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From Sea to Mill

I'm on a bit of a roll at the moment with knitting patterns. This week I've just released my Sea to Mill Scarf. Inspired by Cornish Guernsey (Gansey) jumpers made for fishermen around the coast I've utilised a few stitch patterns to create this scarf.


In the 1700s and 1800s many Cornish women knitted their fishermen husbands jumpers and also to earn extra money by selling them to others. The jumpers were tight fitting to make sure there was no loose sleeve or side that would get caught in the machinery on the boats. The sleeves were shorter than what we would see as normal so that the sleeve didn't get wet. The jumpers were completely reversible with the same pattern front and back. The pattern added thickness to the jumper so these were predominantly across the body and chest and also meant the jumper lasted much longer because of its density.

The patterns used identify where in Cornwall they were knitted. Every fishing community would have their own designs using knit and purl stitches and cable. These patterns were handed down generation after generation, added to and adapted so a jumper could be not only identified to the fishing port but to a family too.

The jumpers were knitted using five needles. Knitted in the round from the chest onto the back on two needles before being joined. Knitters used aran weight (worsted) weight 100% wool for its natural oils and great protection from the cold and wet. They were not washed often as it was thought the dirt helped keep the jumpers waterproof and warmer. .

As far as the colour goes seafarers, whatever their role, always wore dark blue. The dye used was natural Indigo dye, the only blue dye available until the late 1800s.

Moving onto the late 1800's the hand knitting of these was an important industry for the women of the coastal villages. Popularity arose through the distinctive patterns and the wish of wanting something truly unique. But, as with a lot of things as machine knitting and the emergence of fabrics that were affordable to the masses by the First World War knitting to sell became increasingly difficult with the women not receiving what they should for their hard work. The jumpers died out until the 1970's when a lady called Mary Wright started researching with the older generations these jumpers and their stitches. She wrote an amazing book giving the charts and patterns. It is this book that has inspired me: here's a link to the book on Amazon.

This scarf uses a number of the traditional patterns I discovered and I used wool from Coldharbour Mill, just down the road from me in Uffculme so the name Sea to Mill seemed apt. I've used The Lizard Lattice stitch for the larger lozenged shape pattern, Polperro Musician for the vertical stripes and Background Seeding for the leaning stripe.


The paid pattern is available over on my Ravelry Store:

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/sea-to-mill-scarf