Gansey knitting seems to be having a bit of a moment right now. What with the Fancy Tiger Crafts KAL for the Seascale sweater, and Brooklyn Tweed’s new collection, it seems like everyone has gansey’s on the brain.
So what exactly is a gansey? A gansey (also known as a guernsey) sweater is a particular type of sweater that originated in the Channel Island for the express purpose of keeping fishermen warm. These sweaters were traditionally knit at the tight gauge, to be waterproof, and without seams. Fishermen wore them against their skin when out at sea, with a silk scarf around their necks to keep the wet wool from chafing their skin. Overtime, specific villages, and even specific families adopted their own unique patterns to help identify the wearer. The motifs featured in gansey sweaters also represent elements common to life as a fisherman. For instance, decorative ribbing was taken to represent the rigging on a sailor’s boat, while raised seams represented rope, and garter stitch panels were meant to depict waves crashing against the shore. Women were the primary knitters of gansey sweaters, and they would pass the patterns down from mother to daughter to keep the tradition alive.
Today, gansey sweaters are worn more as fashion statements than work clothes, and it is easy to see why! The textural motifs of gansey sweaters are absolutely irresistible, both for wearing, and for knitting. If you’re looking to knit a gansey of your own, the new BT collection is a great place to start, and I’ve included links to my favorite patterns in this post. I’ve also included a link to the Seascale pattern that was used in the recent Fancy Tiger Crafts KAL (just in case you haven’t already seen it), and a pattern that has been floating around in my Ravelry faves for a while, which is gansey-inspired with a slightly more modern fit.
Ever knit a gansey or have any plans to knit one in the future? Share your thoughts/experience in the comments below!