A Sweater Love Story: The Nine Month Red Gansey

Have you ever been in love with a project to the extent that setbacks and slow progress really just served as a way of prolonging the pleasure of knitting it? I’ve been knitting the same sweater for nine months now—actively working on this project that whole time. (A heavily modified version of Stornoway from Alice Starmore’s Fishermen’s Sweaters). Although the sweater is oversized, heavily textured, and worked on size 3 needles, it’s not that the knitting is slow—I keep ripping it out! From gauge issues to reworked gussets, to developments at the armholes and the yoke and the neck bind-off, this bright red gansey is a simple tube of purl patterning that has caused me more trouble than any project in quite some time. But I am so in love with it. I think I’m sabotaging my own work so that the knitting of it will not end.

knitted gansey

The little steel needle tips, the toothy red wool with its high twist (I’m using Wendy Guernsey Wool, read about it in the Spring issue of Interweave Knits), the panels of purl motifs and narrow rope cables now fully commit­ted to memory and fingers, the way the fabric lies across the chair arm, stiff with texture and woolly character…I am definitely a gansey initiate. This past year, my personal interest in the iconic fisherman sweater led me to the story of Sarah Lake Upton and her American gansey wool (read the profile in the Spring issue of Interweave Knits). Another fan of the fisherman knit, Courtney Kelley, designed a modern gansey dolman for this issue, which she told me was one of her favorite designs ever. She sent the sample in with a sigh that was nearly audible from a thousand miles away. I understand.

Knitted ganseymodern knitted gansey

As the year turns over and we slip into spring, it seems silly that I’m still working on this project. I do think it’s time to commit to progress and finish it, and perhaps get a chance to wear it before the earth rotates too much. I’m holding onto it, partly because I worry that the next project won’t be as enjoyable to knit. And there lies the revelation that has tumbled into my lap along with the long red fabric: holding onto known entities for fear that nothing else will ever be better is something I do all too often. It’s an apparent oddity that is nevertheless common: creative people who fear the unknown. Is it not in the next discovery, the next experiment, that we flex our creative muscles and satisfy that inquisitive itch? That we grow?

            Do you have an epic project? Do you have a sweater love story?

As we approach Valentine’s Day, I want to hear your stories! Please share in the comments below.

                I am thrilled to share this new issue of Interweave Knits with you as I personally wrap up my gansey story. Learn about Sarah Lake Upton and her gansey journey—from a pattern she found in a book to the frigid open waters off the Alaskan coast—and read our review of traditional 5ply gansey wools. Learn about knitted-on edgings for lace shawls, about the American yarns of Brown Sheep in Nebraska, and find 18 designs fit for spring knitting and beyond. You can find the full preview here.

One love story ends and another begins. I am choosing colors now for a Nordic ski sweater in fingering-weight yarn. I have butterflies in my belly.

With love,





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