Knitspiration: Gansey Madness!

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!



Progress Report: March ’16

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Ah, March! There is so much to love about the third month of the year! Spring is just around the corner, flowers are blooming, the air is warming, birds are starting to sing. The beginning of any month is a great time to take stock, but to me, the start of March always feels like an especially ripe time for self-reflection. So, in that spirit, I am using the start of this month to begin a new series called Progress Report, in which I’m going to take the time to check in with myself about projects that I currently have in progress. By taking the time at the beginning of each month to do a check in, I’m hoping to encourage myself to finish the projects that I have started, really zero-in on the sorts of projects that I like to do, and keep track of what I have done for future record. And with that, let’s dive into March!

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Leonie: Last month, I started yet another Leonie. I made 3 of these last summer, and with spring already looming large in Northern California, I felt compelled to start something out of anything other than wool. This is one of the very few patterns that I have made multiple times, and I imagine I will make it many times more. It is super easy to wear, and provides opportunities for lots of fun yarn combos! This particular version is combining Habu Cotton Gima, and Shibui Twig.

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Vianne: I started this a couple of weeks ago as part of a project I undertook at the beginning of the year to shore up the sweater holes in my wardrobe. Along with two pullovers and another cardigan, I started on Vianne to create something I found myself reaching for, but not finding. I’m super excited to have this one off the needles!

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Ashland: I cast on my Ashland last fall, out of love of colorwork, and the desire to tackle some of the new techniques (steeking) that this project presented. I stopped working on it when I needed to wind a new skein of yarn that I never actually got around to winding. Since then, I have acquired a swift and ball-winder set-up of my very own, so its time to pick this cutie back up!

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Top-Down for Ed: Out of all the projects in this month’s Progress Report, this is absolutely the piece that has been in development for the longest amount of time. I started this as a present for my boyfriend’s 21st birthday, and he will be turning 23 next month. I have had some up’s and down’s with the piece! If I’m being honest, the biggest challenge that I have run into with this sweater is lack of interest. Maybe its selfish, but I always have a harder time getting excited about things I’m knitting for other people. Outside of that, this sweater is being knit on MadelineTosh Merino Light on size 3’s, so it has been slow-going. On top of this, there was a set-back last October when, almost ready to bind off, Ed and I decided that the fit wasn’t quite right, meaning I would have to rip back most of the body. However, I am determined to get this one finished! Ed has been incredibly patient with me through this process, and he is so excited to wear it.

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Nell: I got the pattern and fabric for this in January, and am finally sitting down today to cut out the pieces for my Nell shirt. This will be my first ever, grown-up sewing project. I must admit, I have been putting it off because I am massively intimidated by the machine. As a knitter, I am much more comfortable with doing things with my hands, and giving control over to the sewing machine is rather frightening for me. But sewing has been something I’ve been meaning to conquer for years now, and I am ready to dive in!

I’m looking forward to seeing where I am with all of these next month!

Top-Down Raglan vs. Top-Down Set-in-Sleeve

In the knitting world, one doesn’t need to travel far in order to stumble upon the virtues of top-down sweaters. They are quick to knit, can be done all in one piece, and are relatively easy to troubleshoot. Since top-down sweaters are knit from the top down, you can try it on as you go, and make any adjustments to fit, shaping, and length as needed. Though it can become cumbersome to carry around a top-down sweater towards the end of the work, the fact that it is knit in one piece eliminates the seaming process. Sweaters with a top-down construction are excellent for knitters who are just starting out on sweater making and want to knit something easy, and for more advanced sweater knitters who want to knit something quick, with lots of fit control. However, after deciding to knit a top-down sweater, the question then becomes will you knit a top-down raglan or a top-down set-in-sleeve? In my experience, both methods of construction have some pluses and minuses that are good to be aware of.

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For the most part, top-down sweaters are made with a raglan construction. It is easy to see why, when you consider that they are simple to knit, require little shaping, and figuring out how to set one up is easy enough to calculate at home. Because of these benefits, I typically turn to raglan construction when I need to churn out a sweater fast or if I’m making a sweater for someone else and I’m not going to be getting super precise fit. That is where the minuses come in. Though there are so people who look fantastic in raglan construction, there are those, like myself, who don’t find it as flattering. I have a large chest, and if I want to knit a more fitted sweater, raglan construction just won’t do. Since a raglan sleeve is a straight line, it has a harder time conforming to the natural curvature of the body. Therefore, when I try to make a fitted raglan, I find that the raglan line tends to pull and stretch out of place. While raglan sweaters are easy to set up, they don’t always fit well on every body.

Set-in-sleeve top-down sweaters tend to fit much better than raglans. Because a set-in-sleeve follows a curved line, they can be easily adjusted to fit the particular sculpture of the intended wearer. For this reason, I have started knitting almost all my top-down sweaters with set-in-sleeves. They just happen to fit better on my shoulders without tugging at my breasts. However, they simply are not as simple to put together as raglans. I have yet to find a “plug-and-chug” method for top-down set-in-sleeve construction. Though I have found multiple raglan methods where all you have to do is plug in your gauge and measurements into an easy equation in order to figure out how many stitches to cast on, and which stitches will be your front, back, and sleeves. Set-in-sleeve construction is just not (as least at the moment!) quite so approachable. It also happens to require casting the back on first, shaping the shoulders, and then placing the back on hold until the front is constructed and ready to be joined with the back at the underarms. In contrast, a raglan can be cast on and knit straight through from top to bottom.

What about you all? Any preferences when it comes to raglan vs. set-in-sleeve? Anyone found a great set-in-sleeve “plug-and-chug” that they’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!

For anyone looking to try out either a top-down raglan, I highly recommend checking out Hannah Fettig’s Lesley or looking at Karen Templer’s series on Fringe Association about how to improvise a top-down raglan.

And for anyone interested in trying out some top-down set-in-sleeves, I suggest checking out Elizabeth Doherty’s Clarendon (really her whole book on the method), and Andi Satterlund’s Plain Jane.