Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gansey Sock Design #2

I've written about my love for ganseys and my ideas for gansey socks before.

Earlier this summer, I ordered myself some real gansey (a.k.a. guernsey yarn) from Wingham Wool in Yorkshire.

It's actually fairly scary stuff. Knitters would work heavily patterned, men's size sweaters in this yarn. This yarn, which works up to 28 sts on 10 cm/4 ins using 2.5mm needles. Yes, that's right - it's about the same size as a sock yarn.

That's a serious commitment.

Real gansey yarn is tightly spun 5-ply, 100% wool. And it usually comes in a very limited range of colours - a darker colour (grey or navy) for everyday wear, and white for "best". (I love the thought that your "best" clothes were just a different coloured sweater. Now that I no longer work in an office regularly, that's my kind of dressing up.)

It's designed specifically to be warm and long-wearing. Which also makes it entirely applicable to socks. Although it is 100% wool, the extra plies and the tight spin will help it wear longer. It is hand-wash only, which may strike some as insane for socks, but the way I look at it, these are my "best" socks and I won't wear them that often.

And with this, the following sock has resulted...

Unlike my previous gansey sock design, I've used horizontal patterning, divided by classic purl ridges. And, naturally, I have a fake seam stitch to divide the front and the back - a seam which continues down the foot.

Each of the stitch patterns comes from a traditional source. I've been using the following books as reference for ideas:

Beth Brown Reinsel's Knitting Ganseys
Sabine Domnick's Cables, Diamonds and Herringbones
Gladys Thompson's Patterns for Jerseys, Guernseys and Arans

The first of these three is an absolute masterpiece - not only does it have patterns for various sweaters for adults and kids, it also guides you through the process of creating your own miniature gansey using traditional construction techniques - and then helps you design your own. Domnick's book has some good history, a few garments, but lots and lots of stitch patterns. And the Thompson book is much older, and is really just ("just" is not meant as an insult here, it's encyclopedic) a collection of stitch patterns, categorized by region and origin.

Anyway, yes, first of the gansey socks is just about done, and I'll be writing up the pattern in the near future.

(N. just wandered into the room. "What are you doing"" "Just blogging." "What about?" "Socks." "I would never have guessed." Readers - am I boring you? I promise, I do knit things other than socks - I've got a lace design idea coming up next!)


MM Jones said...

They look fantastic, Kate. And never apologize for your love of socks or gansey or anything yarn. Like I will never apologize for my love of anything vamp.

Susan said...

Love your gansey sock design! I also really the heel. Would you share how you did the heel with us?

Kate said...

Hi Susan!

Because of the way you left your comment, I'm not sure how to get in touch. (Technology is not always as clever as I would like.) I do hope you check back here... please email me at kate dot atherley at gmail dot com!

You can also look at my book 'Custom Socks' - there is a gansey sock pattern in there.