Seaman’s Iron: casting on

I am going to knit a gansey for my husband.


What’s a gansey? It’s a woolen pullover, knit seamlessly from bottom up, with underarm gussets, a shoulder strap, and standing collar. That’s where the definite characteristics end. Usually the designs are simple knit/purl patterns, maybe with sparing use of twisted cables. Often they’re knit plain from the “welt” (the ribbing, to us Americans) up to the beginning of the underarm gusset, so the pattern is only over the chest. They’re knit of rugged 5-ply Guernsey wool, usually dyed deep navy blue.

Go ahead and giggle all you want about “seaman’s iron,” the affectionate name for these sweaters. I know I am.


So here’s my cast-on and first few rows of the welt. Mr. Tree is a rugged, ruddy Celt, but better grown than your average British fisherman, because the average chest for a gansey is about 38″, and his is 44″, not counting 2″ of ease. I could only manage a 7.125sts/in gauge, so with a little fiddle room, I am knitting 332 stitches around. Gak.


Wish me luck, and to my agent: I promise I am still writing, too!


2 thoughts on “Seaman’s Iron: casting on

  1. I started one for Peter, but unfortunately before I finished it, he put on weight – and it had his initials on the hem too, so I couldn’t really give it to someone else. That’s the only bug bare of knitting in the round!! If I’d known I could have put in a steek or so, but didn’t even think of it. Enjoy your gansey, and post pictures.

    • I considered putting initials on Shannon’s, but didn’t … and a good thing, because eight inches into it, I’m pretty sure this sweater is for me!

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