swatching for a knit gansey

Let’s knit a gansey

Gansey, guernsey, jersey.

What on earth am I talking about? A sweater, of course.

You know the sort I’m talking about. A deliciously cabled, blue sweater, perfect for cold days. You might call it an aran sweater, or a jumper. You almost certainly do not call it a ‘knit frock’ like old books do. Whatever you call it – I’m knitting it. I’m going to knit a gansey.

Why? I’m going to the Channel Islands! By some quirk of tourism, there are direct flights from where I live (Geneva, Switzerland, quite close to some excellent ski fields) to Jersey (a place with people who like skiing and demand convenient flights).

The Channel Islands are remote, and easy to romanticise. The deserted beaches! The suffering during the war! The once knitting-based economy! “The lovely pub,” said our friend, who invited us on the trip.

Three days in Jersey does not really warrant knitting a new sweater but why not? Why not take on a challenge and learn a little bit about the place I’m going before I get there?

But first – what is a gansey, guernsey, jersey sweater? First, let’s go with ‘gansey’ because that’s slightly easier to spell, and also not a place. I want to be a little bit careful about appropriating knitting traditions – even if they are all published in books. I’ve done a little research – here’s my quick definition.

A gansey ought to:

  • Be blue, so it can fade romantically in the sun and rain
  • Be highly cabled or decorative, all the better to show off my skill as a knitter (and if some of the articles I’ve read are to be believed, my marriageability – pfft)
  • Have underarm gussets (for freedom of movement when out fishing, of course)
  • Have drop sleeves and a shoulder strap, so everyone can see you’re wearing a gansey, even from behind

What have I missed?

First things first – blue yarn. Ganseys are traditionally tightly knitted in five-ply yarn – sport weight, say. I’ve chosen a DK because I liked the colour: Drops Big Merino in the romantically named ‘colour 17’. I’ve used it before and like how it’s tightly plied – just like traditional gansey yarn. It’s a little dark, but all the better to fade, I guess.

Swatching wool for a gansey sweater

I’ve swatched – I like the fabric. Let’s do it. The books in the image are The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Cornish Guernseys and Knit-Frocks – I like them both a lot.

Despite arduous searching, I couldn’t find a pattern I like. Right-oh – I’ll make my own.

That’s the next step – stay tuned!

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