antique textiles ganseys

Bob Jenkinson’s Gansey

Handsome Bob Jenkinson and his nasturtiums. Image: Filey Museum


Yet again, these blog posts are like buses. Nothing for ages then two come at once.

Yesterday, someone contacted me to ask where they could find the pattern for Bob Jenkinson’s gansey. I realised I never got round to figuring it out – other things intervened.

So, whilst eating my tea, I did the ultimate in multi-tasking and figured out (roughly) Bob’s gansey.  What follows is my rough version chart.

As I don’t like doing moss stitch/variants, and like a gansey with something a bit more figurative I realised, looking at it, it’s one I’m never going to knit.  Therefore this has not been test knitted, never will be by me, and so if you want to have a go at it I’d use my chart with any refinement of your own and take the accompanying notes with a pinch of (sea) salt.

If knitting this, do the maths yourself,  in other words!

To figure out a pattern from an old image, I usually magnify it, sometimes greyscale it, and mess with the contrast.  Not really needed for this one as it was fairly straightforward and in the time it took me to eat my tea, I’d charted it.

There is always the possibility that several people will look at an image and interpret what they see, differently. And so, a codicil – this is just my version.  Your’s is no less (possibly more) valid. Sometimes I can look at the same picture on two different days and come up with two charts.   I have fairly arbitrarily decided on an 8 round repeat for the cable. In some images, it is easy to count the rounds – others; less so. This picture looks higher res than it is, and the best way to get some idea of the cable repeats was to look at the double moss stitch alongside the cable, and count the number of rounds using those moss stitches, counting vertically. I couldn’t decide whether it was 6 or 8, so went with 8.

Looking at it again today, I’m still not sure as a 6th round repeat cable is far more common. The Filey patterns in Mrs Thompson  mostly cross the cable every 6th round. But one crosses it on the 7th. I’ve stuck with the 8th because it fits in nicely with your round repeats. You decide!



bob jenkinson revisedLooks like Bob had around 6 cables on the Front; so maybe 12 pattern repeats in all.

You may want to add in 4 extra stitches per cable, at the welt; rising to 6 on the body. I haven’t yet made a gansey with this many cables, and so don’t compensate for the cables’ fierce pull-in with any extra stitches. But other knitters do.

This is why I’d do a tension square and figure out how far your chosen needles and yarn take you from 28 st per 4″, and then decide whether you want to cast on, say one extra patt rep front and back.

Assuming the fairly usual tension of 28st to 4″, and seeing Bob has about 6 cables on the Front, I think we can assume this is around a 38″ chest.

The cables are left leaning so made in the front of the work, a simple 6 stitch cable – I knit inside-out so I have to figure these things out for other knitters with my tongue sticking out. I don’t think the pattern is particularly centered.

We can’t see his shoulder treatment, so I’d assume something very simple – end with some ridge and furrow and cast off the Front and Back together, leaving the centre 1/3rd of stitches for your neckline.

It has a simple, old style neckline – that sort of funnel shaped treatment (as they often wore a silk neckerchief underneath – you see this on the rivers, as well). K2 P2 ribbing, ending with a couple of rounds of garter stitch. Bob’s looks to be cast off very firmly.

We also can’t see the sleeves, so I’d assume the same pattern on the top half, and maybe plain stocking stitch from the elbow as that looks fairly standard on the old Filey ganseys in Gladys Thompson’s book.  It’s a fairly safe bet the sleeves ended with K2 P2 ribbing, too as we can see that elsewhere on this gansey.

The Filey Cammish, Overy and Jenkinson families have varying ganseys that turn up in all the gansey books. They are a case study in the fact that there was no such thing as a village or even a family gansey.

Although knitters often retain their favourite vertical panel and recycle it alongside different motifs; and we can see that too in the various Filey patterns in Gladys Thompson’s ‘Guernsey and Jersey Patterns’.

In Scarborough, Gladys Thompson met someone who may have been related to Bob:

In search of further material I went to see Kate Brailey, who keeps a fried fish shop, and she told me to go to see Mr Overy. This is an old Filey name, and the door was opened by a typical Filey fisherman, with little gold earrings. George Jenkinson Overy…. Mrs Overy showed me several guernseys knitted by his mother..

I found George Jenkinson Overy on the 1911 Census. His mother – the lady who knitted the ganseys shown to Mrs Thompson –  was Sarah Jenkinson.  (Who may well have been a sister, cousin, or other relative to our Bob). She married Thomas Cammish Overy in September 1895 and George was born in 1899.

The fact they Filey folk turned up in Scarborough also puts paid to the ‘only one pattern here’ myth. According to Mrs Thompson’s account, they seem to have had with them ganseys knitted by the previous generation, in Filey and this is how patterns migrated  around.  Some of the other Scarborough fishing families were originally from Norfolk. A study of genealogy makes the overlap and movement of motifs around the coastline, far more concrete and we start to understand why there is no real ‘Filey’ pattern or ‘Whitby’…

Jenkinsons, Cammishes and Overys could all be found on the 1901 Census, on Queen Street in Filey, precisely where Gladys Thompson met them, decades later. Although gaddabout  George Jenkinson Overy had strayed as far away as Scarborough by the 1940s, it seems.

The moss stitch in the chart above resembles the panel of the same in Fig 21, of ‘Guernsey and Jersey Patterns’ [P 46] which was knitted by Mrs Overy of Filey. Her family liked a bit of moss stitch.  Apparently, this was also called ‘Mary Ann’s stitch’.

Betty Martin & Mary Ann
LEFT: “Betty Martin”. RIGHT: “Mary Ann”

Gladys Thompson and Rae Compton wondered aloud who this fabled knitter ‘Betty Martin’ was. I used my sleuthing to uncover the truth! For the intriguing tale of how I figured out who (or rather what, as it turned out) ‘Betty Martin’ was; see ‘River Ganseys’.

I should add: there is nothing wrong with substituting Betty Martin for Mary Ann stitch – just make a tension square, though, so you can do the maths to get the right number of stitches to cast on.

I hope this post gives a small insight into reverse engineering from a photo and also the Bob Jenkinson pattern basics, for anyone who wants to give it a go.



One reply on “Bob Jenkinson’s Gansey”

I’m struck by how swiftly notating a pattern leads to other more personal stuff. You’re very good at uncovering cousins & aunts, Census stuff. I notated an old pattern recently & it wasn’t until I was happily explaining to an faintly incredulous colleague how I knew the man in the picture was at best only my size (5’4″) that I realised how close it brings you ..


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