This April we are once again blogging along with the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our team of one-place studiers will be sharing some of the treasures to be found for a one-place study, particularly around the theme of Visualisation, our Shared Endeavour for 2016.

Chris and Herring Nov 09You might be wondering what on earth knitting has got to do with one-place studies. In most fishing communities of the UK and also in some overseas places where UK fishermen settled, knitting played an important part. The traditional garb for the fishermen was a dark blue guernsey or gansey. Some believe that they originated on the Channel Island of the same name. They were fashioned from a slightly oily, 5 ply, worsted yarn, to act as a water retardant. The traditional method was to knit in one piece on five or six double pointed needles and to finish off with a patterned yoke, knitted on two needles. Sometimes the pattern extended further down the garment. These patterns were an important part of the design and it is thought that the stitches had a symbolic significance with, for example, the cable stitches representing the rigging and other patterns resembling the sails, sea or sand.

Many believe that, originally, each village had a slightly different pattern and that is certainly still the case in some fishing communities today. The legend is that the patterns could then be used to help to identify drowned seamen but this may be apocryphal, as concrete evidence is scant and many pictures of groups of fishermen indicate that their ganseys were not identical. What is more likely, is that each family had its own pattern, which would be passed down from mother to daughter, or daughter-in-law. As fishing was very much a family business, it would result in many of the men from a particular village wearing jumpers knitted to the same pattern. If your place is coastal, do the fisherman have a distinctive pattern on their jumpers?

For those who are interested, there is plenty more information about these garments available.

Janet Few

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