Paging a smaller fisherman

The ladies are back and order disorder is restored. I remember what it’s like now to have no phone, no food and no quiet. It’s all coming back to me. I’m not sure I mind though, except for the abbreviated work-day. That really bothers me. Trying to cram a whole days worth of work into the few hours/moments/seconds of peace per day that three teens affords you? Tense.

Might not allow much work time, but it’s pretty good for knitting time.


Here’s Joe’s handspun gansey, moving right along. I cast on 200 stitches and knit 6.5 cm of 1X1 ribbing, then increased to 228 and began working in Stockinette.

A bunch of you have asked for more information about Ganseys, so I’ll try to explain about them as I go. For starters, a gansey is a fishermans sweater of a construction that predates other sweater types (like Aran) from the British Isles. Ganseys, unlike Arans were not knit for commercial sale, they were working sweaters and every characteristic of a gansey was knit for a practical reason.

Allegedly, both Ganseys and Arans were knit with particular patterns to help identify drowned sailors. This has turned out (probably, depending on who you believe) to be untrue of Arans. The legends surrounding the meaning and significance of the patterning of Aran sweaters were likely developed in this century as part of a completely charming marketing ploy. (I actually find this pretty intriguing by itself. The idea that knitters came up with the Aran sweater and it’s legends to supplement their meagre incomes is fantastical to me. I love stories of genuine resourcefulness.) There is very little in the way of photographs or actual historical evidence to support the idea that anybody was really knitting (or wearing) Arans until pretty recently, when they were adapted from the Gansey, and supplemented with the particular Irish artistic sensibility. They were knit for beauty.

Ganseys on the other hand, were actually worn by fishermen (and were often knit as betrothal gifts by the fisherman’s lovie) and as such have some very practical details. (More on that later when I knit the very practical details.) For starters, they use a very sturdy double cast-on (or other strong techniques) to make them wear better, they are knit from a tightly spun yarn worked at a tight gauge to repel wind and water, and because the patterns were passed on knitter to knitter, by watching or telling, the patterns used vary from town to town across the British Isles. (In Gladys Thompsons cool book she collected these patterns by region.)

After a couple of rounds I knit in Joe’s initials.


This is a traditional feature of a gansey, allegedly for identifying a drowned sailor. (Another feature of the gansey is that it is close fitting, so as not to wash off in the water.) Joe is a fine sailor, and unlikely to wear his gansey swimming, but I thought that it was best to include this. If I’m going to knit a handspun traditional gansey then I might as well go all out. This is an appallingly poor photo, but the initials read J D.

From here I just have to go on and on and on, around and around and around doing nothing but knitting until it measures….well. I don’t know what it should measure, I’m sort of flying by the seat of my pants. I’ll keep holding it up to Joe until it looks right. (I think this is also a very traditional approach.) I know it’s not long enough now, so I haven’t even measured it or him.

What I do know, now that I’ve knit a bunch of gansey, is that I am definitely not going to have enough yarn. I knit the ribbing out of one ball, then joined another ball and started alternating rows. (This is an attempt to hide any inconsistency in my spinning from one ball to the next.) I’ve just run out of the first ball, and I only have 13, so clearly….


I needed to wash more fleece. I’m trying not to be crushed by this realization (and have drunk a great deal of coffee and eaten a great deal of chocolate on the path to acceptance) and to embrace the opportunity to spin more wonderful yarn for this great sweater. (Sigh.)

The only thing comforting me, considering the long history of the gansey, is that I really can’t be the first knitter who sat there watching her wool run out and thought “Man. In my next life, I’m going to love a smaller fisherman.”

145 thoughts on “Paging a smaller fisherman

  1. Don’t fret, Stephanie. Just remind yourself how much Joe is worth it and warn him that he better continue acting in a way that makes you adore him. I’m ganseying along with you for my fisherman, as well.

  2. The Gansey looks great so far, and sounds very comfortable and warm. Maybe if I become a fisherman (harder than it sounds in NM) than I’ll meet a nice girl who’ll make me a Gansey. I’m short, so it wouldn’t be too much knitting πŸ˜‰

  3. There is one advantage to knitting a Guernsey for a tall man. A long while ago, I was knitting at the end of the lunch break. One of the men in the department came by asking if I’d do some typing for him and then have sex later on. Then he asked what I was knitting – I held up the almost finished Guernsey for my 6’4″ husband and got no more annoying propositions!

  4. Be proud of yourself! I’ve never even finished the first pair of socks for my fisherman (I’ve got most of two singles, though).
    I’m lucky we have no use for ganseys here in south Texas.

  5. Good luck on the gansey. It looks like a beautiful sweater. I knitted my first gansey about 20 years ago and it’s still holding up well.

