Monday, 12 May 2014

A Shoal Of Ganseys

Well, this weekend was brilliant. We went off up to the huge skies and heavy downpours of North Norfolk and I went to the Shoal of Ganseys exhibition at the Sheringham Mo museum. I wasn't sure what to expect as I'd never been to the museum before but I had a brilliant time. For a start, there was no one else in the museum at all! I'm not usually so antisocial that I only enjoy things when there's no one else there, but it did mean I could have a really leisurely browse and take all the (people-free) photos I wanted, without feeling rushed!

The main part of the museum, the ground floor gallery, is home to huge lifeboats - oh, and knitted bunting to honour the gansey exhibits:

The operations manager, Philip, told me about the history of the building and talked me through how they came by the exhibition: partly lent by the Moray Firth Gansey Project, then supplemented with their own local exhibits and patterns. The Moray Firth project looks excellent and you can find out about it here: .

In each huge lifeboat, jumpers are displayed from Scotland, Norfolk and the North of England. The majority of them are jumpers which are worn and holey, which adds to their charm. Then, upstairs, there's a tech point with links to the Moray Firth project and - gasp of excitement - a sample box with patterns from all around Britain knitted up for reference. I thought of Louise of @CaithnessCraftCollective as there was a Caithness sample, as well as this local one:


There's plenty about the history of the gansey, and the information boards go well beyond the basics. There was a really heathy and welcome focus on women's contributions to not only the knitting itself, but the sea-faring life of coastal towns, as well as photos of the 'herring girls' who knitted some of the jumpers, without patterns. I particularly liked the idea of the 'knitting sheath' - a kind of implement to make your knitting portable! It hooked to your belt and had a hole for the needles to sit in. I'm sure there'd be a market for these today! The bulk of the jumper could be pinned to your own belt so that it didn't hang, heavy, on the needles as you sat on the sea wall, or walked around the town:

There's a case of local patterns, too, as well as plenty of description of the different designs and what they symbolised: rib bars to suggest marriage and children; lightening and hail stones; diamonds.

I would heartily encourage anyone to go and see this: it's a fascinating, thought provoking exhibit with lots to see. It's on til the 10th September and you can find out more about it here:


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