There are a number of books about knitting traditional fishermen’s pullovers, but really, there’s only so much you can say (apparently) – there are only so many old photographs, and so many places where the photographs were taken. These books are the foundation of my (small) library on guernsey knitting and are each, in their different ways, the main inspirations for the pullovers I knit.
Some of the recent books I have seen offer simplified versions of patterns and techniques. While I can see the point of this (kids grow out of clothes so quickly, busy lifestyles, compulsive TV schedules, etc.) it takes away the wonderful complexity that attracted me to the subject in the first place and makes it look like, well, just ‘knitting’.
|Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans by Gladys Thompson (London 1969, my version New York, 1971)
In many ways the original and best book on guernseys – informative, readable and detailed. My only problem with it, as a non-knitter, is that as it goes on the photographs are mostly close-ups of patterns rather than whole pullovers – so it’s hard for me to visualise what they’ll look like.
|Traditional Knitting: Aran, Fair Isle and Fisher Ganseys by Michael Pearson (London, 1984)This is still my favourite book on ganseys. It is beautifully laid out, very well written, with excellent drawings to illustrate the text, and – best of all – the most comprehensive range of photographs. The only drawback is that it hasn’t an index. A few of the pattern instructions are oversimplified (e.g., the Hebridean ganseys), and if I’m being greedy I could wish he’d charted more of the patterns from the photos, but just picking it up and flicking through the pages makes me want to start knitting again.|
|Traditional Knitting: Aran, Fair Isle and Fisher Ganseys by Michael Pearson. (Dover, 2011). A revised, updated edition, available for pre-order.|
|Cornish Guernseys & Knit-frocks, by Mary Wright (London, 1979)A truly splendid little gem of a book, which concentrates, as the title says, on Cornwall. Excellent photographs, helpful explanations and loads of patterns. What more can you want?|
|The Complete Book of Traditional Guernsey and Jersey Knitting, by Rae Compton (London 1985)This is like an alternative version of Michael Pearson’s book, above. It covers much of the same ground, with some of the same pictures, but highlights different examples and in some cases offers something to test Pearson’s notation against. The charts, patterns and writing are every bit as good as Pearson’s, and it has a particularly useful “designing a guernsey” section at the back, with a range of useful patterns fully worked out by the author.|
|Knitting from the Netherlands, by Henriette van der Klift-Tellegen (Lark Books, 1986)This book takes a similar approach to Thompson, Pearson, Compton et al, and covers the ganseys of Dutch fishermen region by region. Full of old photographs and pattern charts, like its British counterparts it’s a social history and knitting pattern book combined. The patterns are subtly different from the ones we’re used to this side of the Channel, and the book is a fascinating addition to the standard reference works.|
|Knitting Ganseys, by Beth Brown-Reinsel (Interweave Press, 1993)An attractive, well-laid out and welcome addition to the growing library of books on ganseys. Ideal for the beginner, if I was starting out again, this would be one of the books I’d start with. It’s full of clear illustrations and pattern charts for just about every design. Ideally you’d want to complement it with some of the other books covering which patterns were associated with which region, and which tell you something of the history behind the knitting. But it’s nice to have a book that makes you feel gansey knitting is contemporary and relevant, and not a historical recreation.|