The Gansey, originally designed for Fishermen.

2 Oct

Gansey

To me the sexiest outfit for a man is a (preferably hand-knitted) woollen sweater and corduroy trousers. The most beautiful sweater of all is the gansey or guernsey, originally designed for fishermen.

.

History

The Guernsey’s knitting industry  can be dated back to the late 15th century when a royal grant was obtained to import wool from England and re-export knitted goods to Normandy and Spain. 

The gansey came into being as a garment for fishermen who required  a warm, hard-wearing, yet comfortable item of clothing that would resist the sea spray. Using a tightly spun 5-ply worsted wool (popularly known as “Seamen’s Iron”) the intricately patterned gansey is knitted in one piece on five steel needles. The patterning to back and front and, in some cases, the upper part of the sleeve provides an extra layer of protection, while the combination of seamless construction, fine wool and tight knitting produced a garment that is both wind and waterproof. Indeed, every part of the garment is designed with practicality in mind.

Ganseys

Ganseys

The gansey came into being as a garment for fishermen who required  a warm, hard-wearing, yet comfortable item of clothing that would resist the sea spray. Using a tightly spun 5-ply worsted wool (popularly known as “Seamen’s Iron”) the intricately patterned gansey is knitted in one piece on five steel needles. The patterning to back and front and, in some cases, the upper part of the sleeve provides an extra layer of protection, while the combination of seamless construction, fine wool and tight knitting produced a garment that is both wind and waterproof. Indeed, every part of the garment is designed with practicality in mind.

The wool is knitted tightly so as to “turn water”; the lack of seams ensures greater strength and impermeability; the underarm gusset allows freedom of movement; the lower sleeves where most wear is sustained, are left plain so the worn part can be unravelled and re-knitted, while the patterning across the chest provides extra insulation. Note that the patterning is the same, back and front. This means that the gansey is reversible, so that areas which come in for heavier wear, such as the elbows, can be alternated. They were traditionally knitted by the fishermen’s wives and the pattern passed down from mother to daughter through the generations.

Knitting ganseys

Through trade links established in the 17th century, the gansey found favour with seafarers around the British Isles, and many coastal communities developed their own “ganseys” based on the original pattern. Whilst the classic gansey pattern remained plain, the stitch patterns used became more complex the further north the garment spread, with the most complex evolving in the Scottish fishing villages. The knitting patterns were important to  be able to identify men after a ship had sunk…..

It’s arguable that the use and wearing of ganseys throughout the British Isles for over a century and a half almost justifies the gansey for qualification as a national costume.

The ganseyTypical gansey worn by east coat Britain fishermen

.

Two styles of Gansey exist: a plain “working” gansey and a “finer” example that was generally saved for special occasions and Sunday-best attire.  The “working” gansey design was kept simpler in order to reduce the amount of time and materials needed to produce. The sale of knitted garments to supplement family income was important to many island families and thus the garments that were sold were also of a simple design. It is estimated that a total of 84 hours was needed to complete a gansey: a simpler design could be produced faster than a more elaborate one.

The gansey that is still produced on the island retains much of the original design and patterns. The rib at the top of the sleeve is said to represent a sailing ship’s rope ladder in the rigging, the raised seam across the shoulder a rope, and the garter stitch panel waves breaking upon the beach. As a working garment, the gussets under the arm and at the neck are for ease of movement, as are the splits at the hem. Twenty-four principal patterns have been identified in Cornwall alone, each one again drawing inspiration from ropes, chains, waves, nets and sand-prints.

Ganseys with different knitting patternsDutch ganseys with different knitting patterns

.

Worn as a source of pride and often knitted by prospective wives “to show the industrious nature of the woman he was about to marry”, the “finer” gansey was more elaborately patterned than its working cousin. 

The gansey’s tightly knitted fibres and its square shape, with a straight neck so that it could be reversed, make it a particularly hardy item of clothing. It is not uncommon for a gansey to last several decades and be passed down in families. Guernseys knitted for children were knitted to be “grown into” and often came down to the knee.

Shetland ganseyShetland gansey

.

.

Book

In the Netherlands all fishing-villages had their own knitting pattern for ganseys.


Book cover

 

Dutch gansey

Gansey from Katwijk Gansey from Dutch village Katwijk

VISSERS TRUIEN

A Dutch book about ganseys with 60 knitting patterns 

To order for € 24,95 at :     http://www.forteuitgevers.nl/boek/visserstruien

.

.

order

a traditional gansey, hand-knitted in one piece

http://www.flamboroughmanor.co.uk/flamboroughmarine/

.

.

Gansey

4 Responses to “The Gansey, originally designed for Fishermen.”

  1. smithcharmian 2 October 2016 at 09:08 #

    fascinating article – thank you!

  2. Soul Safari 2 October 2016 at 11:43 #

    very nice to get the insight on these traditional knits and Dutch truien…hope Winter comes soon this year. Can’t wait to get one…

  3. wanderingbanquets 3 October 2016 at 13:31 #

    Mooi artikel weer Netty!!! Geniet enorm van je posts!!XXX

  4. Stephanie 5 October 2016 at 07:53 #

    Really well put together piece. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: