The Leeds-Liverpool Gansey

So this is my first post. And it’s not about crochet. This’ll be the ‘bit beyond’, then.

The 18th April is World Heritage Day and the theme this year is “The Cultural Heritage of Water”. Smashing. In amongst the event-packed bank-holiday weekend planned here at Saltaire, there will be plenty of opportunities to learn more about the canals that were the lifeblood of the village, bringing fuel and alpaca bales to the mill.

An item of clothing no well-dressed canalman would be without was a jumper known as a gansey. Knitted from an oiled woollen yarn, they were warm as well as shower-proof. They were decorated with a panel specific to a canal, similar to a seaman’s guernsey where patterns were unique to an area or even to a family, and for a rather gruesome reason. Should someone drown and not be found in a recognisable state, the pattern at least gave a clue where its wearer was from.

A 1930s Leeds-Liverpool Gansey

This pattern for the Leeds-Liverpool gansey is kindly provided by Mike Clarke and is based on an original (above) now in the National Waterways Museum in Gloucester. It is something I would love to have a crack at, but I’ve seen the light and now only crochet. If you have a go do let me know how you get on, I’m sure Mike would be interested too.

Mike will be giving a talk on World Heritage and Canals at the launch of the Saltaire International World Heritage Celebrations on Friday 15th April at 6.30pm in the Old Salt School Building opposite Victoria Hall. Over the bank-holiday weekend there will also be knitters in Robert’s Park doing exciting things with alpaca and angora yarn…


A coalboat trapped in ice at Five Rise Locks. The boatmen are wearing ganseys.

8 thoughts on “The Leeds-Liverpool Gansey

  1. Hi – I’m excited to find another Saltaire blog. I look forward to learning lots – I already learned from you about the pattern on fishermen’s sweaters – I didn’t know that, how interesting. Best wishes with your blog. I shall keep visiting.

  2. Thanks so much for the pattern. I’m now knitting my first gansey and love it. I was looking for something to make for my hubby and this will be perfect.

    Sue in the USA

  3. Hi, I’m just knitting this gansey and have found three mistakes in the pattern up to now and I am only half way up the front. If anyone is knitting this i can list the mistakes for the ones I find. It’s such a shame to have such a good pattern printed incorrectly

  4. Thanks for highlighting potential problems there Chris – might be worth getting in touch with the original host of this pattern, Mike Clarke, on the link above and let him know and and changes can be made. In the meantime by all means feel free to post a list of corrections here.

  5. The way Gansey patterns travelled is fascinating. The idea that the pattern on a drowned man’s Gansey would identify his home port is debatable but its convolutions are only one example of the yarns attached to these fabulous pieces of social history. Please have a look at Propagansey on f/b – or come to Wonderwool, at the showground in Builth Wells on 25/26th April & find the stall!

      1. Could well have – I’ve been at the last few British Wool W/ends at the Yorks. Show ground. BWW is going to be outside York this year, at Murton Sale Yards (Google for dates).

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