Gansey Repairs, A Trip to Blacker Yarns and Cornwoolly

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Over the course of time, I have been having more and more customers contact me regarding repair of their old ganseys. This wasn't something I'd considered before although we all know ganseys are practically bomb proof and last forever. But more and more, folk rung with tales of their beloved sweater which was up to 20 years old (!!) that now had holes or worn cuffs etc and could I repair it. Of course they all said they could buy a new one but this was their absolute favourite; an old friend....

To date I have had three ganseys into the repair shop. The first, from Bristol- an Ann Stewart Campbeltown Gansey which was 10 years old. Could I repair the cuffs and collar? I told him there would probably be some fade between old and new yarn and it may not be perfect but how wrong I was! The Frangipani Dark Navy was practially invisible after the mend apart and apart from the slight sheen of the original body due to wear, it was hard to notice the difference.

Campbell town pattern


The second gansey was just a laundry job. This one was 20 years old and pristine apart from a few stains. The original knitter had long since passed away and it's owner was frightened to wash it. A Polperro Seeds and Bars design in grey (probably Poppleton's wool if that's the age of the gansey) with the owners initial knit into the arm gusset on one side and the knitter's initials in the gusset in the opposite side. Beautful work by and expert pair of needles. I gave a bucket of hand hot water a good squirt of Soak and immersed the gansey for half an hour- no agitation! Afterwards, I gently squeezed the excess water and put it in my machine on a woollen spin cycle. Finally, I dried it flat over the course of a few days and then returned to it's owner, fresh as a daisy and looking as if it had been knit only yesterday.

chest pattern

My most recent gansey came to me from St Austell. When is a gansey not a gansey? Well this had been knit in wool unknown- a natural breed colour and probably a heavy weight DK/aran yarn. My husband queried whether it was an actual gansey. No arm gusset, wrong wool etc but it still had the well known gansey motifs across the chest- tree of life, cables, seed stitch and a very interesting twisted rib welt detail. This was in a very poor state with the collar, cuffs and lower welt all but disintergrated plus there was a massive darn under one arm which was very crudely executed plus many small holes. However, I love a challenge, especially matching that wool. I said I could repair it but had no guarantees about perfecting a yarn match. The owner was delighted with whatever I could manage as he loved this sweater practically as much as his wife and in fact, rang me several times for progress as he was bereft without it!

 It gave me the perfect opportunity to catch up with Sue Blacker at Blacker Yarns. There's a girl who knows her sheep breeds! We go back a long way, Sue and I- probably about 10 years. I have designed children's wear for Blacker Swan and also contributed to her delicious book, Pure Wool. We had a lovely catch up and Sue literally got all the natural breed yarns out and we debated the best match for the sweater repair. Whenever the colour matched, the yarn type was wrong and whenever the yarn type was perfect, the colour was wrong! It was thought that the Shetland 4 ply in Mid Grey and Fawn would work the best if I knit both strands together. Couldn't have done it without you Sue, so a big thank you.

Sue Web

Got a chance to say hello to illustrator, Katie Green, their newest member of staff too and she was wearing a very gorgeous fair isle sweater designed by herself and using Blacker yarn of course!

Katie Green

Back home, I charted the rib pattern successfully and played with Sue's yarn plus a few balls of my own stash. I then reknit the collar and cuffs and then came to the lower welt. I could have knit the welt in the round, cut the old one off and grafted the two together but you know what?-  Kitchener stitch and I, are not great bedfellows, so I decided to cut off the welt, pick up the stitches and knit downwards. It worked well and I was happy. The shades were not perfect but good enough and our man knew the deal about this so I wasn't too worried.




I darned the holes and then came to the massive patch under the arm. It had been crudely darned and to be honest there wasn't much of any of the old fabric left at all here so I decided to use swiss darning to embroider over the top to make things more attractive and substantial. It worked out quite well I think but it's never an exact science. Our man was delighted to have his gansey back and it did give me a warm fuzzy feeling inside to reunite them both. (Photos show cuffs after reknit and hole under arm before repair)

Finally, Cornwall had a brand new yarny fair called Cornwoolly and I was dlighted to take The Cornish Gansey Company on the road and take part. It was held at Heartlands near Redruth and was extremely busy from start to finish despite the appalling weather and relentless rain. It was so successful that Sue Stewart of Pipps & Co (a fabulous local shop supplying spinners, weavers, felters, dyers, knitters and crocheters) who organised it all is hoping to run more and perhaps expand it. All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed the event and meeting lots of lovely fellow crafters and will certainly be on board for more.


Happy knitting

Tina B xxx