Guernsey goes global

Guernsey jumper and waves

They say that if you wait long enough, then anything from the past will eventually come back into fashion. And true enough; over the decades we’ve seen all sorts of unlikely fashions from yesteryear experience a new lease of life on the high street Disco pants, eighties neon and double denim… I’m looking at you.

However, I’m sure that I’m not the only one who was slightly amused and bemused to see our very own Guernsey jumper (which is over 400 years old) hit the headlines recently. At first, it may seem quite hard to imagine how a fisherman’s jumper, with humble seafaring origins, could make it into a glossy spread in Vogue – and be sported by none other than world renowned supermodel Kate Moss. Recently the Guernsey was promoted on ITV news by intrepid explorer Ben Fogle – It seems official; the Guernsey is in the media glare, it’s being worn by the fashion set. Celebrity endorsement has elevated our much loved Guernsey jumper into the upper echelons of glamorous knitwear. Forget cashmere and forget angora… it’s all about the Guernsey.  It’s never been cooler to be seen in vintage look clothes, brogues and chunky knits that could have been worn by your grandparents.

The Guernsey or ‘Gansey’ is a garment that was originally valued for its practicality. Knitted using oily lanolin wool, it serves as a great insulator against the elements. It’s important to remember that not so long ago, the main stays of the Island’s economy were the tomato trade and the fishing industry – the latter job requiring the fisherman to be outdoors in all weathers and temperatures.  The Guernsey was therefore seen as a vital item of clothing. Traditionally, a wife would knit a Guernsey for her husband – once completed, she could sleep safe at night, secure in the knowledge that her fisherman would be snug in his woollens, mostly protected from harsh winds and relentless sea spray.

The Guernsey has a simple yet unusual shape. For example, if you look closely at a Guernsey, then you’ll notice that the sleeves are much lower on the arm than on your standard jumper. The sleeves are stitched on below the armpit, (knitted on by hand to the main body of the jumper as a finishing touch) allowing for unrestricted movement – something that is a priority when you’re controlling a boat in unpredictable weather. The tightly woven stitching on the sleeves denotes different maritime symbols, such as rigging, ropes and waves breaking upon the shore. Occasionally, certain patterns on a Guernsey could be used as an identifier for men from different families or parishes. So you’d be able to tell your Queripel from Torteval from your Le Page from Castel just by his clothes. Looking back now, this creativity may have seemed like a cute personal touch, however this decision to customise the Guernsey was not fashion based. The grisly truth, was that the unique pattern meant that if a man had been lost at sea and his body eventually washed ashore, the pattern of his Guernsey – the lanolin wool not being damaged by the sea – would lead quickly to his identification. The high symmetrical neckline meant that the Guernsey could be worn back to front – if you got one side dirty or it started to show a bit of wear and tear then you could just flip it round. It was seen as an enduringly loyal item of clothing – iconic Guernsey.

Guernsey jumpers and stockings are historic objects with a rich heritage – and date back as far as the 1600s when English wool was first imported to the island. According to the BBC and The British Museum’s  ‘A History of the World’ project, Guernsey knitting even had royal connections – Mary Queen of Scots is said to have been executed in her favourite pair of Guernsey stockings.

If you go down to the Fermain Tavern today, there’s a fair chance that you will see one or two middle aged professionals (and maybe even a sixth form student) wearing their Guernseys with nonchalance. However, if you ask these finance types why they wear their fisherman’s Guernsey, you’ll notice that they’ll tell you their sentimental reasons for doing so with a typical Guernsey donkey sense of pride. My sixteen-year-old brother even asked for a Guernsey for Christmas – and when I questioned him why, he replied that not only was it an ideal garment for outdoor pursuits (you’ll often find him down the shooting range on a Sunday) but also that he liked to support local industry. Furthermore, it reminded him of his roots and heritage. “If I’m looking for a quality jumper, then why wouldn’t I go for the best?” The Guernsey is not disposable fashion – for many it’s an heirloom.

