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The Welt

The welt is the lower edge of the gansey (or, to give it its technical name, “the bit at the bottom”). The most common welts were ribbed, with a simple knit 2/purl 2 rib, and this is the style I follow unless requested otherwise. (I like the look of them, and I like the fit.)

But another type of welt, the plain border, was common too, and some people prefer the look and feel of it. (You can see an example of a patterned plain welt here.) For this, you knit two sections (or flaps), each half the circumference of your gansey – one for the front and the other for the back. These are knit separately of each other, going back and forth, and with any pattern you like (traditionally they were usually just garter stitch, though some featured a ridged or other pattern) and as long as you like. When you’ve completed the two sections, you join them together when you knit the first round of the body, and carry on knitting in the round from there.

You can make a welt as long as you like – I’ve made them 4.5 inches long on occasion – but I find the length that works best is 3 or 3.5 inches. That’s deep enough to draw the ribbing in for a snug fit, and it looks well in proportion with the length of the body of the gansey, too. Less than 3 inches and you don’t get much “draw” and it hangs looser. But it’s all a matter of taste.

There’s only one other point I want to make about the welt. After the cast-on round, but before the ribbing, I like to knit a couple of rows of purl stitches. This isn’t necessary – in fact I can’t remember where I picked the habit up from, whether from a book or if I just imagined it – but I do find it useful. First of all, as I said above, when I cast on stitches they tend to come out a little uneven – some are big, others small – and I find a couple of rows of purl gives my knitting a chance to settle down before I begin what I think of as the gansey “proper”. Secondly, it makes it easier for me to see if there’s a hidden kink or twist in the stitches I’ve cast on, despite my best efforts to straighten them out. Thirdly, it’s a kind of relaxation after the strain of casting on (an activity which I don’t particularly enjoy!), just a couple of rows to unwind and let the tension out of my fingers. And finally, I quite like the effect it makes.

But, as I say, it’s not compulsory – and some people may not like the way it bulges out the ribbing at the bottom – so just go ahead with the ribbing right away if you prefer.

14 comments to The Welt

  • Alison

    I like the plain border – no pesky twists in the cast-on!

    • Alison, my welts sometimes spiral so much that physicists have designated them “mobius welts” and Cambridge University has set up an entire department to analyse their geometry!


  • Laura

    Hello Gordon

    I have read that some people double up the yarn for the welt for better wear, have you tried this Gordon?


    • Gordon

      Hi Laura,

      Yes, i have thought about it – and I can definitely see the point; it sounds like a very good idea, but I haven’t tried it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I don’t wear my ganseys enough to actually wear out the bottom ribbing; and secondly, knowing my “all thumbs” approach to manual dexterity and casting on, I’m always afraid I’ll mess it up and get in a tangle, and end up looking like a man who’s survived an explosion in a spaghetti factory!

      Best wish,

  • Laura

    Greetings Gordon;
    My first order of 5 ply Worsted Spun in Yorkshire from 100% British Wool arrived in record time, (Falmouth Navy),less than ten days to Canada. I have my 100 cm circular needles in hand. I have had to cast on, twice now, due to an error I made in moving the lot around the circular needles, I managed to pull a handful right off the needles. Slow track migraine trying to side track me, I took a tablet and a juice, and kept up the pace. Now, in my first round in ribbing, K2, P2,… I find at the end I have finished with knit 2, and the start of the next row is also knit 2…. hummm. I have stopped for now to ponder this and ask, what would you do? I figured the stitches to divide by two, I suppose I should have created them to divide by four…Oh well, I am so enjoying this project. I did manage to get around the needles without a twist, we must look at the bright side.

    All the best to you and Margaret


    • Gordon

      Hi Laura,

      Trust me, you are not the only person to have this happen to them!

      I think you have two choices: either rip it out and start again, or backtrack and unpick a dozen or so stitches and then re-knit them, but increase by 2 stitches as you go so you end up with the right number. Alternatively, unpick a dozen or so stitches and decrease by 2 when you re-knit them. (I find the purl stitches very useful for “hiding” these sorts of corrections.)

      At this scale a couple of stitches are neither here nor there, and once the welt is down the increases will be essentially invisible.

      Best of luck with the knitting, and the migraines, and keep taking the tablets…!


    • Margaret Reid

      Another alternative would be to increase by one stitch, between the beginning and end of the round, so that you have K2, P1, K2. Then treat this stitch as a ‘seam’ stitch. Gordon’s suggestion of unpicking a dozen or so stitches and then increasing/decreasing would give you the right number of stitches though. As G says, a stitch or two won’t make any difference. There are no rules, whatever seems best – the Gansey Police won’t come after you ;-).

  • Jane Thompson

    Broken link again. How do you knit the plain border? Garter stitch? Otherwise it will curl up.

  • Michele Gallant

    Hello Gordon,
    I have just received my order of dark navy Frangipani yarn and I’m getting prepared to start in! I really like the look of the plain split-welt and I wonder if there is a traditional way of knitting the edges of the welt so that they don’t curl in. I haven’t been able to find any images that clearly show that sort of detail.
    Also, do you recommend casting on 10% fewer stitches when using the plain welt?
    Many thanks for the information and encouragement!

    • Gordon

      Hi Michele, I don’t knit many split welts, but when I do I tend to use garter stitch, which stops any curling. I don’t know of any special way of knitting the edges.

      If I’m knitting a split welt I use the same number of stitches for the welt as I do for the body. If I’m knitting a ribbed welt, then yes I do start with fewer stitches and increase them: my standard approach is to knit 336 stitches for the welt and then increase by 32 to 368 for the body.

      Best of luck!

  • Kate Sheridan

    Hi Gordon, I really enjoy your website and come here often, but this particular post came up in my search on knitting a split garter welt. I was wondering if you advise going down a needle size for the welt? I have been swatching and can’t quite decide if I prefer that or the same needle size…. I am supposed to be knitting a gansey for my brother but I have spent so long thinking about it I could have knit two by now!
    Thank you for continuing to entertain and inform us in Gansey Nation.

    • Gordon

      Hi Kate, and thank you for the kind words.

      No, I’ve never gone down a needle size for the welt – I cast on slightly fewer stitches instead, and increase to my desired number of stitches for the body. This would be the case if I was knitting a split welt too, not just my standard ribbed welt. But this is liberty hall – whatever way you play it, it should work out fine.

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