  6. Looks amazing! I took a class on Gansey design using the same book I saw in a previous post of yours. So far I’ve only done the little tiny gansey small enough for my daughter’s sock monkey. I have one designed and ready to go, but am in procrastination mode for such a large task, and mine is for a child to boot!
    You ARE THE KNITTING GODDESS! I swoon with the thought of a man sized gansey! It looks great πŸ™‚

  7. Looking good so far! And at least if you run out you still have some fleece…
    Happy knitting!
    Looking forward to seeing you in Seattle!

  8. LOL – I’m right there with you. In my next life, yes. I’d like someone who is NOT 6’4″ with matching arms, thank-you-please.
    Always either buying twelve balls too many, or three too few…

  9. hehe. ‘a smaller fisherman’, this line made me laugh out loud. (with you, not at you I promise) At least you know at the beginning that yu need mre yarn right? Better that than finding out close to the end (at which point I’m sure I would hang my head in defeat and knit socks for eternity)!

  10. It could be worse; my husband’s aran needed/has an 86″ wingspan. And hey: if you need help getting the spinning finished, just go ask Rams, I’m sure she’d love to pitch in…

  11. My last handspun/handknit project was a seed stitch peacoat that used 4 lbs of wool. YUP. That was a lot of spinning–and I ran out several times. Worst part? I had to ask my friends to give back their portions of the fleece and trade for something else so it would all match! How embarrassing..they were lovely about it though. Knitters understand.
    I’ve never spun yarn for a sweater for my 6 foot 3, size 56″ chest husband. I’ve knit him one sweater. It took a year.

  12. I hear that. My hubby is a big guy, and ever since his DNA cable vest (that he doesn’t wear) and the miles and miles of knitting for that, I don’t make him sweaters. I make him few socks, too, considering he has size 12 wide feet. *sigh*
    This fall, it’s a scarf in his fave team’s colors. That’s it.
    I do dream of a gansey, though. They’re just so cool. πŸ™‚

  13. All I have to say is this: you must really, really love that man because nothing but the truest true love could convince a sane woman (and while you may be a little crazy from time to time, you are clearly, mostly, sane) to wash, card, spin and knit an entire gansey for a man. Especially a man with a 50″ chest. Thinking about it makes my heart skip a beat. Is the room closing in around me? Oh. No. That’s just the fear response kicking in from the mere thought of the commitment that it would take to perform such a feat.

  14. As if a smaller man could withstand the force of your love and power. H’s lucky to be tall enough for oyu. Beauty on the knitting, girlie. Right beauty.

  15. Oh Stephanie, I’m so sorry if my encouragement steered you wrong! Maybe I have larger bobbins than you (oops that sounds wierd) My wheel’s a Lendrum, I thought the bobbins were pretty standard. But we may differ in our definitions of sportweight, I had to cast on about 240 stitches for my 46″ chest guy.
    But your sweater so far does look gorgeous and hopefully that will inspire you to spin a couple more skeins.

  16. My initials are FH. It takes about 1,000 yards of DK to knit me a sweater. Rip back now to the ribbing and save yourself oodles of trouble. I’ll send Joe a power tool or guitar or something to help make it up to him.

  17. I love the very idea of knitting a gansey and adding such personal touches too it .. if only I believed my beloved would actually wear one!

  18. Thanks for the history — very cool indeed. Now, on to the initials: JD – not JM or even JP, but JD. Did we know this? Somehow I thought one of your last names was his – how very provential of me! Okay… small shock is over… I’m moving on.
    You know with the smallest of efforts, you could get a gansey a-long going. Just sayin’.

  19. Smaller fishermen = smaller fish!
    We need some “manly” men…you know…(cue the Old Spice commercial) to make women WANT to wait for them to come home from the sea! Besides, we who love to knit should look at the BIG projects as the opportunity to knit mindlessly for WEEKS!
    It is truly lovely, Stephanie! Joe is a very lucky guy!
    (And can’t wait to hear more of the “Tales of the Ganseys”)

  20. I heard another theory on the initials. It was for when the sweaters came home after a long fishing expedition and all the villages ladies got together to wash their sweetheart’s sweater, share stories and gossip then hung the sweater on the [village] line, they could easily identify which sweater belonged to which fisherman when the sweaters dry.
    I also heard that the knitter also knit or embroidery her initials into the sweater so to… um.. keep her fisherman… um.. well, so that when the fisherman visited other villages he didn’t um… accidently forgot which village was home of the lovely lady who knit him the lovely sweater! And so that other village gals would know which fisherman were unavailable, because supposedly, sometime mothers or sisters would knit sweaters for young single fisherman just starting out, or they would receive hand-me-down holely sweaters and cut out the initials of knitter… or something like that.

  21. I think I would have been disappointed if you had just picked up the needles, knit the sweater and been done with it. I mean, we need at least one or two adventures to go with it!
    And next life, I’m marrying a very very tiny man. With only one arm.

