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Getting a Guernsey

Posted by on December 11, 2013

Bet you didn’t know “Getting a guernsey” was an Aussie phrase, did you?

I didn’t, especially as no one calls them guernseys anyway, we call them jumpers… But it turns out that on the other side if the planet there are two islands, one named Guernsey and the other Jersey. Both were famous for their knitwear and knitted cloth, such that a jumper, or sweater, as the Americans call them, was called by the Island’s name.


That’s four names for the garment, and there were two islands it originally came from!

Jersey made fine knitwear, usually of thinner yarn, and was later prized for its machine knitted cloth.

Guernsey made jumpers from thicker yarn, usually hand knitted. Both islands used a deep blue dye on their work that didn’t require the stripping of the wool grease from the fibres first. Guernsey knitters even added extra lanolin to the garment making it even more waterproof. Unsurprisingly, they were popular with the fishing folk. On mainland England, playing rugby in the winter months, you wanted to wear something pretty rugged and waterproof too, so they got knitted in the colours of rugby teams.

Now, out in Australia, even in the middle of winter, it can still be pretty warm, so rugby tops were tough cotton pullovers (that’s 5 names), but they were still called guernseys.

If you made the team, you got a guernsey, and that’s where the saying came from! Amazing eh? Learn something useless everyday.

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