Records of knitted goods bought from the Channel Islands, off the west coast of France, date back to Elizabethan times. Mary, Queen of Scots is said to have worn a pair of white Guernsey stockings for her execution. The cottage industry for making woollen stockings and waistcoats on Guernsey and Jersey thrived throughout most of the 17th and 18th centuries. The goods were exported to England, France and even further afield, and were valued for their high quality and finish.

Revolution in France and wars in England disrupted this trade and the Channel Islands knitting industry began to decline in the 19th century. However, the islanders continued to knit clothing for themselves.

The fisherman’s ‘jersey’ or ‘guernsey’ is probably named after the fabric from which it was made. These square-shaped garments, made out of thick wool, were often knitted in the round on sets of four or five needles. Fishermen’s jumpers became popular as leisure wear in the 1880s and a fashionable version was even worn by women.

Chunky, dark-coloured woollen jumpers were a staple of fishermen’s gear all over the British Isles. Characteristics of jerseys from the Channel Islands are a decorative knotted edge, created by the knotted cast-on stitch, and a slit on either side of the welt at the bottom to give greater freedom of movement. The sides of these slits are often knitted in garter stitch. The body of the jumper is usually of plain stocking stitch.

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