  22. Oh man…YOU are the knitting goddess? Damn. I knew I should have shown a little more respect and humility when last we met. Or maybe gotten you drunk, not sure which would have profited me more in long run. Oh wait, on second thought, I bet I do know that answer.

  23. It would be cool if knitters had produced a charming-though-gruesome bit of lore. Alas, it was created out of the whole cloth by a German living in Oxford around 1956 to, as you said, drum up a market for those newfangled white sweaters. The best stories never check out.
    And the race to the crossroads begins!

  24. Steph…at the risk of sounding super dumb can you give us a tip on washing and preparing fleece? Mine seems to hold onto that greasey feeling…ewe! hehe

  25. Think about it this way – when the spinning gets too boring, there’s the gansey to knit, and when the stockinette gets to be too much, there’s always the spinning… (Says the woman who only gets remotely ambitious about afghans *g*)

  26. The word gansey comes from Guernsey, and Jersey from – well, Jersey, both of them Channel Islands, but you knew that already, didn’t you? No sweater recognition for Alderney and Sark, although we grew up calling them scornfully Gansey, Jersey, Underwear and Socks (because they were not, could never be, Arans).
    I read that purported explosion of the Aran stitches myth too – got quite convinced until I saw it was written by the press officer of a company that just happened to start selling Arans in the 1900s – which is when they say the designs really were invented. So I suspect the integrity of the researcher. That, and I prefer the original legend anyway. I always plan each Aran to reflect the wearer’s character and interests and so has everyone else I ever knew who knitted them regularly.
    Oh, and by the way, a 58-day summer or whatever you get over there should be just long enough to wash (and dry) a gansey. It’s not something you undertake lightly. Here in Ireland we call a really dry summer ‘good Aran sweater washing weather.’

  27. Was just thinking some more on that… I think my grandmother told me about the sweaters and the initials. She was from Scotland and immigrated over and settled in B.C. when she married my grandfather. He was a fisherman, and spent the remainder of his long life fishing out of Alaska. He was usually gone for serveral months at a time. So, she ended up giving birth to 22 children.. 16 survived.
    Anyhow, she passed away this past winter, but I will ask my mother if she remembers. Those are the kind of stories that should be wrote down and pass on. The stories probably vary from one person’s memory to the next.
    Anyhow, thank you for sharing the journey of the Gansey of Epic. =)

  28. its pretty freaking rare for me to laugh out loud at a blog post, but yeah– you win πŸ™‚ in my next life, my fisherman will have smaller feet.

  29. At least it looks like you’ve got plenty of fleece. I optimistically starting spinning and knitting a sweater this summer and realized that I was going to run out of roving when I was half-way through. Of course, the roving was a mystery sheep eBay buy.
    My sweater is now three colors, not just the two that were planned. (and still not finished – darn it!)
    Joe’s gansey is looking lovely already.

  30. I must have loved a big man in my previous life, because in this life I’ve got me a sweet size-medium fella. He’s easier to knit for than myself, because I have these sweater-disfiguring bumps on my front.

  31. At least you’re knitting a huge item for a huge person who understands that it’s gonna take some time. I’m knitting small things for small people who can’t understand why everything’s not finished the next day. Like I’m the Knitting Fairy or something…

  32. Great! Spinning Tuesdays are back on. Yay!
    After reading all of the above (and imagining what will come after) I have to say that I LOVE my 5’6″ 150 lb husband who loves to wear whatever I knit for him. You’re shaming me to get going on the nubby pullover vest he asked for. I’m the slowest knitter in the world so he might as well be hero-sized like Joe for as long as it will take.
    So scoot up a chair and let’s knit along.

  33. So, is a gansey more or less straight stockinette after you finish the ribbing? What are the sleeves like? The neck?
    You must be catching, because in spite of my dear husband’s gargantuan size (he’s 6’3″ and 280?#) I’m considering a gansey. Maybe not, but I’m on the edge of my little chair to find out more about this traditional garment.
    Krimeny, I love textiles.

  34. Love the initials! I tried to do that with my son’s gansey, but I was on a plane when I came to that point, and winging it (pun intended), and it just wasn’t working, so I moved on. I feel your pain on running out of yarn! I am working on a big gansey for my husband out of Bartlett worsted, using the A. Budd pattern from Interweave Winter 2004. I bought an extra skein beyond the stated requirements. Now I have only one skein left, and I still have a whole sleeve to knit! These patterns are ravenous, it seems! Good luck!

  35. This is going to be great…watching the Gansey grow and hearing about the history, I’m really looking forward to this.. my GHH is 5’9″ (maybe) and 150lbs and radiates more heat than I care the time, hot flashes, etc.
    Hang in there, you’re almost there…21 days.

