New Favorites deluxe: the Staithes Gansey and how to knit one

New Favorites deluxe: the Staithes Gansey and how to knit one

So, the question of the moment is “How do I knit a gansey like Daniel Day-Lewis’s?” In the voluminous comments on that post, a couple of commenters mentioned Penny Straker’s 1981 knitting pattern #796 Staithes Guernsey (photo above, top), and Fiona noted there’s a similar pattern in Gladys Thompson’s book, aka “Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans.” Thompson’s pattern is not available for download but there is a listing in the Ravelry database, where you can see samples, and it is called Staithes Gansey (1969). I also remembered, as I started writing this post on Friday, that my friend Courtney Kelley of Kelbourne Woolens put out a very similar gansey pattern just a few years ago called Seascale (photo above, bottom), which is literally in my Ravelry Queue! And which is in the same gansey-minimal style as the DDL/Straker/Thompson sweaters — just horizontal bands of moss or double moss broken up by purl ridges.

On Saturday, I opened Kelbourne’s newsletter and saw that Courtney had included a mention of my DDL post and is offering Seascale as a free download until this Friday with the checkout code GANSEYBABES. And their new yarn Scout even comes in a deep blue-black, which is one of the hardest colors to come by. (I get asked for good navy suggestions often enough that I have “dark navy yarn roundup” on my list of blog posts to do!)

I think the vague “navy pullover” on my wish list may be taking a more distinct shape.

. . .

New Favorites deluxe: the Staithes Gansey and how to knit oneCircling back about the origins of DDL’s gansey, I’ve gotten some answers. Back in the original comments, Dianna had uncovered a men’s fashion blog that had posited that DDL’s had come from Flamborough Marine, purveyors of handknit ganseys, and they do offer a version called, you guessed it, the Staithes Gansey.* You can see the sample — the bright yellow one — halfway down this webpage, and again on page 5 of this PDF of theirs about what a gansey is. However, it differs from the one on DDL in assorted ways — the waist ribbing, the number and width of the moss bands, etc., so I thought the blog had it wrong. Then I had an email yesterday from Deb Gillanders of Propagansey, who has the details. She says the one he is wearing in the magazine is one he commissioned from Flamborough Marine to match the one that had been left to him by his father. So the one he’s wearing is not the one his father left him after all, but a recent handknit replacement, and did come through Flamborough Marine.

Gillanders, who lives in Whitby (near Staithes) and curates an annual gansey exhibit in the nearby village of Robin Hood’s Bay, also loaned three ganseys to the costume department of “Phantom Thread,” and says you can see him wearing one of them in the scene where he decides not to go dancing for New Year’s. I’ve yet to see the film, but apparently much of the early action is set in RHB, so there are all sorts of connections here. This is all very fun to know — thanks, Deb!

[UPDATE: Click to read my subsequent interview with Deb about gansey history.]

*I’m now deeply curious about how and why this particular sub-type of gansey is apparently commonly known as “a Staithes” and am in search of answers. So I may have more to say about all of this!


– Another great source of gansey knowledge, Beth Brown-Reinsel’s highly regarded book “Knitting Ganseys” is being republished this summer.

– And Dotty left a comment saying there are still some openings in her upcoming FisherFolk gansey-inspired retreat.


PREVIOUSLY: Daniel Day-Lewis and wow, that gansey










56 thoughts on “New Favorites deluxe: the Staithes Gansey and how to knit one

  1. A book titled “Fishermen’s Sweaters” by Alice Starmore has some beautiful Gansey patterns including a child’s sweater similar to DDL’s. It’s great book for those who love fishermen’s sweaters.

  2. Wonder what DDL would think if he knew how many people were discussing his sweater right now! And one of my favorite gansey sources is Stella Ruhe’s ‘Dutch Traditional Ganseys’. Full of history and old photos of four-square, pipe chomping, wooden shoe wearing Dutch fisherfolk in a huge array of Gansey styles. I think she has a second volume out, I haven’t gotten that one (yet!).

  3. Oh fantastic! Just left a comment in the previous post about the incredibly helpful Deb Gillanders (and yourself) and the Gladys Thompson book. Staithes is a seaside village in the Scarborough borough of North Yorkshire, England (presumably where the pattern originated?). The word Staithes in the North East of England also means a landing stage for loading or unloading cargo boats…Am properly heading down a Gansey rabbit hole..each year for wool week I run a little exhibition with woolens dating back to the fifties, to prove how long they last. How wonderful that DDL had a jumper made to match his Dads and that with some love and care a jumper will last beyond a lifetime.

    • I read the Staithes section in Thompson’s book over the weekend, thanks to a friend, and she talks about borrowing one — and writing her pattern for it — from a woman in Staithes. Deb Gillanders mentioned the same family name to me in a follow-up email I had this morning and I’ll be digging deeper on that. Thompson doesn’t actually talk about this particular style being referred to as a Staithes, or why, but the key seems to be in that family, the Verrills. I’m still digging!

