Folkestone Fisherman's Jumper

I love Ganseys. Love them, love them, love them..(and not to be confused with Guernseys, the fishing smock style jumper, or the island of Guernsey off the coast of the UK). 

The way they are made; with double thickness welts, which are replaceable, short sleeves to allow protective binding around the wrist which can be removed once wet, knit in the round so that seams don’t rub and the wind can’t find a crack to chill you, plus a gusset under the arms for ease of manoeuvring and so your jumper doesn’t lift at the waist and expose you to the elements. All of this and the heavenly stitch patterns. 

Its an urban myth perpetuated since the 1970’s that fishermen could be identified by their jumpers. Local towns had their own patterns, but with women ‘following the herring’ from Scotland round to Cornwall and intermarrying, plus the competition to knit the best gansey in the village, you will see many fishermen in vintage photos in very different patterned jumpers, all sailing on the same vessel. The Victorians loved to write down and record everything and not one parish record has ever said that a body washed up at sea had been identified by the sweater worn.

Sadly I discovered Folkestone doesn’t have its own pattern, though there was a very specific style here on the South East coast of England. The local RNLI at the turn of the 20th century wore dark blue fishing jumpers with bright red tasselled knitted caps, that look very like Breton, or Spanish fishing hats (pic below). Most in the fishing fleet wore polo neck jumpers in navy, or black that were very plain, and once on the Quayside added a dark coloured heavy pea coat and either a bowler hat or flat cap! There is a fantastic shot of hundreds of men in this garb in a small clip from the BFI called ‘Edwardian Folkestone’. In the ’50s, ’60’sand ’70’s one lady knitted all the sweaters for the fishermen in Folkestone. I’d love to find out more about her.

 I decided to design a Folkestone Fishermans jumper to honour the town I live in and the small fishing industry it still has. The photos on this page show my dreadful pictures from the local fishing history museum, which I will update, some happy customers; male, female and children in my handknit fishing jumper, plus the slipper socks and watch caps I also make. Do contact me if you would like me to knit you a little piece of history. My jumpers and hats are gender-neutral with a polo neck that can be rolled down to allow beards and are made in ethically sourced, hand washable (or machine on the wool programme) Aran weight wool. Contact me if you’d like one x