings might pay for a proper burial. But of course they often “disappeared” and so men were often identified by their gansey
- Young girls learned knitting in a rigorous fashion. They were taught to knit sections of a work in one go! They said you could tell if you had stopped and began again half way through.
This has me thinking about my own knitting rhythms. I think I ought to challenge myself more often. Solo knitting marathons!