Traditional Star Indigo Guernsey
indigo Yarn product
Sea Salt Washed
A Short History of the Guernsey
Steeped in tradition, the Guernsey has been an enduring classic over the past 400 years.
Originally designed for fishermen, this style of knitting originated in the Elizabethan era. Indeed, Elizabeth 1 and Mary Queen of Scots are said to have owned Guernsey knitwear. Nelson adopted the Guernsey as part of the Royal Navy’s uniform, during the Napoleonic Wars. Guernseys (or Ganseys – a dialect variation of Guernsey) were worn at The Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
The Guernsey was knitted to provide a close, snug fit for safety and warmth; no part could get caught in equipment, the sleeves stopping short of the wrist so as not to get in the way, nor to become wet with sea water. A diamond-shaped insert at the underarm provided ease of movement. The tight hem, neck and cuffs helped to keep out draughts. Worn next to the skin, with nothing underneath, a silk scarf was often tied around the neck to prevent the wet wool from chaffing the skin.
Each fishing community had its own identifiable pattern including fishing related symbols such as nets, ropes, ladders, anchors, waves and pebbles. There were even variations between families and generations. If there was a shipwreck, any bodies washed up on shore could be traced back to their village and family by their Guernsey. The stitch pattern became more complex as it spread further north, with the most complicated coming from the fishing villages in Scotland. The square shaped, straight necked sweater was reversible, the patterning the same front and back; this improved its longevity, as wear was distributed more evenly.
The Guernsey was knitted in one piece on five needles - knitted ‘in the round’ from chest to back on two needles, before being joined at the shoulders. The knitter would knit fake side seams in a different stitch to keep track of where they were.
Tightly knitted by hand in worsted wool for protection from the cold, wind, rain and sea spray, Guernseys were seldom washed and the everyday dirt and grime that accumulated was thought to enhance these properties. Guernseys were worn all the time by fishermen – including a Sunday best version for attending church. They would even be knitted by young women for their fiancés to be married in.
All seafarers, whatever their role, traditionally wore dark blue – natural Indigo dye was the only blue dye available, until synthetic dyes evolved in the late nineteenth century.
Based on the Guernsey worn by the fishermen of the past, our version has been updated to be more practical for today’s lifestyle, but it still retains the style and essence of the authentic Guernsey.
The Original Blues’ Guernsey Star is expertly crafted in the traditional method, featuring a stunning double panel highlighting star, zig-zag and heart motifs, cleverly framed to attract the eye. The familiar gusset on the sides of the neck, attractive side splits and decorative ribbing are an integral part of the classic design. Made from 100% Indigo Cotton yarn, the Original Blues’ Guernsey Star will wash and wear beautifully, even after repeated machine washing and tumble drying, giving you the advantage of being able to wear a clean and fresh smelling sweater, as opposed to those worn by the fishermen of yesteryear.
Today, natural Indigo is the dye of choice for the beautiful Indigo hues offered by Original Blues, due to its depth and breadth of colour and unsurpassed aesthetic appeal.
Treated to a sea salt wash, the Original Blues’ Guernsey Star is designed to fade over time and is sure to become one of your favourite wardrobe staples for many years to come.
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