Wednesday, 22 March 2017

What's a Gansey?

Name- John Grant (17341725074)                                               
Photograph courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

It's a seaman's knitted jumper (also called a guernsey) as it originated in the Channel Islands centuries ago. The fishermen needed warm jumpers which would resist sea spray and rain so they used wool with a tight twist and were knitted on small needles to give a tight tension. 

The chap in the photo above is wearing one but it's not part of a prisoner's uniform! He was a fisherman who was arrested in North Shields for stealing some money from a bar in a pub in 1904. No he wasn't sent to the colonies, he was fined 10 shillings!

The use of the ganseys gradually moved north and into Scotland and as they did so the patterns which were originally plain gradually became more complicated. They were traditionally knitted by the wives and daughters and patterns were designed for specific villages. Some families had their own designs which enabled them to identify a fisherman in a case of drowning.

So what's this got to do with this post? Well in 2016 the Tall Ships arrived in Blyth, Northumberland on Friday as part of the 60th North Sea Regatta and I posted about it here.

In January 2019 a crew is due to set sail from Blyth, Northumberland to recreate the journey of a local man William Smith, who discovered Antarctica in 1819 but was never credited.

Some keen knitters from Blyth, Astrid Adams & Janice Snowball successfully applied to Northumberland County Council's Community Chest fund for funding to knit ganseys for all the crew on that trip. They were successful, However their research showed that although other areas in Northumberland had gansey patterns Blyth didn't have its own pattern so they set out to design one incorporating the Tall Ships logo, waves, rigging ladders, anchors & the Northumberland flag. 

They put out a request for knitters to produce the ganseys. The knitters will receive a kit which includes the special gansey wool, needles and the Blyth pattern. The ganseys take approx 150 to 200 hours to knit but there is plenty of time as the voyage doesn't start until January 2019. There is also a hat pattern for those who maybe don't get accepted to knit the gansey or feel that a gansey is too much of a commitment.

Each gansey will have a label with the knitter's name on it and the crew member who receives the gansey will be encouraged to write to the knitter. 

I've always wanted to knit a gansey as my Dad & brother were part time fishermen but the wool is very expensive & I mean expensive! So I applied about a month ago & apparently the project managers were inundated from applicants from across the globe. I didn't hold out much hope of being selected but today I got the invitation to be a gansey knitter! So I'll be looking forward to receiving my kit in the very near future and I can't wait to start even though I have a trillion balls of wool stashed away all over the house. Hopefully I will get around to knitting another later for my brother!

You can see the details of the project and pattern photo on the County Council website here. I wasn't sure about the copyright so I didn't copy the photo.

Before anyone asks, no the bloke on the Blyth gansey photo on the Council website doesn't come with the kit!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Knitting for Neo Natal Units

The photograph above is one I took at the knitting group I joined where we knit items for various charities. As well as knitting hats & scarves for the Apostleship of the Sea and Seamen's Mission, Alzheimer's groups, orphanages in Zambia & India, we also knit for the neo natal units in the North East of England.

The clothes in the photograph were ones that a guest speaker brought to show us what they need. We had been knitting patterns from the Internet & weren't sure if they were appropriate. I was knitting very small stuff but I noticed that other things being made that I thought would fit babies who were not premature.

It was really difficult listening to some of the information relating to the items she brought. They collect wedding dresses that people have very kindly donated. How many people keep their wedding dress in the cupboard until it's ancient! They have seamstresses who remove all the trimming & then take the gown apart and make beautiful burial gowns for the babies. You can see one on the right hand side of the photo. There were also little pockets and cribs made from ice cream cartons for the really tiny ones as well as a range of clothes for the babies so they can have clothes to wear right up until they leave the unit.

We were supplied with a good range of patterns for all the garments so we can vary what we knit & in a range of sizes.

We have a great laugh whilst we're knitting & there's no bitching, well apart from about politicians as there's no dearth of ammunition in that quarter from home and across the globe!

This is a set I made a couple of weeks ago, but you can't really see how small it was. I should have put something next to it to show its size in relation to the knitting. Sorry about the picture quality, it's off the phone as I had forgotten to take it in daylight. I was taking it to the meeting and couldn't find the camera. I couldn't resist adding the bows!

This is a batch of hats, mitts & bootees. They don't take long to knit so you don't get tempted to put them away!

This is the latest set, minus the buttons for the moment. The church pays about £7000 for a container which they will pack with all kinds of things to go to Zambia at Easter.

Again apologies for the picture quality. I must get back to taking photos with a proper camera as I think the phone must be going ga ga. It has shut down a few times recently for no apparent reason & I've had a job resuscitating it. When I have, it's lost the plot with date & time. They're great when they work but awful when they don't.
Maybe it's a warning I need to get a new one. It's a shame because I've liked this Windows phone & only had it for 3 years. Well that's usually 2 years longer than my children keep their iphones but we're not on the same planet when it comes to spending dosh on phones! I can't believe people spend £30-40 a month on a phone! There again I'm a child who grew up in the period just after the war when money was tight so I have a totally different approach to money!

My Singer 338!

Well here it is my very first sewing machine, the one I got for my 21st birthday in 1966! I know it cost my Mam  a lot to buy it for me...