Ganseys are seamless and worked in the round using the circular knitting method. A hard-wearing sweater was traditionally worn by the fisherman who spent their days at sea. The sweater is a box shape and longer than a typical men’s jumper. Often misspelt Gurnsey, the Guernsey sweater is the mainstay of the Guernsey’s knitting heritage with a history that dates back as far as the 15th Century. Also known as the Gansey, the jumper was often knitted by Fishermen’s wives to protect against the ruthless weather conditions at seas.
The knitting patterns for the Guernsey jumper were often passed down through the generations. A utilitarian design that is knitted tightly from five-ply wool in deep navy makes the Guernsey sweater not only warm but the hard twist of the fibres in the spinning process means the finish is capable of turning water, repelling rain and sea spray. The design is also wind resistant.
The Guernsey sweater has a dropped shoulder design for greater ease of movement with a split hem rather than a ribbed welt. The front face of the jumper is identical to the back so that it can be worn either way, increasing the life of the jumper which due to excessive wear could become worn at the elbows.
The stitch design varies from very simple and functional to something much more elaborate for special occasion wear. Patterns were inspired by everyday objects associated with fishermen at sea, such as rope, netting, waves, sand prints and ladders. Some fisherman had their initials stitched into the sweater which would help identify the body should the fisherman fall victim to the sea. Worn by members of the British armed forces often forming part of an officer’s uniform.
The Guernsey jumper iconic design has stood the test of time and is still popular today with machine knitted Guernsey sweaters available from James Meade which carry the same hallmarks as the original hand knitted jumpers.
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