      • Blimey you’ve done well!. Wish you lots of joy in your search/research.The great thing about knitting Ganseys is the part independent women played in it..’Following the Herring’ the female fish gutters took their patterns and knitting down through the UK (and beyond) They were feisty, independent and migrated wherever the work was. Its lovely to be connected to these knitters. Thought you may like to see these pictures

  4. Is there a link to the Kelbourne download? Thank you for this thread and love ganseys! DDL version appears to have a ribbed hem and a small stockinette border on the ribbings. I think the Penny Straker version is done in worsted weight and would be quicker to knit than the Traditional ganseys done in sport weight knit on small needles.

    • We meaning The Cordova Gansey Project, are not experts, simply on the path trying to learn what we can from those that know far more. The Ravelry group mentioned has a great panel of very experienced Gansey Knitters with a wealth of information.

  5. I was flipping through my copy of ‘Vintage Modern Knits’ just this weekend. Inspired by your DDL post, I made note of the Rhodes Point Gansey by Courtney Kelley for a potential spot in my queue. Convinced I was looking at the same sweater in today’s post, I was surprised when Seascale didn’t show up as being in my library when I clicked its link to Ravelry. Seascale and Rhodes Point appear to be the same sweater. Glad I haven’t lost my mind! It is beautiful.

    • I just came here to check on this! Glad I’m not the only one. Thankful to get an updated pattern, even though I have the book. Thanks, Courtney and Karen! (If anyone misses the free download, just check at your local library for the book.)

  6. Gansey patterns seem to have been named after the fishing village where the pattern was documented, in this case seemingly by Gladys Thompson; Staithes being the name of a coastal village in North Yorkshire.
    The use of the many different patterns was not exclusive to any village though, you’ll find vintage photos showing local fisherman from a particular village all wearing ganseys with different patterns.
    The selection of patterns seems to have been simply ‘knitter’s choice’.

    • Yeah, I’ve always heard that the “you can identify a sailor by his sweater” thing is largely a myth, but there do seem to be name associated with styles associated with ports, but within that it’s all squishy since people move around, knitters learn tricks from each other, etc.

  7. When launching into the whole gansey thing, one of the things to decide is whether you want to knit an authentic gansey or a look-alike. Authentic ganseys use authentic gansey, or guernsey, wool (available in the US through Schoolhouse Press among other sources), use a special type of knotted cast-on, and even in the simplest forms such as Staithes as well as the more complex Scottish versions, use underarm gussets and often neck gussets to add ease and shaping. Traditional ganseys are also knitted at (for me at least) a punishingly firm gauge to be wind and waterproof as well as hard wearing. I knitted a couple of the Straker sweaters for my kids back in the early 90s. They were almost authentic, apart from the yarn used and the gauge, and made me fall in love with circular design, which was relatively uncommon at that time. They are also proof that you don’t have to go down the rabbit hole all the way to achieve a wonderful result.
    P.S. Note that there is a particularly stunning gansey in cream-coloured Creskeld Guernsey Yarn designed by Beth Brown-Reinsel in that oldie but goodie, “Knitting in America”. Called the “At Sea Gansey”, it is modelled with a traditional close fit by an older man, and more loosely by a teenage boy. Love that sweater!

  8. Beth Brown Reinsel’s book “Knitting Gansey” probably teaches anyone more than is needed to knit this particular type of garment. Better still, Ganseys are one of the classes that she offers. She is by far the best teacher that I have ever had the pleasure of learning from.

    • Rocquaine is lovely, such a pleasure to knit. I knit it until half of the second sleeve, when I realized I would not have enough yarn to complete it. Had to frog but I will definitely knit it again someday, it is a wonderful pattern.

  9. Hooray for Deb, and bringing the mystery full circle! What an incredible sweater journey. I love that DDL commissioned a gansey to recreate the one his father left him.

    • My favorite part of her email was when the costumers contacted her wanting to commission a gansey for their lead actor with really long arms, etc., she asked who the actor was and, once told, replied “but he already has one!” The world of knitters is so amazing sometimes — if only this had been the story W had told!

  10. Holy cow! I downloaded the pattern immediately although I’m going to have to cool my jets right now – too many projects on the go (really). However, this seems like a lovely thing to be knitting while sitting at the cottage…Thankfully I’ve got a couple of months to clear the deck before then.

  11. Other factors notwithstanding, it feels as though DDL is partly responsible for getting me a free sweater pattern. Can it be that he has somehow realized that I’ve been in love with him ever since My Beautiful Launderette and can no longer deny his feelings for me? (PS, thank you Kelbourne for the pattern!)

