Knitting a Gansey
Ganseys are incredibly special. They are knitted seamlessly, traditionally on long steel 5 double pointed needles in the round using a 5ply worsted spun gansey wool.
This creates an incredibly dense fabric with a tension of up to 54 stitches to 10cm/4ins.
This allows for the fabulous stitch patterning which works in relief on the surface of the garment, especially in the dark indigo blue favoured by fishermen, although there are numerous ganseys in our collection in a variety of colours from classic
Lovat green to ballet pink.
Knitters created their own patterns often adding signature stitches which helped define their family or even the village where they originated along the coast of Scotland, England, the Netherlands etc. Here are some special features about their construction which should be borne in mind when making your own.
Ganseys have an underarm gusset which allowed fishermen to move unrestricted in their work. They also had a false side seam knitted in to allow for the increases into the gusset at the armhole and to act as a marker when knitting. The garment would be snug-fitting with short length sleeves so that cuffs did not get caught in the nets, hooks or rigging. Knitting in the round up to half of the underarm gusset, these stitches were put onto a stitch holder and picked up later as part of the sleeve. The front and back of the body were then knitted separately, on two needles to the shoulders. The shoulders were either knitted together, grafted together or even joined using a shoulder strap.
Once the front and back parts were joined at the shoulder, stitches were picked up round the armhole including the gusset stitches from the holder, and the sleeve knitted down to the cuff in the round. This allowed the gansey cuff to be re-knitted easily by cutting off the cuff, picking up the stitches and knitting down; alternatively the wool could be unravelled from the cuff upwards to allow repair of the lower sleeve when it became too worn. The neck band would then be completed in a variety of different ways often with a neck gusset added to ensure the gansey neck did not chafe the wearer.