many stitches...so much love November 02 2018, 0 Comments

After a marathon of business bookkeeping for WAY too long for one who best operates on the right side of the brain, I finally have some time open for creative pursuits.  What felt like a hovering dark black cloud that would never leave,  I pushed hard for completion of the necessary work. The carrot leading me on was the thought that I would be able to get back to my creative self AFTER running the course and hurdling this major bookkeeping obstacle. The long distance “run” without a breather does, however, does take its toll on me, and as the days turned into weeks, I found myself straining for survival in the full-on left brain mode, attempting to keep my attention on numbers and responsibilities. Needless to say I survived, and can finally get some much needed right brain relief. 

First off, my reward for this diligence is the chance to knit again. The knitting that is close at hand as of today is my next gansey, or to be precise, ganseyS as in two at once. I am finally getting started on the next in line ganseys for son Matthew and daughter Nelly. My hope is to use two 60 inch needles and knit them both literally side by side…brother and sister ganseys.  Yarn is wound and swatching has started.

This past summer at FisherFolk, even though I was still immersed in finishing Gansey 2 for son in law Michael, I could already feel the ganseys of the future stirring inside, and glad now to be fulfilling that calling.  My gansey enthusiasm was spurned with the pairing of Stella Ruhe and her Dutch Ganseys exhibit here from the Netherlands, coupled with the presence once again in Cordova of Beth Reinsel Brown, here to teach workshops and to celebrate the release of her new edition of  the ultimate guide in leading one in gansey construction, Knitting Ganseys.

Beth's new hardback edition from Interweave Press, includes her thoughtful contribution, a gansey knit in honor of our Cordova Gansey Project. Inspired by the watercolor motif that represents our project, the garment is knit in the Cordova colorway produced for us in the UK by Frangipani yarns dyed to match a NASA aerial view of the Copper River Delta where the glacial siltwater meets the ocean, prime fishing grounds for our local Copper River salmon fishing fleet.

A heartfelt thanks to Beth for the gift of the actual handknit Cordova sweater complete with my initials and our Cordova fish motif, and for inclusion of this design in her revised text.  Knowing what it takes to knit a gansey, I can truly appreciate the workmanship, both in the designing and in the knitting. It is beyond words actually to have this sweater that began as a painting in my head and now a physical article of clothing, especially because of all that it represents, in terms of my family history, my connection to this community, and to the fisher lads, lassies, and knitters of the past.

The other source of inspiration was the presence, writing, and storytelling of author Stella Ruhe. Having Stella in Cordova for our Fiber & Friends FisherFolk gathering was both an honor and a privilege.  Stella is a delight, and her enthusiasm is contagious. It is obvious her working with ganseys over the years is a true passion and labor of love.

Stella and her publisher, Els, along with Cordova local volunteers Amber and Cece, worked with our museum curator Paula to construct a striking display of fifty adult and children’s ganseys. Stella conducted tours of the exhibit for FisherFolk attendees, as well as for our local residents. Els was great company and another good source of gansey information in regard to fIshing, fishermen, and the fisherknits in Dutch history.

When I toured the exhibit myself, I stood in awe of the collection, and found myself wanting each and everyone of them. There is just this special something about that indigo blue and the shadowed textural mix of knits and purls that create these clean and simple designs, functional, yet with an air of sophistication despite their role as work gear for a fishing worksforce.

The pictures hardly do them justice. There is nothing like having them right there close at hand to see and touch and soak in, especially for a knitter, although non knitters appreciated them as well, and would come to the shop asking if there was someone around that could knit them one. fisher-sons who had stumbled into the exhibit were asking fisher-moms to knit them for them, and thus the Cordova Gansey Project gained new participants, gansey by gansey, due to the first hand experience of seeing such a collection as this, in the same way the Moray Firth Gansey Project enthused new gansey knitters when it had been here two years ago. It's contagious, and once you get over the reality of the commitment that it takes to engage, it's a process some of us have chosen to repeat.

Every gansey tells a story and Stella surely has them to tell.   This collection of sweaters is an inspiration for those seeking motifs as well as construction ideas and variations, and just seeing them in person and hearing Stella tell her stories is a memory I hold onto as I begin to swatch for ganseys 3 and 4. 

Stella Ruhe is the author of Dutch Ganseys, More Dutch Ganseys, and a children’s Dutch Gansey book available in the Netherlands, and hopefully soon to be translated into English.

If you are unfamiliar with Stella's books, Dutch Ganseys is now out of print, but autographed copies of More Traditional Dutch Ganseys are available on our website. Each gansey is based on a photograph that Stella researched and for each one, she created the chart to reproduce the original gansey. 

