Monday, 14 January 2008

Book Review: Cornish Guernseys and Knit-Frocks

Title: Cornish Guernseys and Knit-Frocks
Author: Mary Wright

I found this book Googling for guernsey patterns, and was intrigued by the title - I know Cornwall well as I had relatives there during my childhood, and would love to live there one day. Until finding this book I had no idea that there was a tradition of knitting in Cornwall, though given the importance of fishing and the sea it is no surprise that these hard wearing, weather-resistant garments were so popular. I was in luck, as our library system had a copy in their Reserve Stock, where it had sat neglected since 2000.

The book is partly a history of Cornish knitting, and partly a pattern book. It includes a basic pattern for a Cornish guernsey (known locally as a "gansey" or knit-frock), which can be adapted to use any of the twenty-one local pattern variations collected by the author, and another pattern for a Polperro Knit-Frock. It teaches the "how-to" of creating a Cornish guernsey, though only gives two sizes (smaller and larger adult). The sweaters are knitted in the round - traditionally on large stocking needles, though a circular pin would be easier for modern knitters. Unlike the traditional Guernsey, it begins with a ribbed welt rather than a garter stitch band. A sleeve gusset is knitted at the top of the round section, then the front and back are completed separately. The sleeves are knitted in the opposite direction, starting with stitches picked up from the armholes, and decreasing down to a ribbed band at the wrist. Worn cuffs and elbows could simply be unravelled and reknitted.

I would love to knit one of these, as much for the interest of following a traditional pattern as for the garment itself. Frangipani, a small business in Cornwall sells reasonably priced Yorkshire wool (£15 for a 500g cone) and a number of pattern books, including Mary Wright's.


Meredith said...

Ooh, fun new knitting blog! I'll be checking regularly :)

Mary G said...

Kathryn -- I love the new blog ... and have already added it to bloglines so I don't miss anything. That Cornish book sounds GREAT! I just heard about a special way of knitting, Portuguese Knitting, that has me intrigued ....

Runa said...

You write very well.

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