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Archive for September 22nd, 2013

Propagansey

Every year in St. Stephen’s Old Church in Robin Hood’s Bay there is an exhibition of ganseys (aka guernseys, or fisherman’s sweaters to non-knitters). I paid two visits this year, mainly because a day off work coincided with a visit paid by Mum’s knitting group so I got to be an honorary pensioner for the day! The setting of the church is beautiful, at the top of the hill just before you drop down the hill into Bay. Here is the view from the churchyard.

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The sunshine does help the view but even on a dull or stormy day it is a stunning view, just in a different way. In amongst the ancient weathered gravestones is this beautiful Celtic cross. I have no idea if it’s a gravestone or a memorial, and it’s at a funny angle because I had to lean over a wall to photograph it!

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The exhibition is run by a marvellous lady, Deb Gillander, who has a huge fund of wonderful stories about ganseys, the families who owned and wore them and the men and women who knitted them. I could listen to her for hours! I was clearly far too busy listening, for once in my life, as I forgot to take any photos. All images of ganseys are from Propagansey

Mum had been lent two original ganseys by her oldest friend, so we took them along on our first visit. Deb was hugely excited by them as they had an unusual gusset. One was in near perfect condition as Grandad Taylor, it’s wearer, only wore it when he was on holiday in Flamborough. The other, belonging to Mr. Parkin, was well worn, to be polite! I can remember him wearing it when I was a little girl.

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Grandad Taylor’s gansey and (below) it’s unusual gusset. Both ganseys are of the Flamborough pattern.

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There were about 65 ganseys to look at, of many and varied colours and patterns. The myth that one could recognize a dead body by it’s pattern is just that. A myth. However there are patterns common to a particular town or village, such as Whitby, Flamborough and other places along the coast from the north east of Scotland right down to Sheringham and Cromer. As the fishing fleets and herring lassies moved down the coast elements of patterns were swapped and added into ganseys by individuals, families who moved from one village to another would sometimes combine patterns from the two places to create yet another pattern, such as this one from the Duke family of Robin Hood’s Bay

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Fishermen even wore knitted long johns under their trousers. Can you imagine the itch?? So next time you see a picture of a dour old fisherman just imagine him in his lovely pink undies!!!!!!!!!

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Here are more ganseys. Many of them are very old and covered in stains and holes, although you can’t see that unless you’re close to them. As you can see navy blue was the most common colour, but they were made in other colours too. The very fancy ones were either bridal ganseys (usually cream or white) or for Sunday best. Herring girls would often use pink for theirs, and you can buy a shade of gansey wool called Herring Girl Pink to this day. Everyday working ganseys were much plainer, with a small pattern on a part of the yoke or on the shoulder.

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Here are close ups of different pattern elements

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And as a lovely rounding off here is Headless George in his very fine gansey (probably knitted in 2 or 3 ply wool, instead of the more usual 5 ply)

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