Ganseys.

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!

2 Ganseys.

2 Ganseys.

One style of neck detail.

One style of neck detail.

Pattern detail.

Pattern detail.

More Ganseys.

More Ganseys.

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.

Jumper by Di Gilpin.

Jumper by Di Gilpin.

I also got a lovely surprise to see that 2 of the Ganseys were credited to Mrs. Isabella Stewart- my grandmother!

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5 thoughts on “Ganseys.

  1. I can’t believe I missed this post! That looks like a great exhibition. And how wonderful to see your grandmother’s knitting there. I have made a few ganseys and I think the designs are wonderful. I have an old book of traditional gansey patterns from across Britain. Such a wealth of tradition. Glad to see the Moray Gansay project is still going strong.

    • Sorry I missed your reply before. I know you’re a keen knitter but I am totally impressed that you’ve made a gansey. So far I haven’t given it a go- it just seems such an undertaking and the speed I knit would take me years to complete! What is the title of the book you have? There are a couple of pictures of my Dad in one that was printed in the 1980’s -I think.
      Thank you for your comment, Best wishes, Anji

      • I have Gladys Thompson’s “Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans”. Is your Dad in it? Do tell if so!

      • Just checked- Sadly, not that one. It’s Rae Compton’s ‘The complete book of Traditional Guernsey and Jersey Knitting’.

      • Ah yes that’s another classic. You should do a blog post and put the photos up!

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