Gansey or Guernsey sweaters originated in the fishing villages along the coast of Great Britain. These garments are dense, hard wearing, with a comfortable fit, made from a woolen spun wool. They are warm even when wet.
The gansey sweaters were knit by the women of the village. It is thought that these garments were originally undergarments. As the men worked, they would take off the outer garment revealing the knitted undergarment. It is thought that much more care began to be taken in the design features of the garment since it was now on display.
Women used a knit and purl design most often in the garments. Though some tradition designs do feature cable designs. Patterns were not written down but passed from mother to daughter. Girls began knitting at an early age learning the techniques of construction, so there was no need for patterns. Sadly, the tradition of passing skills from mother to daughters has all but died out; with the introduction of domestic knitting machines with their speed and infinite formulation for patterns.
Thankfully these patterns have been written down along with the traditional techniques to create a traditional garment. The woolen spun yarn is still available from Great Britain, so creating a traditional design is achievable for handknitters.
We can now use these techniques to make a unique garment for yourself or someone special in your life. You will be creating a traditional, hard wearing garment that is well worth the time and energy put into the making. It will last for years to come.