  36. At the risk of sounding cheesy…It’s inspiring to see how much you love your man, and the long line of history and tradition through the years.
    Rock on, Harlot!

  37. Sometimes I’m glad my 6’2″ DH is allergic to lanolin.
    I’ve read the books and I think some people are confused. The Aran legend was invented circa 1938 by Hans Kiewe, but there is evidence of a fancy white gansey sweater on a child in a film of a confirmation made before the play Man of Aran was produced. Ganseys themselves date at least from the early 1800s and may be earlier. Also, sometimes life imitates art: there was a gansey- identification made in WWII in the Netherlands.

  38. You all are making me less disappointed that my husband is not at all interested in me making him a sweater (he is not a sweater wearing type of guy). I still dream wistfully of creating him the perfect cabled sweater one day, but I think I should count myself lucky I only have to face the endless miles of stockinette that are his (big feet) socks.

  39. Hi
    Now what I want to know!!?? What happened to the squirrel??
    If you are going to wash more fleece….!!! I have read all your books but haven’t caught up with your blog so excuse me if you have answered this. πŸ™‚

  40. I need to ship you the bag of Extra Dark Chocolate miniatures I picked up on shopping day. That should get you through the spinning and knitting of the “more to love” gansey. πŸ™‚

    Did you or Rams win anthing? Do ya’ll get to tease her, or take polls or have yarn give-a-ways. Was there a contest, is to to early to give her a hard time.
    I’m just asking, cause since the moubies (sp) cape cast on I KNOW MY PLACE. No teasing Stephaine,or her ever loving knitting.Or I get my knitting butt kicked. Good. And. Hard.
    But don’t let me stop you.
    Rachel H. Rams go.
    Give’r hell girls, distract her, she needs the “support”
    Luv Denny x0x0x0 P.S. i’m with ya’s in spirit.

  42. We live in LA, where it’s never cold enough for a wool sweater to be comfortable. My husband weighs 280#. In 23 years, I’ve never seen him wear a sweater.
    Guess what he wants for Christmas.
    Yup, a sweater.

  43. Oh, dear. Well, I’ve certainly done worse. I designed a gansey for my hubby with a skully pattern in the center panel. This was going to be my first project on circulars. The center panel started just above the belly button. I’d done about 20 rows and then came to the horrible realization that the guage swatch I’d knit wasn’t in the round. Woe is I.

  44. Heck, I’ve never made my husband anything (well, the teeny tiny sweater to let him know a sweater was in progress two years ago, but since the big sweater never got made, I’m not sure that counts)! I don’t knit socks — yet. A note on that: I have never had one whit of interest in knitting socks. That is, until I started reading all the YH archives. Now I’m making plans to buy some Birkenstocks so I can show off all the socks I’m going to knit. Is this what a Harlot does — distract you from Appropriate, Necessary knitting (e.g., baby sweaters for my 4 month old who doesn’t have one from me yet) and lead you down the path of temptation? If so, good job Stephanie! πŸ˜‰

  45. My mind’s eye was reading, “…considering the long history of JOE’S gansey.” It shall be story, no doubt.

  46. I have a smaller fisherman, but..get this… HE WON’T WEAR SWEATERS! I find myself a nice, compact little hunk of a husband and I can’t even knit him a sweater…

  47. “it’s not long enough now”, she says. What a woman, eh? Is she the Harlot of Understatements or what?

  48. You know full well you’d never love a smaller fisherman.
    A great site for more info on ganseys (and more pattern choices), is – lots on the history there. (And source of my current gansey pattern, Humber Keel, being a local, choosen specifically because it has acres of stockinette, which may kill me with boredom, but there is less pattern to screw up.)

  49. I’m knitting along with you! I made my dad (long-waisted and chest size 48) a vest for Christmas last year and he was so appreciative and wears it so much I promised him a Gansey for this Christmas. Given my lack of knitting speed and my many distractions, I started EARLY. I have just gotten to the gussets and can’t say I’m sorry to have gotten past the endless rounds of stockinette. I am using some lovely Briggs & Little I bought on a trip to Cape Breton years ago. Happy knitting!

  50. thanks for the gansey history. i think it’s beautiful and i love the intials. *sigh* i have a big guy for a husband too and i just haven’t had the courage to knit for him yet. plus, it’s so much fun to knit for the littles.

  51. Marry a smaller fisherman? Yeah, I might have thought of that one too, before I married a guy with a 54 inch chest and a penchant for custom made dress shirts! Also, big fishermen have big feet and a big love of the hand-knit socks their wives make for them. Big fishermen also breed offspring big fishermen with big feet who also like handknit socks. And those hats with the ear flaps, and hoodie sweaters, and hand-knit, color coordinated toed, atheletic socks made from Cascade Fixation with just the right amount of cuff for each individual……..Hey, maybe knitting a gansey might not be so bad!

