Last time Milo and I were up at my Mum's, we took a walk around the local museums, which include the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum and the Cromer Museum. Both were great and Milo loved them. But the thing that must struck me from both was the fisherman's ganseys, I noticed them instantly in the portraits hung around the lifeboat museum and both places had displays devoted to the craft and history of the beautiful yet practical hand knits.
There's something so romantic in my mind about this art. I know from my own knitting experiences how lovely it is to knit/crochet for someone else. Every time I've made a gift, whether it be a blanket for a wedding, a pair of socks for a not yet born newborn or a sweater for a niece, I tend to spend a huge amount of the time I'm working on the item thinking of it's recipient. So just imagine knitting up such an time consuming piece, that will become a real staple in your loved ones wardrobe, a hugely important garment to keep him warm out at sea. To me that is such a fabulous thought.
Ganseys were traditionally knit in 3ply wool, in the round on 5 or more needles. They are cast on with doubled up yarn, to give them a bit more strength, then a rib is worked, followed by stocking stitch, up to the armpits, incorporating a column of purls on either side to create a false seam, at the armpits 3 rows of 'welts' or ridges are created with rows of purl stitches, after this the pattern begins. Apparently different seaside towns had their own patterns, but I've read various things that have said many patterns have been discovered in single towns so I expect the knitters just got a bit creative and made up their own. The sleeves are picked up from the body of the jumper and worked down, so they can easily be unpicked and repaired.
As soon as I got back from learning all about these fabulous knits I started knitting up some samples of the chest patterns. They looked good enough to inspire me to knit up a full sized version, only problem being I don't have a fisherman to clothe, or even a man who would have any interest in wearing a gansey. However I do have a little man in my life, who would love to be a lifeboat man and still lets me dress him in whatever I want to, most of the time anyway. So I've cast on all those tiny stitches (I've never knit a garment in 4ply before, it does seem like so much knitting, even for a toddler sized sweater), I've worked the rib and am about half way up the bottom section, I can't wait to get started on the chest pattern, but I've still got quite a way to go yet before I can think about that! I've also not yet decided which one I'm going to go for, there are so many great patterns in the information I've picked up, but I'm considering the possibility of making one up myself. I have thoughts of robots maybe! I shall keep you updated!