Ganseys are easy to knit. They really are. You can knit a gansey with no more knowledge than how to cast on a stitch, cast off a stitch, knit a purl and a knit stitch, how to increase and decrease either side of a seam stitch, and how to pick up stitches round the sleeve and neck. If you wish to get fancy you can add cables, but that’s about it.
And there in a paragraph you have the totality of my knitting knowledge. That’s just about all I know. And that’s all you need to know to knit one.
Over time I hope to add tutorials for many of these elements on this website, just to prove how little skill is involved.
The most important quality you need to knit a gansey is patience, particularly if you’re a slow knitter, like me. You see, I’m just not very good at working with my hands – they don’t connect to my brain as efficiently as I’d like! (So, no matter how hard I practice, I can’t touch-type quickly, or play the guitar, to my secret sorrow.)
It takes me about half an hour on average to knit a complete row in the round. So, if I’m knitting a gansey for myself (let’s say with a 47-48” inch chest), that might mean 426 stitches. I average 12 rows to the inch, so that’s six hours’ knitting for every inch of the body.
Now, my standard gansey length is 27.5 inches, top to bottom. So that’s 27.5 multiplied by 6, or 165 hours’ work. And that’s just for the body – I still have the collar and the sleeves to do!
Now, you may knit faster than I do – most experienced knitters do – or you may choose to knit in a slightly looser stitch gauge. So you will probably get it done faster. But the point is, if you decide to knit a gansey, you’re in for the long haul. (Unabridged audiobooks are a godsend for keeping your mind occupied – I recommend the works of Charles Dickens and JRR Tolkien in particular – as well as the music dramas of Richard Wagner, the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, and the ball-by-ball cricket coverage of Test Match Special.)
But the jersey grows under your fingers surprisingly quickly – and the end result is a unique garment of remarkable beauty and supreme practicality. What’s not to like?