  52. The gansey looks lovely so far. What a labour of love. I am glad to say, however, that my husband will never ask for one. He would never wear it because he is just too hot all the time. Temperature-wise, I mean. He also stands 6’5″ and weighs–well, he’s big. So, no sweater for my hot man, but I’m going to make him his first pair of hand-knit socks, on my circular sock knitting machine. That’s pretty close to hand knit, anyway. And he likes dark, dark colours. Like Joe. Why can’t these men wear some colour?

  53. It just struck me that the initials may or may not be all that useful. I was looking up my Shetland ancestry the other night, and there were so many Peters and Johns and Jameses and Charleses that it made my head spin. Add into that the marriages between cousins (e.g., Charles’s older brother Peter has a son named Charles, whose son Peter marries the first Charles’s daughter) and it’s easy to see the initials thing becoming all but useless.

  54. I sooo admire you taking on this project…as a brand new spinner this is something I am aspiring to. I am not sure I could be as generous as you are to give away a hand spun sweater…but then again…my fisherman is pretty small!

  55. Nah, you’re going to think, “In my next life, I hope I find Joe’s next life early on, so we have lots more time together.”
    I assume the D stands for “Dear”? πŸ˜›

  56. Well, Steph, if you lived closer I’d wash it for you. I don’t know why but I love washing fleece. (Well, within reason. Not so much dealing with the nasty bits. They go straight to the trash.) But other than that, bring it on! Your fiber looks wonderful. I’m a bit envious as I am always on a search for the “perfect gray”.
    See you in Seattle! πŸ™‚

  57. I can’t believe that you are finally actually knitting the Gansey! It’s going to be so beautiful! Good luck with it and remember, Tuesdays are for spinning!

  58. Love the history of the gansey almost as much as getting to see you knit it up. Good luck with the spinning

  59. I love that Gansey book (Beth Brown-Reinsel). I’ve done three of the patterns in the book and I’m just starting to get the nerve to design one myself. My book is beat up looking compared to yours! What I love best about the gansey is the construction. I hate sewing seams so these sweaters are just wonderful. I love the fact that when you take it off the needles, as with socks, they’re done. What’s better than that?
    I’m working on a gansey-style sweater now. I have one sleeve left to do. It has no patterning, it’s just constructed like a gansey. The sleeves are a little more tapered because I was afraid I’d run out of yarn. It’s the first sweater I’ve made with hand-spun yarn (not mine, I bought it) and I’m still a little shaky about estimating how far the yarn will go. Still, experimental as it is, I’m liking it.
    I’m looking forward to seeing Joe’s gansey take shape.

  60. This is scary – my man has the same initials “JD” – is this trying to tell me to start knitting one for him?

  61. wow, now I feel better. I love my husband to pieces but I’ve always wished he were taller. He’s only 5’6″ and the vest I’m knitting him for Christmas (because a sweater would involve sleeves) seems like an enormous number of stitches. Now I know fate gave me a short guy to simplify my knitting destiny! Am enjoying the gansey history!

  62. You are washing fleece, spinning yarn, knitting a gansey for a tallish fisherman, mothering, not collapsing AND writing a book. Do you sleep?
    I am impressed.
    And so I….NOD!

  63. I have convinced the non-sock-wearing, sandals-only-at-all-times man that he wants handknitted socks for his winter in Edmonton. I am sure that at this point he has accepted my knitting obsession to the point where he would accept a gansey – though I am not at a point yet at which I would spin all the yarn, particularly since I now know how long it takes to spin one skein, after finishing my first 4oz. of top over the weekend.
    And while I love the idea of knitted-in initials, I am not sure that I could bring myself to knit his in. If he somehow turned up drowned, it seems a bit irreverent that they would find FK on the sweater. I might as well just put an OH in front of it while I’m at it…

  64. Stephanie, do you truly realize the profound gravity of this undertaking? The Harlot has cast on for the Fabled Gansey, as foretold in the Book of the Winding Times. That, along with global warming, terrorist attacks and me finally finding an affordable roofer in New Orleans, surely must be a sign of the Apocalpse.
    I am halfway through a Gansey for mediano-size Me, so it’s a comfort to know that someone I respect profoundly is undertaking a Gansey of truly spectacular proportions.
    As for the historical-reenactment angle, spinning more yarn as you go along must surely be an historically accurate method of Gansey construction. Certainly it went something like this, hundreds of years ago:
    1. Spin some yarn.
    2. Cast on enough stitches to go around fisherman.
    3. Knit awhile.
    4. Using traditional measuring method, hold Gansey up against fisherman.
    5. Spin some more yarn.
    Repeat steps 3 through 5 until Gansey is big enough.
    Ya know, you could have married yourself a compact-model Cajun (like I did), and you’d have about half as much Gansey to knit.

