Knitting books

Knitter’s Bookshelf: Knitting Ganseys Update

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If you keep an eye on the gansey-knitting book options (and if not, why not?) you are likely aware that Beth Brown-Reinsel has just put out an update on her 1993 classic, Knitting Ganseys.  If not, you just learned something new!

What is a gansey?  Chapter 1 in both versions helpfully answers that question.  Ganseys are a class of fishermen’s sweaters that originated in the British Isles and various parts of Scandinavia and northern Europe.  There’s more to it, but you get the gist.

The original book was excellent for those looking to make this type of sweater – detailed in its discussion of the parts of the sweater with emphasis on the features that make ganseys different from other sweaters – such as the underarm gussets and the knit-purl patterning.  However, it is limited a bit by how it was printed.  The photos are all in black and white, and the illustrations are all hand-drawn and kind of wobbly. I’m always tempted to think that it was the tech available at the time, but I have plenty of knitting books from the mid-80’s and forward that are rife with color photography.  So I’m not sure what was up with that, but it was what it was.

The new version changes all of that.  Lush color photographs abound.  Graphs and illustrations are crisp and professional looking. That is the biggest change from the old version.  Other than that, there are little tweaks and enhancements throughout.  There’s a new discussion of gansey yarns and tools for gansey knitting.  There is a deeper discussion on stitch patterns for the initials.  There’s a new section on fishing and fisher girls.  Also, there’s a new blurb concerning the old story that the patterns knit into the sweaters were for identification in case people were lost at sea.  (Spoiler alert – it’s malarky.) (I know – now I wrecked it for you.)

The other big difference is the patterns.  A few are the same, but others are new to this version of the book.  The Musician’s Gansey is the same (I think – I didn’t do a deep comparison, but it looks the same on a quick glance).  The Snakes and Ladders sweater is child sized in the old book, adult sized in the new one.  The White gansey in the old book is very similar to the Newhaven in the new book.  And Grace’s Cardigan I believe is the same.  Gone are Jerod’s Gansey and Chelsea’s Heart Gansey.  New patterns include Jorn’s Gansey, the Big Easy, Eriskay, Alouette (a gansey dress!), and Cordova.

The new version is very clearly built on the old one.  The chapters and most of the text are the same, with the enhancements I  have noted.  Instructions for a little sampler gansey run throughout, just like in the original.  There is an excellent, detailed section on planning your own gansey in the new one, basically unchanged from the original.

So all in all, this is a well-done and thoughtful update of a solid classic.  If you are at all interested in ganseys or their construction, this is an excellent resource.

3 thoughts on “Knitter’s Bookshelf: Knitting Ganseys Update

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