Bebbanburg Gansey · Knitting

The Bebbanburg Gansey



Every time I see a new post from Gansey Nation appear in my email I know that it is Monday. This is important since I no longer work at a job, as otherwise I might continue to think every day is Tuesday.  It is very nice to know that I can count on a bit of kibble to feed my fascination with fine fisherman sweaters every Monday morning.

Besides that, it is always inspiring to see how Gordon steadfastly produces one glorious gansey after another, as though he is lounging on a very long, comfortable conveyor belt, taking photos of his surroundings as he passes them by; every few weeks returning to his point of origin and trading a finished gansey for empty needles and a new color of yarn for the next production. He has done this for many years.

I finally took it upon myself to emulate the master and begin a gansey of my own, using traditional motifs but not any published pattern or photo. Instead, I perused Gansey Nation, Beth Brown-Reinsel’s Knitting Ganseys, Michael Pearson’s Traditional HandKnitting, and various other books containing information about traditional ganseys.


I decided to use the Claret color of Frangipani 5-ply gansey yarn that I have had in my stash for a while, because I have at least 13 balls of it and wanted to be sure I didn’t run out of yarn.

I did swatch, but my swatch was among those of the untrustworthy kind, telling me 8.5 stitches per inch (on a 2.25 mm needle) was what I should use for planning. Instead I am getting 9 stitches per inch, but I think it will be ok.

I started with a Channel Island cast-on and a garter stitch welt of about an inch. I then increased by about 5% of my stitches (since garter spreads out more than ribbing), knit a plain area with my initials and then a ridge. After that I started the lower body pattern. It consists of two motifs, one a chain of moss-stitch diamonds (Bebbanburg is a diamond in the rough) and wide V-shaps with dots that remind me of two things: the jets that brought us here the first time we visited the area, and all the mosquitoes that hurl themselves toward me in relentless attempts to desanguinate me while I twitch with the itch in a fair imitation of the Saint Vitus Dance.

(The welt wants to flip up all the time, making it particularly difficult to get photos.  Hopefully this will be resolved in the future with a good blocking and steam pressing.)

These two motifs are separated all around by a 1/1 cable crossing every other row, flanked by two purl stitches. These cables also constitute the side seam and will eventually divide and continue around the outside of the gusset.


As does Gordon, I will wait to reveal the plan for the rest of the gansey closer to the time of its beginning.  He will remind me by publishing a post of his own!

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