Olive Edis was a photographer at the turn of the 19th century, she had studios in London, Cromer and Sheringham where she photographed members of the aristocracy, monarchs, clergymen and the local fishermen.
George Blogg, was one of her subjects, a fisherman on the rough North Sea, earning a living in the ways his ancestors would have done for generations. Originally the fishermen wore jumpers usually hand knitted by female family members but over time they increasingly bought Ganseys from marine outfitters such as “Cosalt”.
Taking much pride in their craft, the Gansey knitters would have taken inspiration from jumpers being worn for Sunday Best, from within their own communities but also from further afield along the North Sea coast – ranging from Scotland, all the way down to Cornwall. Each knitter created a unique pattern that varied person to person.
Of course, this craft was about much more than style. It was a labour of love, these women were integral to the fishing industry – creating jumpers that were knitted in a very tight tension in order to make them both water and wind proof, originating from a time before modern manufacturing processes. They featured very tight neck and sleeve openings so that each jumper would protect the wearer from the harsh elements.
Technically intricate, using tools whittled by the fishermen themselves, the craft was a skill that was passed down from generation to generation, community to community, and unique to the North Sea coast.
The jumpers were crafted in such a way that the knitting was cast off at the top of the neck and at the cuffs. This allowed these areas of high wear to be “pulled back” and re-knitted if need be. Sometimes, however, the identical wool was not to hand, so the repair had a mismatched colour, a thicker wool or both. I believe this “imperfection” adds to the character of the jumpers which evolved with their owners, and has inspired the whole of this collection and in particular Charl’s oversized Gansey jumper “Cutty”, which has been trimmed at the neck and cuffs in contrasting wool in a love letter to this lost craft.
Many thanks to Martin Warren for giving me some help with the Gansey information in this post and more generally throughout the collection. For further reading on this fascinating subject please visit his website: http://www.northfolk.org.uk/ganseys/ .
For more information on Olive Edis, please visit the Cromer Museum website following this link: https://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/cromer-museum or visit their new permanent exhibition on Olive Edis called “Fishermen and Kings”.