Cordova Gansey Project: The Long Story   #10 Fisher Lassie

Cordova Gansey Project: The Long Story #10 Fisher Lassie

Aunt Margaret Steward Yardville, New Jersey

When I first met my husband, Bob, he affectionately told me that I reminded him of his favorite Aunt Margaret, the sister of his father, William. He would share stories of how she collected sticks and weeds, took pleasure in the out of doors,  and especially of how she loved the New Jersey wildflowers, knowing each one by name.

I only met with Aunt Margaret a couple of times before she passed away, but I have often heard from her family that Margaret loved to share a good story, some of which were very long and involved, laced with details and all the “particulars”. It came to be a common expression when she would start into one of her elaborate narratives, that someone would chime in with the question, “Is this a long story, Margaret?”. To this day this expression lives on, and if someone in the family begins to ramble, one of the others will cut them off saying, “Is this a long story, Margaret?” regardless of who is speaking or sharing their tale, thus bringing all a smile. And so, in this, as well as other ways, dear Aunt Margaret’s memory lives on in a happy sort of way.

All this being said,  in regard to our own long story, the Cordova Gansey Project is well underway. I am presently knitting along on Nate's gansey, as are others in the group. I have myself on a "number-of-rows-to-knit-a-day" schedule in hopes of having it finished by spring. So far, I have initials, salmon bones, fishing nets, and a cork line completed. I carry it around in my gansey knapsack wherever I go, and every spare moment I am working on it, stitch by stitch, row by row, not unlike the gansey girls with their fishing inspired raised patterns, needles and yarn close at hand and put to use during their spare moments.

There are, however,  a couple of chapters still waiting to be told in this particular "long story" concerning the project. Remember, my husband did say that I reminded him of his Aunt Margaret, and so, it is not just our shared love of wild flowers and wild things that we hold in common, for as you have witnessed,  I am a long winded story teller as well. Perhaps like Aunt Margaret, the details seem to me a necessity and the means of shedding light and understanding on what happens here and now.  So, my friends, here we go again..on to the Lassie.




Shortly after my discussion last fall with Beth Brown Reinsel concerning the inception of our gansey project from a traditional perspective, I spoke with Bonne Marie Burns of Chic Knits.  I told her of my travels and inspirations, and how I believed her perspective as a contemporary designer was a desirable aspect that had the potential to compliment what Beth would be providing for our group.

We had a great conversation, and I invited Bonne Marie to join in the project if she would be interested. I was fascinated to learn that a gansey inspired design had already been percolating in her mind.  This would be the perfect opportunity to bring life to her inner stirrings while at the same time provide the valuable skills and abilities needed to help our gansey venture be successful.I chose Bonne Marie for her conceptual design skills and her careful attention to fit, as I felt it would be interesting to take the gansey concept and create a contemporary piece, yet one still functional for the northwest lifestyle. I also wanted her clothing designer input on the traditional component that was already brewing with Beth. From this conversation emerged the development of the Fisher Lassie cardigan in honor of the historic knitting fisher lassies from the United Kingdom, and in celebration of those women presently associated with the industry. 

Bonne Marie arrived in Cordova late June as instructor and guide for New Traditions in Gansey Knitting, part two of the Fiber and Friends Gansey event for 2015.

For two days Bonne Marie taught skills workshops.


Following these sessions, Bonne led a small group of primarily local knitters in a two day workshop featuring the pattern launch of her creative gansey inspired piece, the Fisher Lassie, a top down feminine shaped cardigan. Like a puzzle, this seamless garment fits together with pieces connecting one to another by picking up and knitting top, down, and around.

This contemporary version of the classic design, modified for a woman’s silhouette, includes a unique version of the notorius gansey underarm gussets, with shaping that enables it to adapt to different body types. As each student in the workshop had an opportunity to try on the garment, you could see this adaptation first hand. Bonne Marie then advised each person as to how to further adapt and change specific areas for better conformity in length, which was very helpful in understanding fit and its relationship to design elements and garment construction. It was a great learning experience, as well a fun time together.


Knit in Jo Sharp DK wool, one of my favorite  garment yarns,  I chose to knit the cardigan for my fisher lassie daughter Nelly, who selected a lovely soft golden tone. After I finish Nate’s gansey, I will finish what I started during the workshop, and believe it will be perfect for her to wear on the docks or around town.

I was  touched by all the details and design elements incorporated into this piece. I am so glad for the workshop and the time with Bonne Marie. There are some interesting details that I found helpful to have her explain first hand and walk us through as we began to knit her vision into our own.


Bonne Marie also spent an evening consulting the group of gansey knitters from Beth’s class, looking over our individual plans and providing counsel and guidance on our traditional gansey projects.



In the midst of the weekend, I felt grateful for all Bonne Marie had contributed through her participation and involvement in the project. Her commitment and attention to precision in design was evident as we worked our way through the new pattern, continuing to fine tune the details. 

We are more than excited that Bonne Marie will be returning in 2016 for our summertime FisherFolk 2016 event, and the Fisher Lassie cardigan workshop will be offered again, as a contemporary component of the Cordova Gansey Project. She will also be teaching a "Hat Design & More" workshop which will cover hat construction and the designing of contemporary outdoor working headgear, as well as a fiber art photography course. Registration is almost up and running, so stay tuned. Hopefully my cardigan for Nelly will be ready for summertime show and tell as well.


This past October, one of the students in the workshop came by the shop to share her Fisher Lassie  progress. Though not quite finished at the time, she put it on and allowed me to take a few photos. Jane, a modern fisher lassie of sorts, is a salmon otolith reader at the Fish and Wildlife office. Her new cardigan fits  beautifully with the adjustments recommended by Bonne Marie.  I am encouraged when friends come by and show me their finished projects. They inspire and spur me on to continue arranging these types of events and projects.

What a wonderful sweater and what a story the Fisher Lassie reveals of Cordova life... the forest spruce trees, the fishing nets and the ropes that tie these friends together, the fisher lassies of today, who knit and share good times, and tell the long stories we love to hear...of boats in the harbor, fish in the nets, life in the Fish and Wildlife office and more, winter days around the fire nestled with knitting in hand, children growing and grown, adventures and days gone by, and the hopes and dreams of days to come.

Is this a long story, Margaret?

Why yes it is, sit down, join me, and listen for a spell...just a little longer...

...there's still more, and if you listen carefully, you will understand how it all fits together, just like the ins and outs and around the neck of the cardigan, it all connects and comes together until the lessons unfold and the tales have been told.


Chapter 11 

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I love long stories :-) And Fisher Lassie is perfect! Although joining in late, can’t wait to give it a try!


We are so excited you will be returning Cathy, and hope you will enjoy these new workshops. Bonne Marie is wonderful and we are happy she is back for another round. We look forward to seeing you again.


I loved the class I took with Bonne Marie in 2014 and am ecstatic that she’ll be teaching again this coming summer!! I look forward to knitting the Fisher Lassie and learning more fabulous strategies and techniques from her.


To my dear old friend, although time and miles have separated us, know you are still in my thoughts.
Happy New Year, Bev Jensen

Bev Jensen

Dear Eloise,
I have always loved this photograph as well, and felt Aunt Margaret to be a kindred spirit. So nice to hear from you. Thank you for your encouragements.


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