A gansey isn’t finished until it’s been washed for the first time and laid out to dry in the correct shape and size. Even a plain gansey won’t be the correct size until its been washed and dried, and a patterned gansey with cables needs to be relaxed and stretched to fit. Washing also evens out the stitches and their tension (one of the reasons why the stitches on old ganseys look so even is because they’ve been washed so many times it all evens out).
You should always wash your completed gansey according to the instructions on the wool – the advice is usually to hand wash in cold water. Ganseys do have to be treated carefully, or they felt up. But we wash them in the washing machine on the wool cycle, with no adverse effects, so you may like to experiment – just be careful. And don’t put them through the clothes’ drier under any circumstances!
Ganseys come out of being washed damp and heavy. Now they have to be pinned out and dried into the correct shape.
One way of doing this is to lay out some large bath towels on the carpet to soak up the dampness, and then pin the gansey flat on the floor through them. Have a tape measure handy so you can ensure you’re blocking it to the correct length and breadth, and remember not to stretch the ribbing when you pin it or you’ll stretch all of the tension out of it (we don’t block the ribbing on the welt or the cuffs, so they remain taut and elastic).
One of the many advantages to blocking is that you can use it to correct any slight inaccuracies in sizing, particularly width. So, if it’s a little too narrow you can stretch it (ganseys are pretty flexible) and it will keep its shape once its dried.
Once it’s dried, remove the pins (all of them…) and wear your garment proudly to general acclamation and acclaim.