antique textiles ganseys river ganseys

River Ganseys – Whitby Wyrms

Whitby Wyrms

What’s not to love about a man with a log pile? To be honest, after several months sawing logs almost daily I’m definitely more into the logs than the (admittedly lovely) model. As someone else did all the hard work sawing them…

I digress.

Snaky cables were not really a Big Thing along the rivers – although I have seen them in photos of ganseys from elsewhere. Here, cables were generally rather straightforward 6 or 8 stitches wide, all oriented one way and never mirrored across the body. They probably were not mirrored for superstitious reasons I go into in the book, if you’re interested!

My other patterns were named after river vessels but I couldn’t resist calling this one Whitby Wyrms. Because Whitby is famous for its wyrm (dragon).

The Whitby Wyrm was a dragonlike serpent that lived in Whitby, according to folklore. Another local legend tells of Saint Hilda turning a plague of snakes into stone. For this gansey, I did the time-honoured gansey thing and “borrowed” a nice zigzag motif from a sock pattern. Gansey knitters have always borrowed motifs from other knitters. It’s tradition. In fact, it is how motifs became so universal across the British Isles. My other inspiration and starting point was an old photo I was shown, which showed a gansey with an allover pattern that used traveling stitches to create a zigzag design.

This zigzag is simpler but more contemporary – it makes a change from the old pattern Marriage Lines.
That is in the grand tradition of gansey knitting of course – see a pattern that resonates: use it.


The pattern can be found in ‘River Ganseys’, available here:

And here:





2 replies on “River Ganseys – Whitby Wyrms”

Hello, Peter

Thanks for your lovely comments.

Rather to my horror, I can see the relevant swaving paragraphs appear to have been dropped from the final version but appearing on my screen in an earlier, almost final, draft! (I didn’t give the book its title, by the way!) I could be wrong – if they are there, then great, as that was some rather hard-won info.

If your query hadn’t sent me looking, I wouldn’t have realised. I have to admit that I wrote sections of this text maybe nearly 5 years ago and have written so many things since, that I didn’t realise a ‘Tools of the trade’ section has somehow fallen out of the mix.

There is quite a story behind this book. The book sat around for literally years after being commissioned, then was published quite quickly, when it finally happened, but I was not in a position to realise if something vital had been left out.

Things were made worse by the fact that at the precise time it was going to press, I was taken away from working on it by personal circumstances (the death of one of my dearest friends, just as the book was sent to me for a final check). So it is my fault if that chapter was somehow lost in the process as are any other errata. I don’t offer that as an excuse just as a fact! I’m not sure why anyone would subtitle it the way they did if they took out that info..? It may be there – I can’t check right now, only having an e-copy.

At the time I last saw the text, before publication, I thought it was still intact with the ‘tools of the trade’ info – and I was just calling it ‘River Ganseys’ so the full, lengthy title was news to me too…

I could be wrong about the excision of the swaving text – as I have only had a quick skim through on my laptop and it’s hard going backwards and forwards between screens, and I am flat out on other projects this week but when I get to a bit of clear, blue water, I will sit down and figure it out. I only have the e-version, myself, which is on an iPad my son recently broke! I will look into it further and if the text I am thinking of has been excised, I will publish it here on my blog then try and get it shoe-horned back in for any future editions…

In other words: if some over zealous editing process has knocked out what was actually one of my favourite bits of the book re .swaving – I will find that text and publish it here, until such a time it can be re-united (hopefully) with the book.

I will try and get that info up here, if it’s not in the book, in the next week or two but bear with me, as this is a bit of a busy time!


Having River Ganseys in hard copy, the additional colour illustration are appreciated. I found the book a fascinating and worth while account of knitting within a particular soicial context and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However I was also looking for further illumination of Swaving and Strikin’t’loop. It is true that I read, and reread, the book in bed before going to sleep, But I would very much appreciate it if someone could point me to the correct section, or page where this material is discussed


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