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A project uniting island knitters with the unique heritage of the Scottish gansey is to focus on Eriskay and the Uists on Thursday 12 November.

Historically, fishermen would wear ganseys as part of everyday life and to protect them from the harsh elements at sea. Ganseys are known for their intricate patterns, which reflected knitting trends in different fishing villages.

In Eriskay the art has reached its peak, richly patterned in traditional and symbolic designs. The resulting knitwear is so sought-after that even Pope Francis was delighted to receive his own gansey in a pilgrimage documented by MacTV in 2015.

Now the unique pattern is to feature as part of a national project, Knitting the Herring, which is being run from the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther.

Knitted herring are later to feature in an exhibition called ‘shoal’, and needle enthusiasts are encouraged to download the pattern and take part.

On Thursday Matthew Topsfield from Uist Yarn Studio in Benbecula will be introducing an audience on Zoom to the Eriskay gansey, describing the garment’s 'anatomy’ and distinctive features.

Matt has created an Eriskay-inspired chart for the herring pattern and there’s an East Neuk herring template, together with the variation of the Eriskay inspired pattern at  

Organisers of the project said: “Knitting the Herring seeks to capture, preserve and highlight the unique knitting heritage of coastal fishing communities in Scotland.

“We’re doing this by creating a national Scottish collection of historical ganseys, creating a gansey-inspired knit-kit with Uist Wool and designer Di Gilpin, and hosting online events and knitting activities.

“To celebrate these patterns, we are creating a gansey Shoal exhibition for Knitting the Herring. We are asking people from all knitting backgrounds, whether you are starting out or an experienced knitter, to help create a community shoal.”

Thursday’s Zoom event will take place at 7pm and the details of the event and the link to book is via Eventbrite:

The photos show the Eriskay herring displayed at Grimsay Boat Haven, managed by Grimsay Community Association; Pope Francis taking delivery of his gansey from Marybell Macintyre from South Uist in Geansaidh a Phàpa (The Pope’s Eriskay Jumper) by MacTV and the first stages of the exhibition Shoal, test-knitted by Di Gilpin’s Knit Club.