  65. See, that’s why I won’t knit a sweater for my husband.
    First, he’s 6’2″.
    Second, he’s super long torso boy.
    Third, he’s always hot and will never wear it.
    It doesn’t stop him from asking me every time I finish up a project though. lol

  66. I’m SO glad you posted today (for completely selfish reasons I admit) It’s my birthday so I am happy that there is a new post for me to read. I’m hoping your next spinning will go quickly and that the knitting “force” will be with you in that endeavour.
    BTW: Just finished reading Secret life of a Knitter. Loved it! Bawled my head off over “One Little Sock.” Probably shouldn’t be read by pregnant ladies like me—but it was heartbreakingly beautiful none the less. I am now going to try to put it out of my mind for the next five months.

  67. Gosh, I’m not even pregnant, and just the idea of the gansey has me a little teary-eyed. What’s up with that? It must be some really good yarn. Thanks for continuing to write.

  68. What an interesting story about the gansey sweaters! Can’t wait to see more of yours!
    BTW, thanks for the email the other day about lace!

  69. I am know totally intrigued about Ganseys if not a little ashamed that something that seems so inheritently British (which I am) is being explained to me by a Canadian. I am off to do research on net about them and can’t wait for the next instalment.

  70. You are a far braver woman than I am. πŸ˜€
    Don’t get me wrong, I love my hubby. I love him more then… well.. more then knitting itself. If he came down with some strange disease and the only way to cure him would be for me to stop knitting, I’m mail my stash away.
    But. There’s no way I’m knitting him a sweater. He’s 6’7. No way.
    Thank god he’s not a swimmer.

  71. Do we have to remind you that Prince is most unlikely to wear a Gansey? My dear, you are “stuck” with your studly, sturdy sailor.

  72. Have you seen this gansey site?
    Got it from Adrian at Hello Yarn when she was in her gansey knitting phase. I’ve got a large fisherman as well and he wants one out of Rowan Denim (not wool… too hot for this area). Rowan Denim, you know the dk weight that shrinks… great. [smile] I’ll watch your progress and gear up.

  73. Having to spin all that extra wool and knit all that stockinette is probably why the sweaters are so tight. The wives just told the men they knit them tight so they wouldn’t come off in the water.
    Bloody rights, if I knit something like that, it had better not come off. He’d better wear it every day for weeks before he even thinks about taking it off.
    Good for you, having a go at it though.

  74. Of course, sometimes the Goddess’ hearing is off… with any luck she’ll think you asked for a ‘spinning’ fisherman… that fleece would be a whole lot more appealing if you had a fishy friend to help you spin it…

  75. Well I totally understand why you are writing a book, spinning, knitting socks, working on lace, flying here and there for book tours, and knitting Joe’s gansey. You’re getting warmed up for your “I can easily knit all of these Christmas gifts in the next 30 days” stretch. This is a great warmup. Good planning.

  76. True, I think there’s little danger that Joe will be lost at sea. Still, the initials are a good idea, because its a real possibility that he could become “lost at stash”, should he ever go wandering off into uncharted closets and such.

  77. Besides not needed 2 tons of yarn to knit my smaller fisherman a gansey, he has the added benifit of not making my neck get all cramped up when I kiss him. . . he’s just the right hieght.

  78. Greetings from… Guernsey. I am most impressd with your undertaking :-). My grandmother used to knit Guernseys for my dad- who was a full time fisherman, on UK size 13 needles, in traditional 5 ply Guernsey wool. He also is a 50″ chest. she like you was a saint πŸ™‚ oh and for the record he was her only son – I wonder why πŸ˜‰

  79. Michael Pearson has written a fantastic book called Traditional Knitting which has sections on Ganseys, Fair Isle and Aran. The Gansey section is by far the most interesting as he goes around all the little East Coast English and Scottish villages and he names all the women who’s patterns he shows and talks about the history of all the different patterns and styles – its a truly wonderful book. It really made me want to knit a gansey, but as my other half is also six feet tall and is “traditionally built” there’s no way I could manage that. So I thought I’d get some gansey yarn (no room in my life for spinning too at the moment) and try and come up with some gansey socks incorporating the patterns – this is probably heresy in some quarters but it should be great fun working out what patterns to use and where. Also since we’re in Birmingham (in the UK), which is as far from the sea as you can get here, he doesn’t have much use for getting-lost-at-sea sweater, but he can wear the socks when walking the dog.

  80. Joe’s a lucky guy. I’ve heard what they say about the size of a man’s gansey…
    (…that his lady really loves him! πŸ˜‰ What were y’all thinking?)

  81. *(and were often knit as betrothal gifts by the fisherman’s lovie)*
    So, the tradition of knitting your beloved a gansey so that the body could be identified is the origin of the boyfriend curse?