Beth and Stella’s works go hand in hand. Beth helps you understand the structure and construction, and Stella helps you superimpose and  develop your design, as well as stimulate ideas for creating your own motifs as did those who integrated motifs that related to their lives long ago.  I think this is what I find so appealing, developing and incorporating one’s own original motifs,as well as those used historically,  into the basic framework. 

Beth and Stella were our instructors for the "Gansey Track" which led students through a process that familiarized them with gansey structure and mentored the gansey design process.  I look forward to seeing the fruit from the students of these workshops as time passes. 

As I embark on this next gansey journey, this time with a heavier gauge yarn, an old shop favorite and the first yarn I carried 33 years ago, (what we now are calling Alaska Fisherman's Yarn, see note at end),  I am grateful for the lessons and inspiration I have gathered from both Beth and Stella, and appreciate both of their book contributions that will guide and mentor me as I continue once again on the gansey path, where the words "all you knit is love" come to life as I will be knitting away.

 I am attempting something different this time, which may or may not work, but I am going to attempt it anyway.  It may be too awkward, but I won’t know unless I try. I am just working on my swatch now, but soon will start the process of knitting both ganseys on the two lengthy needles.  In some ways it feels like a bit of a humorous idea and at least should be good for a smile or two.

Both the gansey books by Stella and Beth for purchase on our website are autographed.  Beth’s includes a bookmark with a favorite motif, quote and wildflower.  We also made a notecard of her quote and wildflower as part of our FisherFolk Words & Wildflowers Notecard Collection, also available online, as well as letterpress and woodcut gansey notecards and prints featuring our Cordova Gansey, which has come to represent a present desire to honor our collective knitting heritage and create a garment that is original yet connects us to one another, wherever we are and whatever we do, through the basic structural foundation of the garment, filled with the love  and care we have for those we choose to knit for.

I love writing letters to friends, and these cards make thoughtful backdrops for letters to faraway and especially knitterly friends. I also collect cards and sometimes frame them. The quotes make a nice collection framed together. We are working on making them all available online. This is the quote and flowers from the Words & Wildflower Beth Reinsel Brown version.  A timely quote for life and living.

Lupine is such a favorite flower for me as well, and though summer has passed, i love thinking about them and painting them. They are one of my favorite things about summertime.

There were other little details we provided for our gansey participants, including a set of FisherFolk markers created for us by Katrinkles that we will be offering soon online as well.  They are nice reminders of the wonderful connections between fishing and knitting and the great gansey legacy. Watch for them next month as I have to spend some time packaging and preparing them for the website.

As I reflect on FisherFolk and the ganseys  which  the program was built around, I must surely mention what a wonderful thing it was to see all the completed and almost completed ganseys and Fisher Lassie (Chic Knits pattern by Bonne Marie Burns)  garments up on stage and around town during our event, as well as in photos sent for us to share for those who were unable to attend...many many hours and many many stitches represented in those hand knit articles. 

It is quite an accomplishment, and as I read in an Instagram post from one of the projects participants, she found the experience to be her “knitting thesis”. We hope you will be inspired  to take the leap as well.  We are here with yarn and counsel, whenever you are ready.  From start to finish it is a journey, and I have definitely taken a big breath upon completion of each of the two I have made so far. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I try to remember that these were originally knit by young women often with no more than ground down bicycle spokes for needles. It helps me keep to things in perspective, remembering at all times that most importantly it provides me the opportunity to create something both functional and meaningful. 

many stitches...so much love

Here ends PART 1 of this post.  I will share with you in the next post, PART 2, about my gansey 2 delivery, a special occasion that I have quietly savored over these last few months.  Until then…

Happy Making!

Note:

Beth Brown Reinsel is planning a  Knitting Ganseys Knitalong on Ravelry in November. We will be offering a special for those participating in her knitalong and whomever would like to be associated with the Cordova Gansey Project. Anyone is welcome to join.  We ask that you incorporate our Cordova fish motif into your garment somewhere.  We have a complimentary gansey kit for those interested in designing their own, as well as a label to insert in their gansey upon completion.  Register with Beth and she will provide more complete details.  Knitalongs are a great way to encourage you to follow through to completion, and in terms of ganseys, Beth is a great mentor. Register to receive her newsletter for more information.

 

****Alaska Fisherman Yarn - for those interested in this yarn, please contact us. We have a certain number of skeins in a natural moorit and a limited number of hand dyed skeins which we can share with you colors when you contact us. We are working on having small lots dyed here in Cordova in Cordova inspired colorways. The Mid Colorway is a natural undyed heather brown. YARN LINK