Guernseys are great jumpers that embody classic, nautical and preppy. Originally worn by men it is now a unisex item, much like the Irish Aran Sweaters.
Guernsey (or gansey) sweaters have a long history. They date back to the sixteenth century, when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne of England. The New World of the Americas was being opened up and the courageous fishermen of Guernsey began to develop fisheries off the coast of Labrador, Canada. To pursue this perilous occupation, the fishermen needed warm and windproof clothing. The skilled knitters of Guernsey developed their now-famous Guernsey Sweater. At the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Admiral Lord Nelson ordered that the Guernsey be adopted as part of the uniform of the Royal Navy, and it was worn at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Many members of England’s Royal Family have owned a Guernsey sweater.
Guernsey sweaters have certain characteristics that define them. These hardwearing work clothes typically fit close to the body, accentuate the shoulders, and elongate the waist. Their reinforced gussets are diamond shaped, and the sweaters are traditionally knit from the top down as that allows for easier repairs on the arms and elbows. Guernseys are steeped in tradition, and are knitted only from pure, new, tightly-wound British oiled wool or American cotton. True Guernsey fashion calls for the use of 5-ply inky, blue-black wool. The colors are further dyed using dyes from plants to create indigo, brown, grey, purple, gray-blue, or cream, un-dyed fleece products. The idea is to imitate the fishermen's natural working environment of the sea and sky. Some Guernsey Sweaters are plainly knitted, but others incorporate sea-related patterns, with cable or motif designs. These differ from knitter to knitter, and area to area. A Guernsey is designed for longevity, with identical patterns on the front and back of the sweater. This means the jumper can be worn both ways if excessive wear occurs, such as on the elbows. The average knitted adult Guernsey is knitted on US size 1 (2.25mm) needles, and is done to a gauge of 32 stitches by 36 rows or 4 inches. It weighs approximately one kilogram or a little over two pounds. They are seamless, having been knitted "in the round", using four or five double-ended steel wires or pins.
Poor Man's Wealth
Design Guernseys often have what is known as a “poor man’s wealth” pattern. This pattern is called as such because its makers knit several rows of purl stitches within it that are quite difficult to count. This technique produces a garment that appears to have many more stitches than it actually does.
Two photos of my guernsey. You can see the diamond pattern underarm, used for ease of motion.
You can purchase from across the pond a traditional Guernsey in fine British Wool at www.woolovers.com. They are also having a sale at the moment.
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