  82. And to think, I’ve been trying to convince my finance to let me knit him a sweater. It’s a good thing he knows better and has been telling me no — I guess he knows better than I that I’d hate myself for doing it once I got started. It’s hard enough to get through a sweater for myself! A smaller fisherman, indeed!

  83. To whoever said
    “A smaller fisherman can’t keep you as warm at night as a larger one can.”
    That’s only true if you’ve got the wrong smaller fisherman.

  84. I’m so thankful, my husband doesn’t wear sweaters. He is only 6′ but he has a 54″ chest. This allows me more time to knit sweaters for me. This allows my knitting to be all about me, me and me. Off to make some more dishcloths for christmas gifts and socks for mil.

  85. Anything worth being done, is worth being done right. Or some such silly platitude! It’s beautiful, and he’ll be so pleased with the outcome.
    I did have another comment, you have become a beautiful, talented photographer. You have such an eye and make even photos of ‘wool’ artistic!

  86. When it comes time to knit the Gansey I’ve been promising my husband, I’m so lucky he’s only 5’8″ and 140lbs. Small and thin make for little work.

  87. That is really cool! Almost makes me want to make one for my man. Almost. I am in the middle of a different sweater for hubby. I look forward to finding more about the gansey!
    Hows the shawl creation going?

  88. “In my next life I am going to marry a smaller fisherman”….I am nodding vigorously here Steph. I think the gansy will be beautiful and never having tackled anything larger than hats, scarves, simple throws etc. I am in awe of your talent. I would love to knit a sweater for my man as my first attempt. HOWEVER he is 6’3” tall with a 50 or 52 inch chest. Big Bear! Moreover, he detests sweaters or pullovers of any kind. That would mean buttons or zippers, tinking and holes oh my….Vapors here with the thought!
    Thanks for the story of the Aran and the Gansy origins. I didn’t know that and it will be something I throw out in a little conversational factoid some time soon.
    Love your blog!
    Good luck wool washing…is it difficult? I know nothing about it.

  89. i think it is so romantic that you are knitting your love a sweater that he can be identified by if he falls out of his boat. hilarious. and romantic!

  90. In Holland wives and lovies used to knit these gansey-like sweaters as well. And the fishermen used to wear golden earrings which were restored to their spouses in case of a casualty to sell and use the money for living. You could tell from the patters which village the dead fisherman came from – very practical indeed.
    Love your gansey and starticg to itch to make one for my one and only fisherman…

  91. Every time we packed up to move I said something similar about my musician (percussionist) husband – next time I marry a piccolo player!

  92. I’ve just started my first gansey (guernsey? – not sure what the difference is). Got the traditional wool from Cornwall, England, and began knitting (and knitting) away at it. Even though I don’t spin the wool, finishing this will be a HUGE deal! You’re whining about 228 stitches around – mine (I am a BBW) is 401! I have pictures of the beginnings on my own blog and will be posting progress – Have just begun the initials, but am making a nice, raised box around them!

  93. Wow, you have started the infamous gansey. I am actually starting a Christmas sweater (as a Christmas gift not a Christmas pattern) in almost the exact color gray. And he has a 56″ chest. Notice how I’m starting months early so I can take breaks from it. Ugh, it’s gonna be a long few months. I actually just finished swatching and so now I’m thinking I want to knit his initials into it too. It’s such a neat idea.
    Best of luck on the neverending gansey πŸ™‚ Can’t wait to see your progress and hear more about the history.

  94. Methinks your blog has started a run on Gladys Thompson’s “cool book”; i clicked the hotlink only to be told by Amazon that it was “temporarily unavailable.” Love ganseys and the legend you related re used to ID drowned sailors, although it seems a bit ghoulish. Question: Way back, a long time ago, when you first learned to spin, what did you start with: spindle or wheel? And if a spindle, is there a type you could recommend for a beginner (re-beginner)? I’ve been bitten by the spinning bug and it’s all your fault!

  95. Wow. I am impressed. That is a lot of knitting in a short time – and you cleaned your own fleece, spun it, wound it, and THEN knit it?!
    Words fail me.

  96. It’s terribly exciting to see this project actually coming to fruition. I can’t tell you how much I admire your fortitude! πŸ™‚

  97. you can do it you can do it ,keep writing keep knitting, you can do it you can do it, there are no kids there. just ignore them, keep writing keep knitting you can do it you can do it.

  98. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I’ve always regretted that Grant doesn’t wear sweaters (they make him too hot) and generally sees no need to have me knit him anything. The man wears a 10 1/2 wide shoe and is 6 foot 2 (that would be… um… some large number of cms) with legs the same length as mine, which is to say all his height is above the waist. *Thank God* he doesn’t wear sweaters, I now realize I should have been saying all this time.

