: The ongoing tale of the Tasmanian Fishermans Gansey
It’s been several months since Felicity and I first started discussing our Tasmanian Fishing Gansey project, since then my partner in wool has travelled to North Yorkshire in England, “Checking out stories and myths about Ganseys.” And somewhat grossly, discovering the effect fish guts and wool has on your forearms, but more on that later.
I’ve been curious to know how the English locals have responded to our project, we have a great maritime tradition in Tasmania, but we are a long way away for a Yorkshire Fisherman.
“They were really excited actually, I had amazing luck. I’ve talked to knitters, seventh generation Fishermen, looked through storage boxes in Museums. They were all just happy to hear that their tradition would carry on across the world and seas in Tasmania.”
“I discovered after talking to lots of people that the (Gansey) designs just evolved. There were no hard and fast rules, but there were quite a few myths around them.”
Gansey’s were mainly used as work wear into the late 1900’s, “They were knitted very tight so they didn’t tangle in the fishermen’s lines and nets and the sleeves were knitted short so they didn’t become sodden with fish guts.”
Skip the next paragraph if you have a vivid imagination and tender stomach.
According to the stories Felicity heard, if the forearms of the fisherman’s Gansey became covered in fish guts, the fishy, stinky, sodden mess would cause boils to form on there skin! Can’t imagine a fisherman’s wife being too keen on a cuddle, let alone producing the next generation of fishermen, if they hadn’t worked that one out!
Interestingly, and less disgustingly, the arms of the Ganseys were made of plain panels (no patterns) so when they wore out they could be easily re-sewn. The jumpers were also made so they could be worn in any direction, having no front or back.
Felicity also discovered that the story about Fishermen knitting their initials into there jumpers, so their bodies could be recognised if they drowned at sea, was also somewhat of a myth, “One lady I spoke to said that the initials were so the fishermen could find their Gansey from the pile of others all thrown in the corner of the church on Sunday.”
This also apparently was a common problem solver at the pub after a heavy drinking session. The resulting pile of woollen jumpers in the corner of the bar being too difficult to sort one from another later in the evening without large initials knitted into the design. Given we’re talking the late 1900’s I would say both are probably equally true!
So where too from here for our Tasmanian Fishermen’s Gansey?
“I have an idea of the shape of the Gansey, what we need to do is work out the pattern panels that best represent Tasmania.” Suggests Felicity.
Every Gansey has its own distinct patterns that symbolise an area of the coast, a family of fishermen, the tools they use, fish they catch and so on.
So we’d like people from around the state to send us suggestions of the patterns we should consider for our Tasmanian Gansey – think fishing nets, crayfish claws and pots, waves, wind any shape that could form a pattern on our Gansey that you feel is representative of our coastline and people.
You can email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll let you know what suggestions we receive in our next update!