Ganseys 101

Yesterday my gansey wool arrived. Ten days ago I ordered ten balls of Wendy Guernsey 5-ply from  Guiseley in West Yorkshire.  Each ball contains two hundred and twenty-five metres of wool: over two kilometres of yarn to work as I make a gansey?

Who am I making it for? Traditionally a gansey was made to fit the man who wore it. Before I begin, I need to choose and measure the man who will wear my gansey. Looking at this dense wad of wool, it had better be someone who is in need of its warmth!

I do not know any fishermen. The only person I know who heads outside in all weathers is my father. He earns his keep by digging and pruning and planting, trimming hedges and keeping borders in check. In Britain, a gardener might need a gansey every bit as much as a fisherman.

Six feet tall ‘when I stand up straight’, my dad is a big man who left school at fourteen, working in foundries and workshops before turning his hand to gardens. The tape pulled taught, it comes in at fort-six inches. I check the pattern: that only goes as far as forty-four.

dsc04690I check the length for shoulder-to-waist: twenty-seven inches. This at least fits the pattern, being bang in the middle of the measurements given. Then we work from shoulder to wrist: Dad measures thirty inches. The pattern stops at twenty. He’s off the scale! Arms ten inches longer than the biggest pattern but with a short barrel chest, Dad seems to be part-gorilla. This revelation shouldn’t be a surprise: on my wedding day (pictured above), Dad turned up in a smart second-hand tweed jacket. As you can see, the jacket sleeves stopped half-way down Dad’s forearms. Traditionally ganseys were short of waist and sleeve, lessening the chance of them catching aboard ship – in Dad’s case the sleeves will still need to be longer than the pattern suggests.

When the pattern I’m using was printed in 1983 it called for Wendy Guernsey wool, and I’m relieved to find I can still lay my hands on just the stuff. Now it’s sold in balls of 100g – hence the ten I’ve ordered.

Now I’ve got the measurements, pattern and wool – time to cast on!


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