Monday 28 October 2013

Close Knit - The Art of the Gansey - Hull Maritime Museum

Recently my thoughts have turned to all things fishy and then a friend mentioned an exhibition at Hull Maritime Museum called Close Knit - The Art of the Gansey.  For those of you who are now completely at a loss - a gansey is a knitted woollen pullover traditionally worn by fishermen - so there's both the definition and the fishy connection!  In fact ganseys, guernseys and jerseys are more or less the same thing although they may vary in thickness and colour.  They are typically seamless, densely knitted and fabulously patterned.  And it can take 100 to 200 hours to knit depending on the complexity of the pattern - so no chance of knitting one over the weekend!

Yorkshire Ganseys
Scottish Ganseys
River Ganseys

The exhibition included displays of ganseys knitted by volunteers from Yorkshire & Scotland and details about the patterning and its symbolism, typical features e.g. underarm gussets, how they were knitted and by whom, and why they have fallen out of use.  There is also a section by Di Gilpin, a knitwear designer from Fife, showing some gansey inspired modern knits and a fabulous contemporary piece by Alison Casserly, completed for her final collection at Nottingham Trent University for her degree in Fashion Knitwear & Knitted Textiles.  Students of both Millinery and Fashion & Interpretation at Hull School of Art & Design produced textile hats and jackets inspired by ganseys and the best of these are also part of the exhibition.

Di Gilpin's Gansey Inspired Knits
Alison Casserly's Knit
Jackets by Students from Hull School of Art & Design
Hats by Students from Hull School of Art & Design

The exhibition has been put together in partnership with the Moray Firth Gansey Project which aims to record patterns, keep traditional skills alive, celebrate it's local fishing heritage and find a contemporary context to use and develop these skills & patterns to generate income for its local population. 

Interesting fact gleaned from the exhibition: a skilled Herring Girl could gut 67 herring per minute (and that's when she wasn't knitting ganseys!) - the lives of fisherfolk were also covered!

Exhibition ends Sunday 24 November 2013.  Read more here:

Di Gilpin:

Alison Casserly:

Hull School Of Art & Design


  1. Hi, have just come across your blog! Am totally into ganseys, having just visited an exhibition at Sheringham. I am working on compiling a book and wondered whether I might use your images.

    Many thanks, Jan

    1. Hi Jan - that would be fine so long as you acknowledge them. You may be able to get better images from the museum or from Di or Alison. Good luck with the book. Sally

    2. Hi both!
      I am starting out on a project to collate & teach the Northumberland gansey patterns & have been in contact with the Moray Firth Gansey Project who have been incredibly helpful. I'm also collecting a lot of photos and archive for an exhibition on the subject as well as running the knitting workshops themselves.
      Just stumbled across your blog having heard talk of another gansey exhibition in Hull ne the year. Are you involved in this at all?
      Jan if you want to keep in touch too I'd be interested to hear about your book!
      Robyn Roberts

  2. What lovely pictures you have given us. I love the long smock,but I think I lack the time to knit something like that!