17 Apr 2015

Knitting inspiration: book with traditional Dutch fishermen's sweaters

This book has been on my wishlist for a long time. Finally it was on sale and I decided to buy it!
From 1880's until the 1950's dutch fishermen used to wear knitted sweaters (ganseys) for everyday work. The patterns were different in each village and were mainly made up from knit/purl stitches (my favorite type!). This had an economical reason: it took less yarn to knit than knitting cable patterns. The sweaters were knitted in the round up until the armholes and the sleeves were knitted from the shoulders down. This made reparations easier, the damaged underarms and cuffs could be re-knitted.
The patterns weren't written down (as many people couldn't write back in those days) the knitters memorized them as they learned from their mothers. Every village had it's 'own' patterns, probably because the women copied each others work and knitted what they liked.

The author collected old photographs of fishermen, often portrayed with their families. Based on the pictures she figured out how the original stitches looked like and reproduced the patterns. The book contains about 60 patterns from 40 different Dutch coastal villages. The book contains not only patterns to knit these sweaters but also history, stories of everyday life of the fishermen at sea and at home and a lot of old pictures.
Good news: there is a second book in the make with more fishermen's ganseys:

The wool that is used to make these traditional knits was produced again by the name 'Zuiderzee' by the dutch brand Scheepjeswol. It is a worsted/sport weight yarn:
100 grams=200 meters (metric needle 4,5-5)
19 sts and 24 rows = 10x10 cm

The original colors were blue, navy, anthracite and natural wool color.
It is easy to replace it with wool by any other brand: I'd use the drops 'Karisma' which I also used to knit my baby blankets. It has exactly the same length per 100g, though I'd knit it with a smaller needle to prevent stretching. The denim blue would make a perfect fishermen's sweater!

For more interesting information on the history of (English) ganseys click here

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