London Town, The Knitter magazine, issue 82
London Town gansey is my latest pattern. The Knitter magazine published the pattern for London Town in issue 82. Today I’m writing about the inspiration behind the London Town gansey and why I refer to it as an “urban gansey”.
What does it mean?
I find the use of symbolism in textiles from different cultures fascinating. If it is possible to create a motif using a textile technique, then someone somewhere will have done so.
Motifs may communicate beliefs. For example, solar discs are associated with Sun worship in Central Asia. Elephants represent the god Ganesh in India. The tree of life, common to many cultures, represents the cycle of birth, maturity, death and rebirth.
Motifs can express fear or ward off evil. In many Central Asian cultures embroidery around the edges and openings of a garment is protective. The addition of shiny objects, such as coins, metal discs or mirrors reflects or averts the evil eye.
Motifs can also represent an offering or express hope. Pomegranates, due to their abundance of seeds, are a fertility symbol.
Some motifs, such as two-headed birds of prey, symbolise power and nobility. Other motifs represent different tribes.
Some motifs, such as animals, birds and flowers, may have always been simply representational or have lost their original meaning over time.
Much has been written about symbolism in traditional knitted garments, such as Fisherman’s ganseys, Aran sweaters or Fair Isle knitting. Mr BK loves to tell me how fishermen drowned at sea could be identified from their gansey as each family had their own design. And whilst this is a reassuring idea, it is also a common myth.
The truth is that most knitwear developed in response to commercial opportunities and pressures. It’s far less “traditional” than we would like. That said, the fact that these myths endure does show the power of symbolism, even in the 21st century.
If you want to know more about the evolution of these styles of knitwear, read ‘Aran Knitting’ and ‘Fair Isle Knitting’ by Alice Starmore or ‘A History of Hand Knitting’ by Richard Rutt.
Developing an urban symbolism
When I was designing the London Town gansey I wondered what symbols might we use in the 21st century? What everyday things might we represent? Since most of us live in urban environments, I wanted this design to be inspired by things that are thought of as urban. Hence this was to be an urban gansey.
When I travel, I take many photos. Some may be impressive buildings such as The Gherkin in London. Look at the way the different colours and size of diamond windows create a pattern. It is very modern and very striking!
I also take photos of more everyday items, such as ironwork. When I working on this gansey, I had the next photo in mind. I thought it was of a manhole cover, but it’s actually part of a Victorian pump called David & Sampson at Blist’s Hill Victorian Village, near Ironbridge in Shropshire. Although Shropshire is very rural, the image, out of context, looks urban. Still, the Industrial Revolution, which led to vast urbanisation, is said to have started in Ironbridge. So this is an apt source of inspiration.
As a midlander, I love bricks. To me, red brick buildings are warm and friendly. I could write a blog post just about the different types of bricks and patterns of brickwork! The photo below shows a pattern called ‘stretcher bond’. This is, I think, the pattern most people associate with brickwork.
London Town – pattern details
So the stitch patterns were inspired by windows, ironwork and brickwork, as well as a cable to represent a river whose meanders have been fixed by urban planning.
London Town is knitted using the traditional construction for a fisherman’s gansey. You knit it in one piece worked in the round, from the rib up to the underarm gussets. At this point, you divide the stitches for the front and back yokes and work them separately in rows. You join the front and back shoulders using shoulder saddles. You pick up sleeve stitches from the armholes and knit the sleeves top-down in the round. Finally, you pick up stitches around the neck and knit the neck rib.
The yarn and tension used for London Town both differ from a traditional gansey. Traditional gainsays are knitted at a tight tension to create a dense, weatherproof garment. The tension used for London Town is typical of modern knitwear and will make this gansey more comfortable to wear in an urban environment.
I chose Pure Wool DK from Rowan Yarns rather than a traditional finer gansey yarn, so the gansey will be faster to knit. Pure Wool is a lovely yarn to use and easily available.
The pattern is available in six sizes: 91.5, 96.5, 101.5, 106.5, 112 and 122 cm chest (36, 38, 40, 42, 44 and 48 inch chest) with between 9–11 cm positive ease.