Gladys Thompson’s book – Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans, first published in 1955 and revised in 1969 for the Dover edition, is still one of the best sources of information on this style of sweater. Other books focus on different areas of the genre, for example; Michael Pearson’s Traditional Knitting has the best collection of historical pictures and actual history of the garments and knitters themselves and Beth Brown-Reinsel’s Knitting Ganseys has the most accessible “how to” create the basic Gansey.
What I feel is that Patterns for Guernsey’s Jerseys and Aran’s offers something that the others do not – it is the feeling of being part of the history itself. Her writing style is a little more conversational than historical and the patterns are written in a very different style than today’s patterns. She reminds me of Elizabeth Zimmermann – she gives you the information and then tells you to play and create with what was given.
Her book also contains the only reference to a “Channel Islands” Guernsey:
“Messrs de Cartaret and le Patourel of Guernsey, Channel Islands have kindly allowed me to include their pattern, and gave me the following information: ‘The Guernsey is in an island traditional style. At one time there were different family, or occupational designs, such as fishermen and farmers. But these different styles are not usually made now, as most knitters make the standard style, as in ours, which was based on an old composite pattern, and left to us by someone years ago.’ This guernsey is simple in design, but has its own characteristics, showing decorative ribbing and side vents, with gussets at neck and under-arm, and set in sleeves the armholes cut, or with a knitted edge.”
The other books focus on the Guernsey as part of Great Britain’s heritage and very little on the Channel Islands contribution to the heritage. This opinion definitely reflects my personal bias! I was looking for information on Guernseys for my new project.
There are charts for the many knit and purl textural patterns and instructions on how to create the basic Guernseys or Arans. There are small histories to go with each locale and many pictures of original garments, with some close-up detail pictures. There are few historical pictures. This a reference book and stitch guide, and not really a history book. According to Ms. Thompson’s preface, when first written in 1955 there were no patterns in the book. They were added, along with the Channel Island Guernsey, in 1969 when Dover republished the book. My copy, found in a second-hand store, many years ago, is a 1971 reprint, and is identical to the Dover edition today.
If you like to play and need only the basics to build from, this is a great book, with small stories to entertain, and clear charts. instructions and pictures to work from.