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Road to Bowline

August 17, 2017

A request from up north

I suppose it was a couple of years ago now when Dotty from The Net Loft first contacted me about her Fisher Folk retreat and her lovely shop. She asked if I would design something inspired by the Cordova Gansey project. I was immediately smitten with the idea of hardworking knits, out in the real world! The fact that knitting is usable art is one of the things that drew me to it to begin with. I came up with the Bowline hat, but always in the back of my mind I wanted to design a gansey sweater. This year, in preparation for my trip to Alaska (read more about that here and here), I designed the matching sweater, Bowline, a hardworking knit for everyday wear.

Choosing a stitch

This is an image of a traditional style gansey I found here.

A gansey sweater is of a type. It has a certain look to it and you can see examples of it in many historical pictures (like the one above). It is mainly stockinette on the bottom and then somewhere before the split for front and back the patterning starts (sometimes higher, sometimes lower). While ganseys often have intricate patterning, sometimes with stories behind the stitch patterns, I wanted to do something a little different. I had designed the Bowline hat the year before and still couldn’t get that lovely garter ribbing out of my head. For me adding that ribbing to the top was the perfect combination of simplicity and tradition.

The ribbing from the Bowline hat was just the inspiration I needed for the Bowline sweater!

Swatch swatch swatch – trying different yarns

it took a few swatches to find the yarn I wanted for my sweaters! These are Hinterland Range, Stone Wool Cormo, and YOTH Father

Choosing the perfect yarn for the Bowline sweater was a tougher task. I knew I wanted to use a slightly more rustic yarn. My Bodhi prototype was in a hand dye I had on hand, but the Cordova gansey project is all about harder working yarn, so I wanted to stay true to that idea.

Bodhi in her wee prototype sweater, knit up in The Plucky Scholar in ‘grumpy old sailor’

I swatched in a few yarns I had on hand that I thought would fit the bill. In the end, my swatches didn’t help very much because I wanted to knit the sweater in all of them! There is something delightful about the halo on the Hinterland Range yarn, a mix of 50% Alpaca, raised on Vancouver Island, and 50% Canadian Rambouillet, I cast on an Antler sweater for Hunter in that yarn instead. The YOTH Father (another Rambouillet) had such a lovely stitch definition, but I had used it for the Elwha sweater in Stranded magazine.

You can see here I have separated the 2 plies of yarn

The winner, in the end, was the Stone Wool Cormo. The yarn has 2 plies that are twisted together and they gave that squishy rib the perfect amount of added texture. The yarn is soft but sturdy, and has a lovely bounce to it. The finished sweater is light but warm, the perfect piece for the great outdoors!

Not a perfect gansey

When compared to a traditional gansey sweater, Bowline breaks a few rules….but we think that’s okay!  I wanted to create a gansey that was approachable and simple, something someone new to garments could tackle without too much strife, and with a bit of a modern fit. Instead of creating a box we added in some shaping at the armholes. Instead of a traditional gusset at the underarm, we added in some short rows to shape the sleeve cap. It has the lovely overall effect of a more traditional gansey, but with a few modern twists.

The Bowline sweater has EVEN MORE sizes than our usual, we have our usual range of kids and adult sizes, but for this sweater is was important to make the armhole depth and upper arm measurements different for the men’s sizes, so we have those too!

Bowline pattern details:

Pattern: Bowline by Tin Can Knits

Sizing: 0-6mo (6-12mo, 1-2yr, 2-4yr, 4-6yr, 6-8yr, 8-10yr, Ladies XXS, XS, S, SM, M, ML, L, LXL, XL, XXL, 3XL, 4XL, Mens S, SM, M, ML, L, XL, XXL, 3XL, 4XL)

Yarn: Worsted / Aran weight yarn
300 (350, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2000, 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1750, 1900, 2000, 2100, 2200) yds (samples shown in Stone Wool Cormo in ‘shale 2’ and ‘tobacco 2’)

The Bowline sweater is perfect for anyone you want to send out in the world wrapped in woolly love!

More simple sweaters from TCK:


5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2017 11:22 am

    Beautiful sweater design. I live in Cordova and have enjoyed seeing many of the Cordova Gansey Project sweaters first hand though I’ve never entertained the idea of designing and then making one. Your pattern may just be the inspiration I need to knit a sweater.

  2. patrizia pedrazzini permalink
    August 17, 2017 11:11 pm


    I have been following for a while, but never got in touch, I do hope replying to this newsletter works and you’ll get to read this.

    I really love the size of the collar in the kids’ versions. I love less the smaller collar on the man’s version, which looks more on the side of a turtleneck. I was wondering which version the ladies one leans more to.

    Thanks! Patrizia

    • August 21, 2017 11:20 am

      Hi Patrizia – they are both more of a turtleneck, but it’s the last thing worked so it’s super easy to make it to your exact liking!

  3. August 17, 2017 12:18 pm

    You’re so talented! I love seeing all of your projects. I’m going to attempt your Barley hat this fall! Thanks for posting your free patterns, much appreciated!

  4. August 17, 2017 11:17 am

    Beautiful! Love the story behind it. And the range of sizes is fantastic.

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