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From Shoulder Strap to Sleeve on a Traditional Gansey

For Ginny’s Yarn Along and Keep Calm Craft On, I thought I would give an update on my year-long gansey knitting project.

The first ganseys, traditionally fishermen sweaters, had several distinctive features. One of these features included a shoulder strap which carried one of the motifs, from the front of the sweater across the width of the shoulders and down the length of the sleeves. In my last gansey post, I gave you some hints for knitting the shoulder strap. I had decided to use the central motif of a 5 stranded braid across the shoulder and down the sleeve. Another trademark of a gansey was the use of a gusset under the arm which allowed for greater movement.

Once I had the shoulder strap knit, it was time to do my calculations for knitting the sleeve. Using Beth Brown-Reinsel’s book, Knitting Ganseys, a little easy math, and my sketch book, I drew out my plan for knitting the sleeves.

  1. Knitting a Gansey SleeveCalculate how many stitches to pick up at the armhole edge: (armhole depth x 2) x stitch gauge=number of stitches to pick up
  2. Calculate the rate of pick-up: number of rows in the armhole/number of stitches to be picked up
  3. Account for the shoulder strap stitches: total number of sleeve stitches-number of shoulder strap stitches=total number of stitches to pick up from both sides of the shoulder strap.
  4. Calculate sleeve shaping:
    1. first determine the circumference of the cuff: total body stitches x 20%=cuff circumference
    2. factor sleeve ease: ease + circumference = lower sleeve circumference
    3. determine rate of decrease: number of sleeve stitches – lower sleeve circumference = number of stitches to decrease
    4. determine the length of the sleeve minus the cuff (distance you will decrease): sleeve length x round or row gauge
    5. determine rate of decrease: number of rounds in which to decrease / number of stitches to decrease = number of rounds or rows to work the decrease stitches

Phew! That was a lot of math and took focused time to figure it all out. Beth Brown-Reinsel recommends graphing your sleeve before starting to knit. After all that math, I just did not have it in me to graph every sleeve stitch. I simply drew a sketch with lots of notes written so as to remember what I had done.


Gansey Sweater
Motif on shoulder strap is carried down the sleeve.


Gansey Sweater
While knitting the shoulder strap, you are picking up stitches from the front and back of the sweater in what is called a “perpendicular join”.


Last night, after casting off my first sleeve I realized that I had left out another important feature of the gansey sleeve. I have not carried the definition ridge from the body of the sweater over onto the sleeve! In my diligence to get the sleeve knit, I forgot to add the garter stitch ridge. I have decided to ignore that feature, instead of ripping out and redoing the lower sleeve. I feel I have reached another great milestone in my knitting knowledge as well as towards finishing this sweater!


Gansey Sweater
I forgot the definition ridge!


Gansey Sweater
I love the 5 strand cable that is carried over from the central motif to the sleeve.



Follow my gansey project start to finish:

Irish Fishermen, Ganseys, and Shepherd

Gansey Progress

Knitting a Gansey

Demystifying Picking Up Stitches in Your Knitting

Hints for Knitting Gansey Shoulder Joins



9 Responses

  1. Mary Piontek

    Absolutely gorgeous sweater! Bravo!

  2. Whooooaa, this looks fantastic. 🙂 What beautiful cables, and a seriously ambitious project.

  3. zauberflink

    Wow, this is so impressive to me! Such a complex undertaking is your wonderful knitting.
    I’m still struggling with a simple baby pants with bobbles 😉
    But in a while I might come back here and knit a sweater for myself!

  4. Sylvia Chesson

    Oh My Word Kim! Chuck better wear this forever! What a fabulous sweater…what a looong knitting project!

    • Kim Goodling

      and if he does not wear it…..Luke will enjoy it! 🙂 and yes…a very long project, but I have taken breaks along the way. Anytime I begin getting bogged down, I leave if for awhile.

  5. Gemma

    Wow, that is a fantastic jumper! I’m off to go and research gansey knitting, I’m curious 🙂

  6. Carolyn Goodling

    I’m impressed.

    • Emily Abroad

      Wow. If *Granny* says she is impressed with your knitting, you know you have really achieved something. 😉

  7. thecrazysheeplady