Knit Along: Coming Soon, the Gansey Getaway!

by longtallyarn

If you are a knitter, you will understand what I mean when I say “I want to knit sweaters for my kids while they are still small.”  For the rest of you, be aware that the task becomes more daunting as the wearer grows taller and wider.  I decided this year would be as good as any.

Meanwhile, a dear friend, Polly, and I have long wished to collaborate on a project together.  Knitting is rather a solitary pursuit, and we live several hours apart, how could we work together?  Maybe a knitalong… but what to create?

Polly’s family hales from the British Isles part of the world, which is home to the Gansey and several other knitting traditions.  We found that we were both attracted to the gansey, and a little more research led us to a Gansey Getaway.

In addition to the historic interest, the Gansey sweater is quite a respectable garment.  With warmth and durability suitable for fishermen on the high seas, they also display appealing textures and other intriguing details. One interesting feature is the reinforced cast-on edge, giving added texture to the bottom band and resisting wear and tear.  Another feature is the underarm gusset which provides increased range of motion to the wearer, less stress and wear at the arm join for sweater longevity, and an interesting construction detail for the knitter.  The gansey can even, with historic integrity, feature deep colors.  I have decided to knit a gansey for each of my sons.

The durability of the garment is important to this project because the sweaters will be worn by active and messy children and often laundered by a stay at home dad.  Oso has been known to shrink woolen-wear in the wash; also he never treats stains.  He is an excellent spouse otherwise.  So in the interest of preserving domestic tranquility, I decided to knit the sweaters using washable wool or wool blends.

After the obligatory browsing of Ravelry, I found a child’s pattern that intrigued me:  Snakes and Ladders.  It looks squishy and dense.  It features an uncrossed cable pattern that I haven’t tried before.  I found that it was written by Beth Brown-Reinsel.  That name rang a bell for me and I remembered reading about her before.  She is a gansey historian and I had seen her pattern years ago for “At Sea Gansey” when I read Knitting in America; in fact, her gansey was my favorite pattern in the book but it was above my knitting ability at that time.  I decided to order Knitting Ganseys, Brown-Reinsel’s book.  It was published in 1993 and is easily and inexpensively available as a used book.

I have already knit the sample gansey from the book and I can say that I very much enjoyed the process.  (My idea to use up a partial ball from my stash backfired and I could only make one sleeve… sigh.)  The book is structured so that you can read about the different gansey techniques you will encounter from start to finish as you knit the sample sweater.  Simple technique illustrations and descriptions are provided.  The half-dozen or so patterns are written simply and refer back to technique illustrations earlier in the book for specifics.

I am optimistic that the required skill and patience will be within my reach, that my gauge will be spot on, and that my kids will love the sweaters or at least consent to wear them long enough for a photo.

If you want to join the Knit Along or read more about it, go to Polly’s blog, Knit me for a Loop.

GanseyKAL - White Background