  12. OMG I made that sweater in 1979! In a natural-dark-brown Welsh wool that I bought at Wool Works in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Still have it, it’s gorgeous.
    Don’t fit into it anymore tho : /

  13. The very first Gansey I knit was the Gaffer’s Gansey in the Premiere issue of Knitters Magazine, maybe back in the 1980’s? Two great gansey patterns there, both designed by Elizabeth Zimmerman. It was a great issue! Got me started on knitting what is today still one of my favorite styles. Love the DDL gansey!

  14. Yeah !! Thanks a million to Courtney for the lovely pattern, I just downloaded it
    So, how about a Seascale KAL ? I see mine in a color-block version (that’s all the worsted I have in my stash, unless I do fall for a navy blue too).

  15. I just made a similar worsted weight Gansey for my son using a pattern by Melissa Goodfellow. Very warm. I am jstarling on Ravelry. I do love the old Penny Straker patterns as well.

  16. This is a pretty incredible web of connections! Just chiming in to add Penelope Hemingway (aka the Knitting Geneologist’s) name to the growing list of resources on ganseys:

    If you’re curious about Yorkshire knitting traditions, especially the now-extinct “sway” method of knitting, she has a deliciously detailed and witty blog.

  17. I picked up a copy of Thompson’s book at my local Goodwill store about a year ago. I just pulled it off the shelf, and what do you know, there is an index card at figure 57, with a photo of “Harry Freeman, only survivor of Whitby lifeboat disaster 1881” wearing the Straithes guernsey pattern.

  18. I just love gussets! They’ve always struck me as little bits of magic, whether in sewing or knitting.

  19. So nice of Courtney. I’ve contacted the LYS to see if they can order the yarn. A JAL sounds like a great idea.

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  21. Since you’re heavy into sleuth mode . . . did you ever solve the stitch mystery of the Dries van Noten?

  22. Great post and comments! Thank you girls, I’ve learned a lot! Although I am from the south region of Brazil, far away from British Isles, guernseys have always pleased my eyes and my heart.

  23. I ADORE ganseys and I’ve been wanting to knit a Scarborough in AGES (got the pattern, just not the skill – yet)! I saw the one DDL is wearing ‘live’ in a gansey exhibition here in Hull…

    If you are anywhere near the Yorkshire coast (right next to Robin Hoods Bay) in Sept I highly recommend the Propagansey event – TONS and TONS of beautiful ganseys, and you get to fondle them, photograph them, and chat with the extremely knowledgeable organiser, as well as there being Frangipani yarn for sale.

    I have the Gladys Thompson book and it is a gem. I have his dream I will on day wake up a super fast gansey knitter and will be able to make tons out of it. I love how she describes chasing fisherman to have a glimpse at their gansey patterns! (I can go on about ganseys for ever…)

  24. I loved reading about ganseys here. The Humber Star I am knitting for my husband is coming along slowly – I am now at the neck and so just sleeves to go now. I bought the pattern at It is heavy on photos and light on knitting directions but I have found advice and inspiration from lots of places online, and in Gladys Thompson’s book, which I borrowed from the library. I bought the wool (two cones – fewer ends – yay!) and long needles from although I switched to two circular needles as I kept stabbing myself. The Moray Firth Gansey Project: and The Yorkshire Crafter: helped me.

  25. Hi I was born and grew up in Scarborough. Ganseys are traditional fishermen wear. Each community of the Yorkshire east coast evolved its own distinctive gansey pattern. Different stitch patterns are used to represent characteristics of each place. These more fancy ganseys were usually worn for Sunday best and plain ganseys worn for daily fishing life.
    The Staithes gansey that Daniel is wearing so well has narrow bands of knit 2 rows, purl two rows called ridge and furrow to represent the ploughed fields. The pattern between these bands represents birds eyes.
    The Filey gansey has cables to represent ships ropes and double moss stitch to represent the cobbled streets. It has a vertical zig-zag stitch pattern showing the ups and downs of married life, a pattern copied off that seen on the ganseys of visiting scottish fishermen.
    Triangles are used to represent ships flags and diamonds show fishing nets (filled with moss stitch to show a good catch). There is distinctive star which is knitted into ganseys from the River Humber area.
    Many traditional fishing ganseys can be seen in the photos by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe.

  26. There is a wonderful blog called written by a man called Gordon, who has knitted many Ganseys. Be warned, it is a very deep rabbit hole! Lots and lots of info on the site about Gansey knitting. There is also a delightful booklet called Fishing For Ganseys which my SIL was able to order for me in the UK. Well worth getting hold of if you can.

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  29. Hello,

    This is just to confirm that the Staithes Gansey Daniel is wearing was commissioned by him directly with us, Flamborough Marine Limited, to match his father’s Gansey, but with one alteration in that his father’s Gansey had plain sleeves, whereas Daniel asked for a patterned sleeve (also, his father’s sweater was not knitted in one piece, where our Gansey is). The Gansey was knitted by Marion, who has been knitting for us for over thirty years and who received a beautifully hand-written thank you letter from Daniel.

    Kind regards,
    Geoffrey Miller
    Flamborough Marine Limited

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