Thursday, 22 September 2016

from Stitches in Time

Stitches in Time
Lucy Adlington
p 289 -290
Guernsey sweaters - also known as ganseys - have long been associated with fishermen and seamen. Fanciful writers say the cable stitch on the gansey was invented to mimic the ropes that played such an important part in the lives of sea faring men. As families and communities evolved the basic pattern into new adaptations, a myth arose that a fisherman pulled from the sea could be identified by his individual sweater. This story was enhanced by the 1904 stage play by J.M. Synge, Riders to the Sea, in which the jumper in question is actually in simple stocking stitch. [gah, misreading of the play] There are no recorded instances of any such identification being made in real life. Ganseys are traditionally dark blue and they have no designated front, the repaired patch could be worn at the back where it would be less noticeable.
Aran sweaters are often an unbleached natural wool colour, patterned with honeycombs, cables and diamonds. Original Aran knits kept the water-resistant natural lanolin, rather than washing it out, making them more practical as outdoor wear.  Far from being an age-old pattern contemporary with the twining artwork of the Book of Kells, as one myth suggests, it is likely that Aran Sweaters really began life as a twentieth-century initiative to boot dwindling household budgets.

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