Kate: You recently hosted a great knitalong celebrating one of the most classic and functional of garments, the fisherman's gansey, using Courtney's pattern, Seascale and a starting point. What made you want to host a knitalong with ganseys? Were you inspired more by the traditional construction, or the end product itself (and the construction was secondary)?
Jaime: We host a yearly sweater KAL every January and we like to take on new challenges every time. We've done sweaters that involve steeking, colorwork, and one with very customizable fit. We are always looking to expand our knitting horizons and we had never knit a Gansey.
Amber: The gansey-along was inspired by hosting the Kelbourne Woolens Cumbria Collection trunk show. We had the samples in the shop, Jaime and I both tried on Courtney's Seascale Sweater and fell in love with it! We weren't super familiar with the details of gansey construction, but were drawn to the traditional aesthetic and classic detailing. We liked the modern fit of the sweater, and the fabric of the Cumbria yarn was a dreamy balance of hearty, yet soft fibers.
Jaime: We love the techniques that we were exposed to knitting this pattern and learning about the tradition of Ganseys.
Kate: While Amber used the recommended yarn, Cumbria, Jaime went with the lovely Baa Ram Ewe Dovestone, a similar wool blend that comes in gorgeous heathered shades. How are your finished sweaters different? How are they similar?
Amber: They are quite similar! Both of these yarns are a delight both to work with and to wear. They each have the strength to hold up nicely, and yet are are gentle against the skin. The fabric is definitely similar. Dovestone has a 25% Wensleydale longwool in it, which acts much like the 10% Mohair that is in Cumbria. These long silky fibers add strength to the yarns and, once blocked, create a subtle halo to the fabrics. Jaime's Dovestone sweater seems to have slightly more texture than my Cumbria Sweater. Both yarns are overdyed on a naturally heathered wool, but Dovestone's heather is a little more pronounced. Cumbria is plied with 3 strands and a slightly higher twist than Dovestone's two plies. This creates a smoother finished fabric with Cumbria. Dovestone's softer twist creates a slightly loftier yarn. Both the yarns are beautiful and contain Masham wool - a British breed of sheep.
Kate: There a few aspects of traditional ganseys that make them unique to other garments: the tight, worsted-spun yarn, the diamond underarm gusset, the body knit in the round from the bottom up, sleeves knit in the round down from the armholes, a Channel Island Cast On (and Courtney's "unventing", the Bind-Off), and knit/purl patterning that adorns the yoke. You both mentioned enjoying the techniques - a few of them for the first time - that make up the gansey construction. Can you expand a little more on this? What about them did you find to be unique/interesting/difficult? As experienced sweater knitters, did these techniques change your approach to knitting the garment?
Jaime: As experienced sweater knitters, it's always exciting to learn new techniques. Neither of us had done the Channel Island Cast on or Bind off (which was lovely!) or an arm gusset. I also hadn't done much with knit/purl patterning which kept the knitting engaging. Overall, the knit was fun and interesting thanks to these techniques and nothing was too challenging. I don't know if it's changed our approach to garments, but I love the finished sweater and feel like a more well-rounded knitter after making this.
Kate: You guys do a great job of coming up with and hosting exciting knit and sewalongs. What's next in the -Along department at FT?
Amber: We have a Jeans Sewalong starting (tomorrow!) April 8th!
Thanks, Jaime and Amber! To see all of the inspiring projects they and their talented staff are working on, follow their blog here, or the shop on Instagram here. For more personal inspiration (including Jaime's lovely Ladies Mountaineering Club adventures and Amber's trip to Mexico), check them out on Instagram here and here.
(All images from Amber and Jaime's Instagram feed.)