Gansey Sweater

Has any one knitted a Gansey sweater. I was wanting to try one. I attended a Beth Brown-Reinsel workshop for mittens. Now I want to try a Gansey Sweater. Trying to get up the nerve to start after the holidays.


ronhuber's picture

I have made a couple and because I am a terrible purler, I didn't enjoy the experience. The construction is a standard seamless sweater and like the Dutch, they picked up stitches to knit the sleeves downwards. They are gorgeous and because they are knit with tight tension, the fabric is very dense and warm and they last forever.

Bill Carl's picture

It has caught my eye and I guess, I will have to try it at least once.
I just love the look of these sweaters.
Thank You

Buck Strong's picture

I have knit two and I really like the construction. I did mine from "Cables, Diamonds, Herringbone: Secrets of Knitting Traditional Fishermen's Sweaters" by Sabine Domnick. The pattern was called Traditional Gansey. It was a super, great learning experience. I highly recommend it. If you do decide to do this pattern, let me know. The instructions for the shoulder strap were confusing but I got it figured out and I can help.

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Bill Carl's picture

I have ordered the book you recommended. I will be all set to start working on my sweater after the holidays. I have the wool I want to use. It is wool that I have Processed and spun myself.
Thank You Very Much

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

As I told Michael - in a prior post - I've toyed with knitting one for many years and have 2 books that are only about ganseys. I've used motifs to knit socks and they turned out great. They seem a bit confusing in some details [as Buck pointed out] but once you figure out what's what, they aren't too awful. {In fact, come to think of it, the confusion - for me - was from the knit-in-the-round originals being dissected and rewritten for flat knitting. Once I read how the sweaters were originally made, it all made sense.} Lots of luck with the project; I look forward to hearing how it goes.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Tallguy's picture

I wasn't sure what a gansay was, so had to do some research. I found that it is a rather plain, boxy-shaped sweater, but it has a few special features.

The Guernsey or the gansay came into being as a garment for fishermen who required a warm, hard wearing, yet comfortable item of clothing that would resist the sea spray. The hard twist given to the tightly packed wool fibres in the spinning process and the tightly knitted stitches, produced a finish that would "turn water" and is capable of repelling rain and spray.

It is estimated that a total of 84 hours was needed to complete a guernsey: a simpler design could be produced faster than a more elaborate one. (what would it be worth, calculated at today’s minimum wage?)

There are some common features you will find on a guernsey or a gansay: the rib at the top of the sleeve, the raised seam across the shoulder, the garter stitch panel, the gussets under the arm and at the neck are for ease of movement, as are the splits at the hem.

The guernsey's tightly knitted fibres and its square shape, with a straight neck so that it could be reversed, make it a particularly hardy item of clothing. It is not uncommon for a guernsey to last several decades and be passed down in families. Guernseys knitted for children were knitted to be "grown into" and often came down to the knee.

The yarns we have today will not work very well to knit a traditional gansay. That is why it is best if you can spin your own. However, I think we don't really need a very water-resistent hard-wearing sweater these days, so we are allowed to make some adjustments as to the choice of yarn, or the gauge. But for the traditional sweater, you will need a very tightly twisted yarn, and will knit at a very tight gauge. You may find it hard on your hands at first. The shape is very square, or box-shaped, and it has straight neck so that it could be worn back-to-front without any difference. Great for getting dressed in the dark! You don't need to worry too much about fit, although it should be comfortable for ease of movement. You can, of course, incorporate a variety of stitch patterns, such garter stitch, moss stitch, cables, etc. to make it uniquely your own.

I think I have some yarn like that that I spun, and had wondered how I would use it! Perfect!

5-ply Guernsey wool is available world wide from:
It is supplied on cones making it perfect for circular knitting.

Bill Carl's picture

I have my own wool spun. So I am ready to start as soon as I find the Pattern. Thank You for all you info.

james's picture

If you order Frangipani wool from Jan (, she will send you a very basic gansey pattern with your order. The pattern is a great jumping off point, and you can use a book like Mary Wright's "Cornish Ganseys and Knit Frocks" to give you some stitch pattern ideas for the yoke. Jan is really wonderful--as is her wool!! If you're really bitten by the gansey bug, maybe you will want to attend next year's Gansey Fest! (

A breeze for you judging by photos of your work that you've posted. I've knitted several (they were the second thing I ever knitted, after socks, and have worn one non-stop since I knitted it 35 years ago) using a Dover book by Gladys Thompson "Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans". I don't like how high the front collar rides when the front and back are identical, and recently modified the collar line. As a novice 35 years ago I chose wool that would be long-lasting, but I have come to realize that softer wool would have been a better choice.

michaelpthompson's picture

I have some of those books too, and they have some good information in them. There's also a really great group on Ravelry about ganseys.

On Wed, 2011-12-21 21:03 Tallguy wrote:

But for the traditional sweater, you will need a very tightly twisted yarn, and will knit at a very tight gauge. You may find it hard on your hands at first.

My favorite answer to that so far is to use a knitting sheath. It increases your leverage and enables much tighter stitching with less strain. There's also a good Ravelry group on that, and a fellow who has done a lot of research. His blog has a lot of useful information.

Frangipani seems to be the favorite yarn these days for a relatively traditional gansey. They are usually made with very finely spun five-ply yarn, which is increasingly difficult to find these days.

"All knitting is just one stitch at a time."