Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Building Traditional Jerseys

Vertical central panel on an Aran jersey.


In knitting as in life, following a line, repeating a line, coming to and from an edge, brings a sense of order to your work.

In Aran work and Ganseys this is especially so.

Vertical and horizontal lines and symmetry are a feature of Aran and Gansey jerseys.
The drop-shoulder of the Gansey has become a construction line basic for all jerseys that came after it, and being a worked craft, the practicalities of that right-angle and perpendicular knitting direction means wise simplicity for the knitter and ease for the wearer.

A fitted shoulder has its own set-up and constraints, but makes for a tidy finish. Vertical and horizontal lines however, do not lend themselves so easily to embellishment and garment strength in the oval shape of a shaped sleeve around the top of the arm and near the neck.

In a drop-shouldered Aran or Gansey there is scope for big textured lines running up and down providing reinforcement at joins and points of wear....such as at the shoulder point (strap lines or a firm shoulder seam provides strength for the weight of the garment) and sleeve cuff (texture is generally not worked along the inside wrist). In true Ganseys, texture was not worked below the waist of a garment as it would face being chafed and dirtied from ship work.

The shoulder was steeked and stitches were picked up around the armhole. The shoulders were firmly bound-off together on the inside with a three-needle bind-off. I cut into the jersey front to make a neck hole after completing the body, instead of working back and forth across the front and back. I now know about the magic of saddle straps working from the neckline down and on to the sleeves and down to the cuffs.

 Basically an Aran is a more heavily textured version of a Gansey. One actually inspired the other, and I would direct you to Alice Starmore's work on Aran Jerseys. 

Another basic, is that Ganseys and Arans especially, are two narrow tubes attached to one big tube. Structurally very simple, but not flattering for all of us.

Chafe and wear around the shoulder and underarm are handled by reinforced texture lines, generous space in the sleeve top and strong seams.

All sewists know that placing two fabric pieces at right-angles to each other and joining with a seam provides a firm structure for the garment. In knitting with the inbuilt stretchiness, the stitch heads must be positioned carefully without stretching to meet the vertical stitches in the seam. Every knitter knows this when a button band is attached and the stitches are at 90 degrees to each other alongthe edge. Some easing is required and most settle on a 1-2 or 1-3 vertical stitch will be matched in the seam with the second of two stitches in the horizontal stitches. The seam line is firm though.
In the jersey above, the arm-hole was steeked and a centimetre of waste knitted fabric neatly hangs inwards to the body of the sweater acting as a facing thereby providing further reinforcement for the stretch of the seam.

Vertical lines of garter stitch on this stole give support to the open work as well as containing a spreading angled design.
In the stole above, vertical lines of garter stitch provide a practical line of fabric reinforcement within the fabric as well as being reversible.

Vertical lines containing pattern motifs yet also providing fabric structure.
Same with the cowl here. 

Shawl with diagonal lines has linear structure as well as reinforcement from join lines.
...and the same with the shawl. 

We know that triangles are nature's strongest natural shape. The corner to corner lines firm up the lace work and prevent the centre from "bagging" or stretching. It also makes chart-writing easier as the triangle shapes can be managed within a graph and repeated by the knitter.

In Conclusion

Wherever you are, get your needles back onto projects you want to do. Be observant and acknowledge what works and what doesn't.

...and take a dog for a walk.

Where we walk the dog.

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