Saturday, 3 August 2013

Close Knit The Art of the Gansey

I was invited to the opening of Close Knit The Art of the Gansey at the Hull Maritime Museum. Close Knit is a collaboration between the touring Moray Firth Gansey Project and the Hull School of Art and Design.
Above is a free knitting pattern for a Gansey which comes with the book on the exhibition Fishing for Ganseys. (only £3.99) A flyer and the invitation postcard. A leaflet, Traditional Ganseys, from flamboroughmarine who offer a mail order service for authenic Gansey knitting kits.   www.flamboroughmarine 
The moray firth project started out to record the patterns and stories of the local ganseys, the origins of the gansey. The link with the herring girls who followed the herring shoals. The meaning of the patterns and so on. There are a number of Scottish ganseys on display all clearly labelled.
I was very interested in the East Coast ganseys, I remember Bridlington, Scarborough, Flamborough fishermen wearing them. This white version of the Humber Gansey shows up much better than the navy blue. The Humber star is particular to this region, its origin lost in time but may have something to do with the Methodist Bethal. A number of eastcoast fishing communities traditional gansey patterns were on display and all the different patterns explained. Some of these were knitted by local volunteers who maybe didn't realise what they had agreed to take on ! So finely knitted, they are a real labour of love. It also gave a mention to the fact that rivermen who sailed the river Humber taking cargo inland also wore the Humber gansey or a version of it.

each gansey has a label with all the stitches used . Marriage lines, hearts,fishing net, God's eye, harbour steps,rope,anchors, tree of life, flags, lobster claw,hoof and so on. Folk lore has it that these ganseys developed local patterns so that drowned sailors could be more easily recognised. But apparently there is no hard historical evidence for this.

knitting sheaths or whiska 
Some work by Di Gilpin an internationally known knitwear designer and fan of the gansey was on show.
Alongside the Scottish ganseys and the eastcoast ganseys was the Hull School of Art and Design collaboration where the student took inspiration from the patterns within the ganseys and produced apparel and millinery which made a very interesting display. Spare Hands sang sea shanties lending a great atmosphere to the evening. 
It is certainly well worth a visit or two or three.


  1. Gosh they look great Jean........must make an effort to go and see the exhibition myself

    1. Do try Lyn if only as an antidote to your sorting out for moving!You will appreciate that it's as much about the ingenuity of the women and their pride in the local community as it is about knitting or fishing.Patterns were not written down, they were memorised and passed down,which might account in part for the regional differences as they spread up the east coast from Guernsey. Some of the patterns were good luck symbols for the deeply superstitious fisherfolk. I'm fascinated that there is a link to the universal geometrical patterns in mud cloth from Mali...!

  2. May I buy one of those booklets with the knitting pattern? How much should I add for postage to France?

    1. Sorry I did not see your comment sooner. I will try and get you a copy of the pattern. What is your interest in the gansey