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  • Writer's pictureSarah Matthess

Fisherman's Gansey Hat - Knitting project

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

During the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, Janet Stimson designed and uploaded her FREE pattern to Ravelry, for the Rainbow Indigo Fisherman's Beanie so I naturally downloaded it and had a go. Gansey knitting has long been an interest of mine, and when this neat little hat pattern came up I thought I would try out with a yarn from my Etsy shop.

Gansey knitting was always done with a very 'round' 5 ply yarn. The reason for that was the hard wearing quality of a 5 ply yarn and also the stitch definition. Gansey jumpers are closely knitted on smaller needles to give a very firm longlasting weatherproof garment. They pre-dated plastic coats. Weather out at sea was really tough, and the garments had to match it.

The patterns knitted into them were specific to the area they were knitted in. The fisherman's initials were usually knitted into the bottom half of the garment, so if he was washed over board, the jumper would indicate who he was. The pattern would identify the port and the initials; the man. The garments were knitted seamlessly with underarm and neck gussets for ease during the physical work of fishing, and all these design additions would have been the work of many hundreds of hours for the women-folk.

I decided to have a go at knitting Janet's hat pattern with some of my aran yarn. I have recently started adding commercially spun aran yarn to my etsy shop in plant dyed colours. It is a soft pure wool yarn of 90% Suffolk/ 10% Jacob's wool. It is not a superwash yarn because the superwash process strips away the outer layer of the wool fibres, and then coats them with a substance that is not bio-degradable. This whole process renders superwash yarn very easy to wash, but less warm. The little fibres that have been removed were what kept the wool meshed together, and gave it warmth and resilience, but when they are removed, the superwash yarn is not as warm and it also does not keep its shape as real wool does.

After doing a guage swatch for the Fisherman's Beanie, ( 26st x 36 rows on 3.25mm needles), I found that my aran yarn worked really well. Everyones knitting tension will vary so its always important to work that swatch for yourself. I use extra long double pointed needles when knitting hats because I just like working with straight needles where possible, and the extra length means the hat stays on the needles easily. Just a word of caution about the pattern, if you downloaded it when it first came out, there was an error on the tension notes, so be sure to download the latest. The pattern calls for a DK weight yarn, 2 x 50g balls. My aran yarn worked up so well with the tension that I did not feel it necessary to change to a DK weight or to change the needle size. I wanted a nice firm finish too, and that's exactly what I got. The hat in the picture took me exactly 2 full 50g balls of the yarn in the picture, approx. 170yards. Actually I would recommend making the brim of the hat 3 1/2" rather than 4"(as the pattern states), if you are concerned about your tension, and making sure the yarn lasts because there was absolutely none left over when I stitched this up at the top.

2 of the colour-ways shown here, cutch which produced a lovely warm reddish cedar, and Buckthorn bark a warm beigy brown. I will be adding other plant dyed colours to this section of my shop.

This was a quick knit. The evenings of one week is all it takes, maybe less if you are a fast knitter, and the k1, p1, ribbed brim is really mindless knitting that can be done anywhere. I've had a few people try this hat and everyone loves the feel of it. Fairly simple cable pattern. Use stitch markers. The pattern is given in grid form, and is worked 4 times around the hat, and it's knitted twice, before the decreasing begins. Its all very straightforward, and a big thank you to Janet Stimson for her generosity in devising and sharing her work like this!

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