Today I’ll continue putting up some pictures of the patterns from ‘River Ganseys’.
And also hopefully give an insight into how a pattern evolves. This design was eventually published as “Parthenope”. I wanted to name the ganseys in the book after actual river vessels. Here’s one I called “Parthenope” (p.175ff). But in an earlier incarnation, as I was developing the design, it was simply called ‘The Gansey of Pinkness’.
“Parthenope” was a ketch (two masted ship) built on the river, at Howdendyke, in 1885. She was owned by John Holmes who lived on Neptune St, Hull. She was named after one of the sirens of Greek myth. The gansey has the hearts pattern sometimes found on the rivers and along the coast in Yorkshire.
I first got the idea for this gansey, a few years back and a very early prototype of it was ‘The Gansey Of Pinkness’.
If you fancy knitting a version of The Gansey of Pinkness, then ‘Parthenope’ is fairly close. Although like all patterns, it evolved. I will put a couple of the prototype’s pics up here simply because the motifs pop better in the paler colour.
The greatest difference between the prototype and later version, are the sleeves. My favourite shoulder and sleeve treatment, is to knit at right angles to the front and back, starting at the neck edge, and knit down, usually with a central cable which can then continue uninterrupted the whole way down the arm. I wanted to offer some different options with ‘Parthenope’ so that ended up with a simpler shoulder and sleeve. I like to go off piste when knitting other people’s patterns, so hope anyone knitting mine will totally ignore my suggestions and do the shoulders and sleeves another way to that suggested, if they prefer.
In the book, for technical reasons, we had to present the ganseys’ body charts as a series of small, separate charts but when I work, I always make a big master chart that incorporates all the vertical motif patterns, in one go and work from that.
Often traditional gansey motifs have varying depths and the challenge for me is usually to even things out so that all my different vertical panels have the same number of rounds’ repeat, or smaller motifs are in multiples of larger. This obviates the need for the knitter to keep different round counters for different pattern panels.
And although I chart on Envisioknit, and export that as a .PDF to whatever machine I’m using – iPad or laptop – I also usually draw out a chart the old-fashioned way, by hand, even if it involves sellotaping several widths of graph paper together – knowing from long experience that my laptop gets hijacked by teenagers who want to play ‘Football Manager’ and my iPad usually ends up being commandeered, at some point, too!
I have knitted fern motifs on several ganseys and they do seem to be a motif I re-visit – diamonds and stars also re-cured during ‘River Ganseys’ – largely because they actually do recur on extant inland mariners’ ganseys. The ferns not so much – but they remind me of the fir trees in the little plantations here, along the river.
The alternate open and closed hearts are a bit of a trademark of my knitting. The closed hearts I always think of as kind of memorials, to the loved ones I’ve lost. As I was knitting a child’s gansey with hearts when my late dad fell ill and segued into closed hearts then. I can never quite make all the hearts closed, though.
Even old motifs can change their meaning, and I think people’s own choices are what makes gansey knitting so unique and personal.
I wrote a ‘Ganseys 101’ chapter in ‘River Ganseys’ to support readers in developing their own designs and patterns. So I saw the gansey patterns in ‘River Ganseys’ as a handy introduction, maybe for someone knitting their first gansey who felt like a bit of hand-holding was in order. But even so, if knitting one of these feel free to substitute out motifs for others of a similar stitch count you prefer. (Knit a tension square of your planned substition motif first, maybe!) They are just a starting point and there are other options and different ways to do things as I hope to show you with some of the other river ganseys.
I’ll be doing a couple of gansey workshops this year at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming and in the summer, a Yorkshire ganseys workshop at Baa Ram Ewe in Leeds. So check out my Talks & Workshops pages for those!