The History of the Guernsey Jumper

Picture of young girl in Guernsey Woollens Traditional Sweater

Our Guernsey Jumpers are derived from the traditional sweaters developed in Guernsey in the 17th century. The original sweater styles, with a “diamond” insert at the underarm for ease of movement , were worn primarily by Guernsey’s fisherman, the jumper later became popular throughout coastal Britain where each seafarer wore a “Gansey”.

Channel Islanders handknitted distinctive stitch patterns into the jumper including ribbing at the top of the sleeve, to mirror a sailing ships rope ladder; a garter stitch panel depicting breaking waves and stitching on the sweater shoulders representing pebbles, stones and sand.

"Guernsey Jumpers also found favour with Royalty; Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots both owned Guernsey knitwear"
Many families had their own variation of the patterns in their knitwear that became a means of recognition when unfortunate sailors were lost at sea.

International recognition of Guernsey Sweaters came in the 17th century when Sir Walter Raleigh was Governor of Jersey and forged trade links with Newfoundland. Guernsey Jumpers also found favour with Royalty; Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots both owned Guernsey knitwear. Mary Queen of Scots, is said to have worn a pair of Guernsey stockings at her execution. The Guernsey Jumper had become well known by the 19th century.Nelson recommended it to the Admiralty as a valuable article of Naval clothing and, in 1857, the soldiers of the garrison in Halifax, Nova Scotia were issued with Guernsey sweaters as part of their winter equipment.

Four hundred years later the Guernsey Jumper is still going strong.

Guernsey Woollens are continuing to manufacture jumpers in the Channel Islands using both traditional methods and modern equipment. The result is a sweater that is distinctive, warm and comfortable, and will stand the test of time.

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