'Guernsey'

Contributed by Folk Museum Guernsey

A knitted 'Guernsey' jumper, originally worn by local fishermen. © Guernsey Folk Museum

Each local family had their own pattern, which was knitted on the upper part of the sleeves.The 'guernsey' was knitted on the island of the same name for fishermen and farmers. It was previously thought there was a pattern for each parish, but research has shown that each family had its own pattern on the upper part of the chest and the top of the arms. This may have been because the knitters wanted to show off their skills but there was also a more gruesome purpose. Should a drowned fisherman be washed ashore with his face decayed or eaten away, the pattern would help with the identification of the body. The 'guernsey' was knitted as part of a local medieval knitting industry which produced high quality clothing including stockings. Queen Elizabeth I wore them embroidered with silk, and Mary Queen of Scots wouldn't be seen dead in anything else - she insisted on a pair of guernsey stockings with which to go to her execution.

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