Dutch Traditional Ganseys 2 or Visserstruien 2

At the the end of August, Visserstruien 2 (Dutch Traditional Ganseys 2) by Stella Ruhe was published. The first volume was published in September 2013 and got quite some attention, both in the Netherlands and abroad. One of Stella Ruhe’s findings in volume 1 is that many people in Dutch fisher communities had forgotten that the people there even used to wear ganseys at all. Partly because knitting, at the time, was a field dominated by women, and therefore deemed not important and partly because ganseys were work clothing, so again beneath attention of historians or conservation. Due to Stella Ruhe’s first book, many more people started to do research in their personal family archives; this more sweaters were uncovered and the findings are presented in this new book.As in book 1; it combines old photos of fishermen sweaters with photos of re-knitted sweaters.

Volume 2 follows the same concept as its predecessor: a part of the book consist of historical background and a look into the lives of fishermen and their families, followed by a chapter on knitting, and finally chapters about the actual sweaters, divided by region. There are differences between volumes one and two though; the first book offers some broader information about Dutch fishermen, their women, and the sweaters themselves, in general keeping the focus steadily on the Netherlands. In contrast, volume 2 does offer a brief recap of the findings in volume 1, but then shifts focus to two different aspects of fishermen sweaters: first the foreign connections that influenced the fishermen and their ganseys, and in addition a detailed description of the day-to-day life of a fisherman at sea.

The first part of the book focusses on the connections the fishermen made in abroad, particularly in England, Scotland and Ireland, but also Scandinavia, Iceland and even Greenland. The English and Scottish sweaters had a great influence on the Dutch sweaters. This influence can be glanced from the many similar motives in British and Dutch sweaters. A reason for this similarity is that fishermen’s wives all over Europe found inspiration from the same source: the sea and everything involved with fishing. Ruhe points out the similarities as well as differences between sweaters from the various countries involved. What I found particularly interesting in this chapter is the discussion of the importance and influence of the herring girls in Britain and Ruhe’s theory of what are probably the oldest Dutch sweaters she found during her research, which stem from two communities known for their whaling voyages. The men went on voyages around Iceland and Greenland quite early in the Dutch fisher history, and Ruhe theorizes that this is why they were among the first in need of guernseys.

While I enjoyed reading this chapter, it could have delved a bit deeper in certain aspects discussed. I already own books discussing, for example, English and Scottish fishermen sweaters. There was little in this chapter that was completely new. I would have liked to see more about the influence of Scandinavian sweaters. Indeed,  Ruhe herself says in the book that this is a field that needs more research before anything more can be said about it. I saw allusions to more research on various places, so perhaps there are plans (or maybe merely hopes) for a third volume.

The second part of the historical background chapters describes the life of the fishermen when on the boats, especially on the herring fleet, which was the most important catch for the Dutch fishing industry. This interesting chapter discusses the different roles the men could have on board, the men’s luggage, their diets and many other practical aspects to living on a fishing ship. I was particularly intrigued to read about the importance of religion and superstition on the ship, as that is something I know little about: it certainly makes for interesting anecdotes.

The patterns are separated into different Dutch coastal areas of origin. The same coastal areas as in the first volume return: De Noordzee kust or North Sea Coast, de Zuiderzee-coast now IJselmeer. (due to poldering the Zuiderzee is no longer a sea but a lake) and de Waddenkust or Frisian Islands. A new area is added: de Grote Rivieren or the River Areas, focussing on the commercial fishing on Dutch rivers. 

A British fisherman (left) and a Dutch gansey (right) sporting the same pattern

The patterns are written in the same way as in book 1. This means very general instructions are given as to how to knit a (fisherman) sweater in the front of the book, while the specific patterns are given in the form of charts, and a sketch with measurements. This leaves a lot left to figure out for the knitter. Sweater sizing and chart placement are to be calculated according to your own knitted swatch. In an age of Ravelry, indy designers and pdf patterns, this is not something knitters are used to; it just gives you the bare bones, from which you have to construct the pattern yourself. While I do recommend the book to everyone who is interested in this tradition, if you want to make one of the patterns I’d say that it is not suitable for beginners, and more suited to knitters with more experience. 

As of yet the book is only published in Dutch. Last year it took a a few weeks for it to be translated in English. I haven’t heard of any concrete plans for book 2 to be translated. However I do believe that the English translation of the first book sold well and received quite some attention, so I’d be surprised if there were no plans for a translation this time around. So those are my thoughts about the new book. I hope you enjoyed it.

Have a nice weekend!

3 thoughts on “Dutch Traditional Ganseys 2 or Visserstruien 2

  1. This is so cool! I never got my hands on the first version of the book so I had no idea there was so much information on actual history in it, I thought it was 'just' a pattern book. I should really contemplate getting myself a copy..

  2. Hi Tahnee,
    Thanks for your comment! It's really the added historical background that 'makes' the book for me… and the old photographs! think both volume one and two are still available, so if you decide to go for them, you'll still be able to get your hands on them easily.

  3. Mooie sfeer en heel inspirerend deze twee vissers truien boeken. Mooie verhalen, patronen en ilystraties prikkelt om zelf aan de slag te gaan! Boek twee kom ik nog goed bekijken. Laat de herfst maar komen. Gr Margot

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