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Ganseys

The Moray Firth Gansey Project has officially come to an end, and has been a great success. The project focused on the tradition of hand knitted ganseys in the Moray Firth’s fishing communities as a way of preserving this important part of our culture and introducing the craft – and the area’s wider fishing heritage – to new audiences.  The project has it's own dedicated website www.gansey-mf.co.uk.

A 'gansey' is a distinctive, seamless, woollen pullover, traditionally worn by seamen and fishermen. It was designed to be practical, comfortable to wear for work, and provide some protection from the harsh conditions at sea. Many early fishing communities are thought to have had their “own” distinctive gansey patterns or pattern combinations. Wearers’ initials or the name of the boat were sometimes incorporated into a design, and if a man was lost at sea, this might have helped identify him.

The project set out to:
•find and record different gansey patterns that were used round the Moray Firth
•use ganseys to help people of all ages enjoy finding out more about their local fishing heritage
•help keep traditional gansey knitting skills alive; and
•look for ways to use these skills and patterns to help generate income for people in the area.

We are most grateful to the main project funders, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government and the European Community Rural Aberdeenshire, Highland and Moray LEADER 2007-13 programmes, who made this project possible. Additional events funding was provided by the Highland Council – Highland Culture Fund.

We also want to thank the many people who have so generously gifted nearly forty ganseys, books and other materials, and to those who have given their time, advice and support in so many ways.

While it is the official end of the funded project, it is just the beginning of a new journey for the travelling exhibition and the ganseys that were donated. The exhibition started it's UK tour at the Grace Darling Museum in Bamburgh, Northumberland and will be calling at many of the former herring fishing ports down the east coast of the country. We are also in the process of creating a national online archive which will provide a much needed resource for future research and gathering data in one location. A successful knitting co-operative called Highland Loop has also been set up to be wholly independent of the project, which is helping to generate income for locals, both on the knitting and design front.

Copies of the project booklet 'Fishing For Ganseys' is available from the Partnership office.  Donations of £4 plus postage and packing are requested to cover costs.  For postage and packing costs worldwide, and to order, click here.

It is really important that old examples of ganseys are not thrown away - it does not matter if they are well worn or patched! Recording the patterns and style allows us to build up a complete picture of ganseys around the Moray Firth and to show the development of patterns in a UK and North Sea context.  If you have any old ganseys (regardless of condition), patterns, knitting pins / sheaths, old pictures showing ganseys or gansey knitters or indeed any information or stories, please contact us.