Fish­er­man’s jumpers of the British Isles

Countryfile Magazine - - Fishermen’s Jumpers -

Seam­less and with gus­sets at the un­der­arms to al­low for greater free­dom of move­ment, ganseys were tight, for ex­tra warmth and to pre­vent snag­ging. There are tales of dead sailors hav­ing to be cut out of their work ganseys. It is hard to be cer­tain how com­monly the more com­plex de­signs were worn. In the posed stu­dio por­traits of­ten used to de­ci­pher pat­terns, the men would have been wear­ing their Sun­day best. Cer­tainly, in the more nat­u­ral pho­to­graphs taken by Frank Meadow Sut­cliffe in Whitby (see page 47), the men at work are of­ten wear­ing plainer gar­ments. Al­though some pat­terns are claimed by spe­cific ar­eas, ex­am­ples of many can be found hun­dreds of miles apart, spread by the mi­gra­tion of the Scot­tish her­ring girls, who gut­ted and packed the fish all along the east coast.


Likely to be fas­tened with but­tons on the shoul­der, and fea­tur­ing flags and diamonds. On the Aberdeen­shire and Mo­ray coast, pat­terns tended to be in ver­ti­cal col­umns, while fur­ther north, hor­i­zon­tal pat­tern­ing was more fre­quently used.

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Pat­terns were usu­ally all over, rather than just on the yoke and the up­per sleeves. Some­times the very bot­tom was left plain and ini­tials were knit­ted in. The famed Betty Martin ‘lad­der’ mo­tif is thought to orig­i­nate in Fi­ley.


Sim­ple lines of ver­ti­cal rib stitch or hor­i­zon­tal seed and bars were com­mon, along with lat­tice and bas­ketweave pat­terns, al­though the lo­cal con­tract knit­ters might knit more com­plex de­signs - like this one - in or­der to com­mand a higher price.


The wool used here was no­tably finer and knit­ters of­ten used ‘all over’ pat­terns on the yoke, rather than sep­a­rat­ing dif­fer­ent mo­tifs with ‘spacer’ bands of sim­pler pat­tern­ing. Sher­ing­ham was known for ex­cel­lent ex­am­ples.


Guernsey sweaters tended to be longer and looser and of­ten had a folded hem or dec­o­ra­tive ‘knot­ted’ edge, with a small sec­tion of rib right above the hem, but were oth­er­wise rel­a­tively plain.

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