One of my lasting memories of my maternal grandmother is that she was always ‘wyvin’ -or in English knitting. And the garments that were always on her ‘wires’ or knitting needles were Ganseys- patterned fishing jumpers. My father and uncles were fishermen so she always had someone to appreciate her knitting. Despite this she found time to knit for other people who were not so skilled in the art of the Gansey. She never used a pattern and used to mix and match ideas from other jumpers she had seen. Using 4 shiny, silver, metal, double-pointed needles always looked a dangerous procedure to my young eyes. Added to this she wore a knitting sheath/belt where she stabbed one of the needles into, to take the weight of the Gansey whilst she knitted. Each time she thrust the needle into the belt I could hardly believe she hadn’t done herself an injury!
After my grandmother died in 1993 I don’t think I ever saw anyone knit a Gansey again. The fishing industry had declined and the younger fishermen bought ready made clothing (perhaps their womenfolk had other things to do with their time?).
This week the Gansey came into my life again when I read that there was an exhibition in The Maritime Museum in Aberdeen of Ganseys. I just had to go!
i am so happy that this skilful art has been recognised and examples saved for posterity. But even better The Moray Firth Gansey Project has not only made more people aware of this knitting heritage but has also encouraged knitters to keep the art alive and evolve new ways to use the patterns like this ladies jumper by knitwear designer, Di Gilpin.
I also got a lovely surprise to see that 2 of the Ganseys were credited to Mrs. Isabella Stewart- my grandmother!