About the Project

Scotland’s National Gansey Project

From when they started out in the industry as young men, most Scottish fishermen (between the late 19th and early 20th century) would have owned at least one gansey, usually dark blue (but sometimes grey, cream or even red) tightly knitted sweaters, created for them by a family member. Made of strong and water-resistant wool, ganseys were designed to be practical and comfortable, and came to play a vital role in Scotland’s fishing communities. Over time, they became fisherfolk’s distinctive knitted workwear, often worn as a source of pride.

It is, therefore, really important that gansey heritage is both preserved and celebrated for generations to come.

Through a series of workshops, exhibitions and events, Knitting the Herring seeks to capture, preserve and highlight the unique knitting heritage of coastal fishing communities of Scotland.

Working with members of coastal communities, the project will explore and record gansey patterns and construction methods; it aims to develop a specific yarn for knitting ganseys and herring, in collaboration with Di Gilpin and Uist Wool. This will lay the groundwork for a proposed Festival of Ganseys to celebrate Scotland’s rich knitting heritage, and emphasise the outstanding related material held in various museums and private collections across the country.

The project will run from June 2020 to 28 February 2021. The material gathered is being shared through this website and a digital repository of historic ganseysplease have a browse.


Baiting lines onboard 'Fifeness'. L-R: A. Tawse, P. Doig, A. Watson, and A. Smith. Her Skipper was W. Sutherland. Irvin's were fish buyers based near Edinburgh. Original image from Mrs Johnson Smith.
Baiting lines onboard ‘Fifeness’. L-R: A. Tawse, P. Doig, A. Watson, and A. Smith. Her Skipper was W. Sutherland. Irvin’s were fish buyers based near Edinburgh. Original image from Mrs Johnson Smith.






Group Portrait of Five Pittenweem Fishermen
Group Portrait of Five Pittenweem Fishermen Wearing Ganseys


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