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Whitby – Henry Freeman

This pattern appears all over the British Isles, everywhere from Cornwall through to the north coast of Scotland. I was tempted to file it under Edinburgh, since we live here now and there are many pictures of Scottish fishermen wearing it – but I decided to honour the great Henry Freemen of Whitby instead. (Most of the books carry photos of him taken by the famous Whitby photographer Frank Sutcliffe.) Henry Freeman was the sole survivor of the 1861 Whitby lifeboat disaster, his first mission.

This was also the first gansey pattern I ever knitted, in a version for chunky yarn just after I’d learned how to knit back in the 1850s.

It’s a very simple pattern, just alternating bands of knit 2/purl 2 divided by rows of purl stitches – no cables, no yarnovers, no fancy knittin’.But it’s remarkably effective, especially under a noonday sun which highlights the geometric regularity and textured look of the pattern.

Note the traditional rectangular collar and neckline. In most of my ganseys I shape a deeper, rounded neck on the front. Here I’ve kept it much shallower, as was traditional, though it’s still slightly deeper on the front.

To read about how this gansey was knit, start here.


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4 comments to Whitby – Henry Freeman

  • Sue


    Having originally bought Gladys’s book for the photos I first knitted this gansey pattern 35 yrs ago for the then boyfriend – literally a labour of love! Around 10 years later I knitted a modified version for my brother – modified in that I revised it so that I could use thicker wool with fewer stitches to the inch so that I could get in finished in time for it to be his Christmas present. He recently asked me to knit him a new one. And I agreed as long as I got to choose the pattern – another Whitby/Staithes one just seemed too boring!

    So here I am knitting him a ‘proper’ one in navy 5ply this time for his birthday but as I now live up on the east coast of Scotland too, I’ve put together my own yoke design based on Fife and Scottish Fleet motifs from Gladys’s book – including one associated with Arbroath which is my closest fishing town. It’s getting quite addictive and as ever with me and knitting, I’m planning the next one even before I’ve finished his!

  • Gordon

    Hi Sue,

    Which patterns are you using this time? There are certainly plenty to choose from! Which page in GT is the Arbroath one on?

    They do get addictive – every time I think of trying something else, like Fair Isle or Aran, I find myself thinking “Oh, I don’t know – maybe just one more…” and there go another 4 months! I’ve decided to try to knit up examples of most of the regions now (there are so many patterns of course I can only scratch the surface). My problem now is, I’m running out of people to give them to as presents.

    I think the Whitby/Staithes/Edinburgh pattern illustrated on this page is in many the ways the definitive gansey pattern – the right compromise between fine detail and plain for work.


  • Sue

    Hi Gordon,

    Sorry for delay in replying.

    The only one that she links with Arbroath is one of the many variations on ‘marriage lines’ – fig123 on p109. I’ve previously done variations on the Staithes pattern, ie horizontal bands but this time I’m doing vertical columns – but starting at the beginning of the underarm gusset with the purl knitting bands at the start of the pattern as per the Staithes pattern.

    I’ve had to adapt the motif charts slightly in order to ensure that the repeats start and end evenly but I’ve based it on ‘anchors’ (based on fig106) up the middle, flanked by alternate ‘marriage lines’ (as above) and ‘hearts’ (based on 109, all separated by cables. I’m planning to do the shoulder straps in chevrons along the lines of the topmost patterns in the photos on pp120/111. I’ll also probably do a button fastening at the neck – he has a big head. Literally – it runs in the family!

    As you say, the fact that she has few photos of finished garments in the section dealing with Scottish patterns can make it difficult to visualise how they will look when put together so I did draw up a detailed chart myself to help me do so. Having divided for the back and front after doing the increasing for the gusset, I’ve nearly finished the back and I think it’s looking good – even if I do say so myself. It will need careful blocking once its finished, even though I did increase and add in 2 stitches at the beginning of each of the cables to try and reduce the degree to which they pulled it in. I was thinking of investing in a sweater ‘board’ from Jamesons in Shetland to help with this but I’ll jump that hurdle when I get to it – not for a while yet!



  • Gordon

    Hi Sue,

    Many thanks for this, that’s very interesting. I think you do have to chart out the patterns, don’t you, not only to make them fit, but also to see how they might look in practice. (I can’t visualise numbers, it’s like seeing the world as the machine code in The Matrix.) There are wealth of patterns tucked away in Gladys’s book, I actually find it rather heartening that after all these years it’s still the Bible.

    We had a plastic sweater-drying-frame-thing for a time, but it broke (as plastic is wont to do). But fortunately blocking them on a towel works nearly just as well (for me – it’s poor old Margaret who goes down on her hands and knees and pins it out, but then experience has taught her I’m not really to be trusted with edged toys…).

    Any chance of some pics of the work in progress? It sounds grand. And I’d like to see what you’re doing with the gussets since, again, I find it hard to visualise a technique I don’t use myself.

    All the best, and thanks again,

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