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Knitting and Breaking the Law!

Today I’m very excited to be hosting a guest blog by Martine from the fabulous lifestyle blog IMake. We thought it might be rather fun to share some histories of the places we call home….

Dear readers of The Mercerie blog.

My name is Martine and I write a creative lifestyle blog over at imakegsy.com. There you’ll find all sorts of other goodies too, such as my podcast, magazine and knitting patterns.

I live in Guernsey, in the Channel Islands. One of the best things about blogging and podcasting is I get to share my beautiful island home with people all over the world.

Guernsey has a fascinating knitting history so I thought I’d share a few snippets with you in this guest post.

As a Guernsey girl and avid knitter, it seems natural for me to want to explore Guernsey’s knitting history. However, it wasn’t so much my heritage that drew to research this topic further; it was overhearing a fascinating story at my Stitch n’ Bitch group one evening.

Apparently, it is illegal for men to knit, during daylight hours, in Guernsey! This law was created because local fishermen cottoned on to the fact that they could make more money knitting Guernsey jumpers than they could fishing! As such, they started neglecting their fishing duties. The law was passed to get the men back out on the fishing boats. According to my Stitch n’ Bitch buddy, the law has never been repealed.

The Guernsey jumper was traditionally knitted in 5 ply, worsted yarn on straight or circular needles. It’s warm, wind-proof and shower-proof making it the perfect garment for people working at sea. It’s estimated that a speedy knitter could make a Guernsey in approximately 80 hours.

guernsey sweater

The traditional design is a boxy jumper in navy blue with gussets under the arms and ribbing on the shoulders, cuffs, neck and waistband (the ribbing is said to represent ladders). There is a split hem at the waist for ease of movement. Some Guernsey designs would include the owner’s initial and some featured parish-specific patterns. This was useful back in the day when the vast majority of men wore Guernseys. Sadly it was also useful for identifying fishermen who died at sea.

detail

Guernsey has been famous for kitting since the Middle Ages, but not just for jumpers. Guernsey’s textile industry was at its prime in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Guernsey worsted stockings were particularly famous (and incredibly itchy, I should imagine!) It’s said that Mary Queen of Scots wore a pair of white stockings, made in Guernsey, for her execution during 1587.

I knit for a number of reasons. It relaxes me but it also connects me to my island’s history. I’ve yet to get a definitive answer on whether it is still illegal for men to knit in Guernsey, but in the meantime, the rebel in me wants to teach as many Guernsey men to knit as possible! I can just imagine the headlines now: “Guernsey man arrested for knitting during daylight hours.” Perfect .

men in guernseys

 

 

Thank you Martine!

If you’d like to nip over here now, you can read Sue’s homage to historical Norwich.

Image Credits:

http://www.bosunslockerchandlery.co.uk/ProductImages/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernsey_(clothing)#mediaviewer/

http://www.guernseyknitwear.co.uk/resources/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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