Sunday, May 3, 2009

Romance, lighthouses, mystery scarf

From my husband's high school buddy, John Anderson: This painting is of my Swedish grandfather, Anders Anderson. He grew up in the province of Skane in Southern Sweden. At the age of 16, Anders went to sea, but after three years of sailing all over the world, he jumped ship in Maine. He joined the commercial sailing fleet out of Stonington and eventually became a Captain. One day his vessel was anchored in the thick fog near Mark Island Light near Stonington. He rowed his dory over to the light and struck up a conversation with the light keeper's family, the Gilleys. He was immediately drawn to Annie and became a frequent visitor, but Annie was too young to marry so Anders courted Annie for seven years before they finally married.

As far as we know, this scarf pattern originates with Maine island lighthouse keeper's wives in the 1800's. It has been handed down in my family for three generations. It was taught to my grandmother Annie Gilley, who grew up in lighthouses, by her mother. Annie in turn taught my aunt, who knit this for me. It may go back further into Maine's past: it would be interesting to know if this pattern was common and is known to knitting historians or if it is just a family pattern to keep the lighthouse keeper warm around the neck! In any event, after Annie married Capt. Anders Anderson in 1903, she knitted these for her husband to wear on his sailing voyages. My Aunt Louise revived her knitting of these scarfs after her retirement to Florida, where she knitted scarfs, mittens and watch caps which she donated to the local seaman's mission, as a way of honoring her father's memory. She knitted a cap and two of the scarves for me in 1999. She told me she always knitted them either green or blue because those were the colors of her father's ocean. She died in 2002 at the age of 93, still sharp as a tack and knitting until the last year of her life.

-John Anderson


Knitting Out Loud said...

I just received an email saying that this scarf pattern is in scarf pattern is in the book "Stahman's Shawls and Scarves" by Myrna A.I. Stahman. The scarves in the book are all seaman's scarves. I'll look into it to see if a history of the pattern is given.

Rebecca said...

A friend sent me this link to an interesting (geeky) variation of the seaman's scarf which has a DNA double-helix cable.

Knitting Out Loud said...

Meant to post this earlier, here's the pattern for this scarf:
Cast on 32 stitches
Knit for 15",
then start ribbing: knit 4, purl 4
Continue ribbing for 20", then
Knit for another 15"

Bullwinkle said...

My mother knit these scarves. (I was sent over from Knitty.) She learned to knit from a friend/relative - I'll have to ask for specifics but I'm sure they both grew up in the Boston area. Both on the ocean.

In elementary school I was all "what is with this is the only scarf in the world pattern?"

mrdaugh said...

I have read several articles on the history of this scarf. Since my family spents a lot time in the summer in Stonington, ME and sails around Mark Island, your story interested me greatly. I have made two seaman’s scarves. I hope the recipients like these unusual looking scarves. The idea behind the ribbing at the neck makes sense. Mimi