Nowadays Ganseys are frequently constructed on two needles & sized for comfort rather than as close-fitting working gear. Occasionally knitted in cotton, or by machine, these fashion garments serve as a reminder of days gone by & keep the patterns alive.
Men grew up, worked & were buried in them. Today, when they’re a mothy rarity, Ganseys lie in cupboards & drawers, almost forgotten. Museums like Cromer, Whitby & the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther have collections; they lie on acid-free paper in boxes, out of the swing of the sea. No longer covered in fishguts, paint & oil & occasionally showing ’signs of wear’ they may often only be handled with gloves.
Examining the construction techniques & notating the design elements is an education.
But to see one on a fisherman’s back, worn & warm; to stare in fascination at the pattern & try to memorise it; that’s the beginning of realising how many hours were miraculously found for their making & how their yarns twist around each other, as tightly knit as the fishing communities themselves. They were all in the same boat .. So an outsider, even a nice, interested, keen outsider, will see a beautiful jumper. Great. But from the inside, there’s yarns & shared experience, real-time stuff; the garment is just a File name.
Another 10 years & the old ladies will have gone. It’ll be too late to talk to the few old men who nurse their pints in fishermens’ clubs & pubs, mother of pearl buttons gleaming on the necks of their dark Ganseys.
Listen to their yarns.