"New England is quite as large a lump of earth as my heart can really take in." - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Guernsey Sweater or Jumper

The sweater above came from a Herm native, another of the Channel Islands.
The Guernsey sweater or jumper is made on the Channel Island of Guernsey,  where they have been knitting this sweater for over 400 years.   It is virtually indestructible, rough, densely woven of its famous water resistant oiled wool, and hand finished.

Features include a very tight weave (five ply yarn), distinctive shoulder stitching, and side vents.  It is a long sweater.  The length combined with the densely woven wool is formidable against the cold winds off the ocean.  And there is no front or back designation, to even out the wear and tear. 

The details are specific and symbolic.  Quoting www.theislandwiki.org: a rib at the top of the sleeve represents a sailing ship’s rope ladder; a raised shoulder seam represents a rope; and the garter stitch panel represents waves breaking on the shore. 

It was Lord Admiral Nelson who suggested that the Guernsey be worn by the Royal Navy, and ordered them to be dyed Navy Blue from their original Natural.

This is a unisex item.  Back in the 80's one Maine coast non-profit director was regularly seen in one of his many Guernsey sweaters with khaki shorts on those chilly summer mornings on the Maine coast.

A recent Guernsey purchase was made at Royal Male in Newport, Rhode Island.
One can also order a Guernsey directly here:

The sweaters had recently been shipped to Royal Male in a potato sack, always a good sign.

You know that you are getting an authentic product when it arrives this way. Given the extremely dense knit of the Guernseys, and the proximity between where the sweaters were made and local farms, one should not be too surprised that a bag that could handle the weight of potatoes would be employed.

They last seemingly forever.  This one is over twenty five years old.  Etienne wears his father's of thirty years ago.
Discussing the fit: The British wear them a bit tighter while Americans prefer a more loose fit.

This Guernsey (in the picture above) shortly after purchase, served impeccably in the rough seas of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the rough streets of New York City.