Knitted by the womenfolk for their sea faring husbands, sons and fathers, their ingenious formula has led to the global reputation of the Guernsey sweater. English worsted wool yarn–oiled wool (greasy wool), a natural protection against all winds and weathers–is tightly spun and close knitted to provide the best barrier, and to repel sea spray. It traditionally comes in either natural fleece colour or in navy blue–indigo being the only dye that would not strip the wool of its natural oils.
A sweater would often last a lifetime to be passed down the generations, and children were to ‘grow into’ theirs. From the success of this coarse working garment, finer, smarter versions were also made ‘for best’. Now a fashion classic and wardrobe staple for outdoor living, its quality, classic lines, simple colouring of navy blue or off-white, and symbolic design details around the top of the sleeve are immediately recognisable.
There are many variations, often distinguishing a particular family or area, but the basic symbolic design remains.
* The garter stitch panels at the hems of the body and sleeves are in garter stitched toped with a short rib, and the body seams are split to the depth of the garter stitch.
* The rib at the top of the sleeve represents a ships rope ladder.
* The raised shoulder seam represents a sailing rope.
* The garter stitch panel on the body represents the waves breaking on the shoreline.