Three Must-Know Gansey Cast-ons

Originally made for fishermen on the English and Scottish coasts, gansey sweaters have remained a knitted garment staple. The earliest printed reference to a fisherman’s jersey (gansey) is in a report in an 1858 edition of the Cornwall Lammas Assizes newspaper. A man named William Walsh, age 20, was sentenced for “the theft of clothing, including a Guernsey-frock, from James Carter of Illogan.”

And if you love ganseys as much as we do, you need to check out the revised edition of Knitted Ganseys, in which Beth Brown-Reinsel explains how to successfully create a variety of knitted gansey garments: detailing textures, cables, and cast-ons!

We’ve selected three traditional cast-ons to showcase here so you can make all the gansey sweaters your heart desires. Who knows, you might fall for one cast-on and use it for everything!

Channel Island Cast-On

The Channel Island Cast-On is worked using three strands of yarn. There are a couple of ways to get three strands together, but here’s our favorite:

Fold the end of the yarn back on itself for the desired length to create a long doubled tail. Then fold the yarn a second time where the end of the doubled yarn meets the single strand and, using three strands together, make a slip knot on the needle, leaving a tail about 3–4″ long (the slipknot doesn’t count as a stitch and will be removed later).

Separate the doubled loop from the single strand that’s connected to the ball and place the single strand over the index finger. Wrap the doubled strand twice counterclockwise around your thumb so that the top wrap is in front of the thumb and connected to the slipknot on the needle.

The stitches are worked in pairs.

*For the first stitch, make a yarnover on the needle with the single strand. For the second stitch, beginning at the base of the thumb, slide the needle up through both doubled loops on the thumb, then bring the needle over the single strand on the index finger, then go back down through the two loops on the thumb. Drop the thumb loops and tighten all three yarns using a gentle rocking motion. Repeat from the * for the desired number of stitches (an even number). After all the stitches have been cast on, drop the doubled tail and continue with the single strand of working yarn.

If working in the round, remove the slipknot from the needle (but don’t undo it) before joining in the round. If working flat, drop the slipknot off the needle at the end of the first row. Undo the slipknot after working for a few rows by pulling down on the three-strand tail. Cut the doubled loops before weaving in the ends.

The Channel Island Cast-On makes a very nice beaded edge which looks great with garter stitch and k1, p1 ribbing. (Note that when working in k1, p1 ribbing, you need to purl the yarnovers and knit the “beaded” stitches.)

Knotted Cast-On

Using the long-tail cast-on method, make a slipknot on the right needle. Cast on one more stitch. *With the left needle, pass the first cast-on stitch over the second stitch, as for binding off a stitch. Cast on two more stitches. Repeat from the * until you have the desired number of stitches.

Multistrand Cast-On

gansey sweaters

Photo 1


gansey sweaters

Photo 2


gansey sweaters

Photo 3

With the yarn held double, using the long-tail cast-on method, make a slipknot on the needle. Holding two strands over your thumb and two strands over your index finger (Photo 1), cast on the desired number of stitches.

Drop two strands and work four to six rows of ribbing with the remaining two strands (Photo 2). Drop one strand and work the remainder of the ribbing and garment with a single strand (Photo 3).

gansey sweaters

Now that you have these cast-ons down, you’re ready to start your gansey sweater! Use traditional motifs to represent the rich gansey tradition, or select more modern motifs to pay homage to the gansey. Your next step? Checking out the revised edition of Knitted Ganseys by Beth Brown-Reinsel!

Happy Knitting!

Jump into Gansey sweaters with Interweave!

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