Fisherknits: The Cordova Gansey Project

February 26, 2016 1 Comment

Do you love to knit? 

In Cordova, Alaska, a local yarn shop called The Net Loft (owned by Dotty Widmann) is calling for knitters in Alaska to join the Cordova Gansey Project. A "gansey" is a traditional hand-knit wool sweater worn by fishermen. The mission behind the project is to educate and promote the making and wearing of hand-knit wool gear and reintroduce "fishermen sweaters" to the active and present commercial fishing industry, especially the next generation youth who are transitioning into leadership and ownership roles. The Cordova Gansey Project will be a vehicle for stories to be shared of the past and present fisherfolk and the fishing towns within Alaska and beyond, and to honor the lifestyle behind our industry. Read below to learn more about how you can get involved! 

In June, an event called FisherFolk will be held in Cordova, which celebrates the connections and rich history of fishing and knitting. Registration is available for those interested. "Although it is right in the middle of fishing season, it is a great opportunity for those FIsherFolk who might have a knitter in the family who might like to join us," says Widmann. There will be workshops available on designing and customizing ganseys as well as other types of knitted fishing garments and gear.


What is a gansey?

A gansey (or guernsey) is the name given to the traditional hardwearing, hand-knitted woolen pullover worn by fishermen fishing for herring off the costs of Britain, particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The garments are supremely practical for the purpose – more flexible than a jacket, but robust enough to keep out wind and light spray.


What is the Cordova Gansey Project?

The hope and desire of the "Cordova Gansey Project" is to educate and promote the making and wearing of hand knit wool gear and to reintroduce "fishermen sweaters" to the active and present commercial fishing industry, especially the next generation youth who are transitioning into leadership and ownership, as well as for those whose outdoor lifestyle would benefit from wool handmade garments custom knit for them by loved ones.

We hope also through this project that our knitting would be a vehicle for stories to be shared of the past and present faces behind the fish and the fishing towns within the state and beyond, and that the "Cordova Gansey Project" would represent this collection of knitters who catch this same vision and through these stories help communicate and honor the lives and lifestyle behind the industry and  infrastructure of their respective fishing communities.


Who can participate in the project?

Any knitter.   Any where. If you are a fisher man or woman, and you aren’t a knitter, but have a loved one who loves to knit, have them get in touch with us and we will help them get started.


How do I participate in the project?

There are various ways to participate in the project. Contact us and we can get you started. There is a great DVD and book set that we have available as well as other references and workshops to attend.   We would like to hear of your progress and hope to document the resulting projects of those in the group in photos and written dialogue, including personal stories if desired.  


What is Net Loft Fiber & Friends: FisherFolk?

The FisherFolk Event is scheduled for June 24-July 3, 2016 and will be a symposium on the traditional connections between fishing and knitting, as well as a celebration of current fisherknitters and the committed hardworking contemporary commercial fishing fleet and supporting agencies and individuals.  We hope to show the first set of fisherknits from the project at the event. Register for the event:


Learn more:

1 Response

Lulynn Foster
Lulynn Foster

August 15, 2016

I am interested in the Gansey project. I want to knit my own Gansey. Can you please tell me how to get started. thank you!

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