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Easter Egg

160327-9067 Yes, well, I know I said we weren’t going to post over Easter… so here it isn’t.

Instead here’s a picture of some gansey-inspired socks Margaret’s been knitting: partly to show the versatility of gansey patterns, and partly as a kind of teaser-trailer for my next gansey project…

160327-9070But since we’re all here anyway, here’s an interesting question: when did fishermen start wearing ganseys? I don’t presume to offer an opinion—as Wittgenstein observed, whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent (or was it, a fool and his money gather no moss? I can never remember)—but I recently came across something that made me wonder.

Bu160323-1You see, we recently watched a BBC documentary series on portraits by historian Simon Schama, and in one programme he showed some superb photographs of the fishermen and women of Newhaven, Scotland, taken by David Hill and Robert Adamson c.1845. The men either sit in carefully posed groups or lounge nonchalantly beside their boats—in their jackets and waistcoats and round hats they look like they’re on shore leave from Nelson’s navy. But, and this is the curious thing, there’s nary a gansey to be seen.

Of course, this doesn’t mean they didn’t wear them—absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, and all that—but it is interesting all the same, n’est-ce pas?

Well. I’m going back to bed now—we had 65-mph winds all night, so it felt like we were sleeping on the deck of an aircraft carrier during a training exercise—but we’ll see you next week, and in the meantime wish everyone a happy-what’s-left-of-Easter.

19 comments to Easter Egg

  • lorraine

    Amazing socks- amazing colour. They’re fab!

  • Laura Kilner

    Love these socks, would a pattern purchase be possible?



  • Annie

    I”d love to,print and frame a copy of your socks, Margaret, they are a delight and have character. (I have never said such a thing about socks before.). Perhaps they are the start of a story rather than a framed picture?

  • Lois

    Oh those socks!

  • Freyalyn Close-Hainsworth

    Oh dear, the dates of ganseys – there’s a can of worms. There have been many discussions among people who know these things on Ravelry – I can point you in the direction of them if you fancy it! But generally they seem to have appeared in the latter half of the 19thC, so 1845 is right at the beginning of the period if even a little early. They are certainly not mentioned in ships manifestos and wills much before the 1860s or later

    • Gordon

      Hi Freyalyn, well, yes, I was being perhaps a wee bit mischievous with that comment! But rather than get into the thorny question of dates (which, as a historian with the memory of a goldfish, trouble me not at all) I think it’s much more interesting to picture those fishermen hauling in their nets in such restrictive clothing! It’s not hard to see why the gansey caught on so ubiquitously, is it?

  • Gordon

    Hello all, Margaret was playing around with some of the patterns that will feature in my next gansey project, and as they looked so spiffing I thought they deserved their moment in the sun, as it were. Unfortunately this accidentally meant revealing rather more shapely calf than is allowable under the Lord Chancellor’s Delicate Sensibilities (Women’s Flesh Exposure) Act of 1872, and we have received a caution warning us as to our further conduct, and so my plans for showing pictures of a gansey ankle bracelet have tragically been put on hold indefinitely.

    But yes, by popular demand Margaret is willing to turn this into a purchasable pattern. Watch this space!

  • =Tamar

    When was Napoleon on Nelson’s ship? I seem to recall a striped knitted jersey on a sailor in that contemporary painting.

  • Lois

    Are you thinking of the painting of Napoleon going into exile on St. Helena on HMS Bellerophon? If so, as I recall, there is a group of officers on deck, the only sailor is a cabin boy without a jersey. Since I wasn’t on deck, I really can’t say.

      • Lois

        Ah,yes. Had forgotten about that one.

        The interesting part to me, since I used to do reproduction historic costume, is the sailor’s breeches. The detail isn’t shown in the painting very well, but they buckle or tie in the back and have the most incredible baggy “bottoms”. Every time we tried to get one of the men to model them, they would take one look at the floppy things and absolutely refuse to be caught dead in such garb.

        The solution to that, we found, was to enlist some sweet little thing with big soft eyes to employ her arts of persuasion. Very hard to refuse her. But if they got a glimpse of themselves in the mirror, not even that would work.

        In the meantime, most of the women were laced into corsets and hardly able to breathe. So we weren’t feeling very sumpathetic about the fuss. Try driving a car in complete late 18th century dress, trying to keep all those yards of fabric from getting wrapped around the pedals and absolutely no place to carry car keys. And as for bending over, if you dropped them, forget it! Corsets don’t bend!

        • Gordon

          Hi Lois and Tamar, I’m not much of a lad for art, so I had to “generic search engine” some of those paintings. I note that the sailors stripped for action (in the pictures), frequently letting their shirts hang loose about their waists—though the officers would have been “buttoned up” in a very British way…

          I have, as yet, very little experience of corsets (not being able to afford the annual fee of that particular Soho club… but I’ve said too much already). I will just say that, if rumour is to be believed, they didn’t seem to slow Captain Kirk down all that much…?

          • =Tamar

            It depends on the design and fitting of the corset. Elizabethan court ladies danced the gallaird (a rather lively dance), corsets and all. Renaissance corsets were made to control the shape of the dress, not prevent breathing or alter the shape of the body. The dangerous tight lacing was later.

            Aren’t there any good British (or French, Italian, etc) swashbuckling pirate movies with authentic sailor costume for the background characters? It’s all image.

          • =Tamar

            Drat. Galliard, not gallaird.

  • Jane

    Lovely pattern and a superb colour. I do like the patterning on the back of the heel! Very well done!

    The joy of the knitted garment is the easy fit, the movement with the wearer, you can see why they became so popular.

    Have a pleasant Easter, Margaret and Gordon.

  • =Tamar

    This gent with the tennis racquet appears to be wearing a knitted shirt, with collar; is it the very first Rugby shirt?


  • Eve

    Oh no I took you at your word didn’t look and it was SOCKS! They look fab.

    • Gordon

      Hi Eve, yes, it was a bit sneaky I admit. On the other hand, socks and ankles—what’s not to like? You have to pay good money for that sort of thing in some quarters…

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