  99. The sweater looks lovely. The Gladys Thompson book is available from Dover, I do believe. I have knit sweaters for my husband, but he is 6 feet tall and 185. Not so bad. I am about to embark on some navy blue socks with T’s on them in gold for my younger son who is going off to college. Conveniently, the college name and his first and last name are the same initials.
    11 1/2 feet. Are there special accommodations that one needs to make for very high arches? Are there any tricks for intarsia in the round? The T’s will only go on the outside of the socks so there will be a left and a right sock. I doubt that he will ever get a sweater as he is 6’5″ and 165. Long torso, short legs. This body type plagues my side of the family.

  100. Joe’s sweater look gorgeous so far. another great book about ganseys (with a lot of historical detail, etc) is Beth Brown-Reinsels: And it has been in print for a phenominally long time for a knitting book. (Or maybe it’s been back in print for a long time – I could swear I bought my copy in the ’80’s but maybe I misremember.)

  101. I thought the picture of the fleece was a bunch of baby birds in your cherry tree. I used to pick cherries with my grandmother and then she always made me a small pie. But apple pie is pretty good too.
    Love everything about your books and blog.
    Hope to see you in Eugene in September. Bring your umbrella.

  102. Oooh, nice jumper
    *dreams of jumper knitting*
    Maybe in the future I’ll get there, I’ve at least progressed past scarves and onto 6″ of my first sock.

  103. In university I dated a guy whose parents were originally from Jersey. On a trip to see relatives, he brought me back a guernsey. His explanation was that the design on the front represented the parish from which the fisherman was from. I loved mine and wore it often, until I felted it by accident!

  104. When I iron for my husband (6’4″), which isn’t often, as the dry cleaner usually gets to “do” his shirts and slacks that require ironing, he has often heard me say “next time, I’m going to marry a short man”.

  105. Don’t know if anyone has already mentioned this (confession I haven’t read ALL these comments) but thought I’d like to add that gansey’s are the ‘right’ fit when they “make the bairns ears bleed when you pull them off over their heads”. *shudders*
    Just starting my first one for DH, looking for a local pattern as we live in the North East of England where these were ubiqutous (sp?) New evidence shows they were also knit in feminine colours for women see Frangipani Knitwear

  106. Irish knitting and family lore . . . yep, it’s mostly made up. But in Riders to the Sea, a play by John Millington Synge (whom I love), the characters do identify a washed up sock in exactly the way any knitter can. The knitter recognizes her own construction methods, and most importantly, her own mistakes. It’s heartbreaking in the play, at least for knitters.

  107. I was looking at your “Where’s the Harlot”
    tour guide, and I noticed that you don’t have any tours in the South. I live in Savannah, GA, and I’m an avid knitter and would like to see you. Also, MANY SCAD (fiber arts) students would love to see you, as well as many people around town.

  108. you can see from my e-mail what kind of fisherman I have! the sweater looks gorgeous. Thank goodness my fisherman doesn’t like wool sweaters. (but boy do I) good luck, I’ll keep checking on your progress. Love your books keep them coming please.

  109. Knitters who appreciate the wonderful traditional fishermen’s sweaters may be interested to know that the company I work for (Down East Books) will be publishing a new book on the subject in September 2007. Titled “Cables, Diamonds, and Herringbone: Secrets of Knitting Traditional Fishermen’s Sweaters,” it is the English-language edition of a 2004 book originally published in Germany (title: Pullover fur kalte Tage) by author Sabine Domnick. HERE’S MY REASON FOR WRITING—The book designer and I are currently planning the new cover photo setup, which will involve getting a few sample pieces knitted up. I’m wondering what commercially available yarns knitters like best for making the Gansey-type sweaters. An average yarn store doesn’t stock these fine, multi-ply, worsted-spun (i.e., smooth, not fuzzy) yarns. Ms. Domnick orders hers from England. Does anyone know of good U.S. or Canadian sources for Guernsey-type yarns or a close equivalent? Thanks for your suggestions.

  110. You can buy Wendy’s 5-ply guernsey yarn at many knitting stores in the U.S. Frangipani is another good choice; you can get this directly from England ( I’ve used both, with good results. The Frangipani is a bit easier to use in that it winds up on itself less; it is also a bit less expensive, if you order it directly from the farm. Both yarns come in red, navy, and natural; Frangipani comes in many others as well.
    I can’t wait to see the book!

  111. I’ve just been staying at home not getting anything done. I’ve basically been doing nothing worth mentioning. My life’s been pretty unremarkable these days. Eh.

  112. I’ve more or less been doing nothing worth mentioning, but eh. My life’s been really bland today. I don’t care. I’ve just been letting everything happen without me these days. That’s how it is.

Comments are closed.