So what do we make of the Guernsey becoming ‘on trend’? Well, we won’t settle for anything less than the very best, will we? It’s only natural for it to be modelled in one of the world’s leading fashion bibles and by top models. Because what does a publication such as Vogue, Kate Moss and the Guernsey have in common? They’re timeless.

This article was written by Louise Le Pelley (of http://www.lavalisedelouise.com) and appeared in the Fashion section of Gallery Magazine Guernsey’s 2014 Passion Issue

Pimp my Pumpkin!

This week I gave myself a Halloween mission to locate some pumpkins and slice them up. Sounds simple enough. However, whilst I like arts and crafts in that I like doodling and throwing glitter around, this task was a dubious one at the beginning. I do not really trust myself not to leave destruction or carnage in my wake at the best of times (ie. when selecting an outfit to wear for the day) Factor in wielding a knife and having to stab into a large orange fleshy object, the potential for a messy situation is increased significantly . Regardless of my passion for Tim Burton, when you put a knife into my hands and direct me to some vegetables, the aftermath is less Edward Scissorhands, more Chainsaw Massacre. I can cut a straight line, and on a good day, a paper snowflake but this was a whole different ballgame. I was already having premonitions of having to have my fingers reattached in Accident and Emergency before I even bought the pumpkins. (Me, melodramatic? What gave you that impression?)

Anyway, off I ambled to the supermarket to purchase some pumpkins. I went to the Alliance, which in spite of its futuristic scifi sounding name, is in actual fact, a horrifically ugly and outdated corrugated iron warehouse style building. However, I always think of it fondly and with affection as it is a sort of Aladdin’s cave and contains every kind of product that you could ever need (often in industrial sizes – think along the lines of vats of mayonnaise, marmalade and strawberry bonbons). At the Alliance, I purchased two medium sized pumpkin beasts and then decided to chance the hedge veg stalls of St Sampsons to see if there was anything smaller lurking on the shelves. I was feeling enthused by this point and decided that I wanted a panoply of pumpkins. In Guernsey, you can often find wooden boxes on the hedges filled with locally grown produce. You drive up, select your wares and then place money in an ‘honesty box’. Small town living. Forget Mcdonalds, in Guernsey, if you want fast food then you’ll have to settle for a punnet of blackberries fresh off the hedge.

A 15 minute walk down my road revealed a little nook (in someone’s driveway, casual, I had to lean precariously over a flowerbed in order to access it) selling small pumpkins for £1.00 each (bargain). I placed two one pound notes in the box and bought two small ‘uns which I then placed on the palm of each of my hands. Walking past the pub, a stone’s throw away from the hedge veg boutique, a Guernsey grower with a van full of Guernsey toms (that’s tomatoes for you sophisticated townies) stopped me by leaning out the window, guffawing and telling me I was mishandling my pumpkins.

Is there a correct way to handle a pumpkin? You tell me.


A little illustration of the scenario. I should also probably point out that I was wearing wedged shoe boots, perhaps not the most appropriate footwear to go a pumpkin foraging. However, not as outlandish as the shoes that Courtney Stodden  would wear to a pumpkin patch photo shoot.


Earlier in the morning, some flowers that i had ordered for my mum online arrived from bunches.co.uk (in less than 24 hours, impressive)  The bouquet had an autumnal theme, and incorporated some mini pumpkins. As I mentioned in my previous Halloween blog post, I just love novelty things. I couldn’t resist ordering a bouquet with miniature pumpkins in it. You can see from the picture above that Chino, the house rabbit, was rather intrigued by this floral arrangement, most probably because he wanted to eat the roses. Alas, it was not to be for Chino, who later disdainfully turned up his nose (…or twitched it) when offered a piece of pumpkin. (Rabbits can eat pumpkin in moderation however Chino does not like it, will not eat it, and tends to only be enthusiastic about bananas). With the arrival of the pumpkin flowers and the pumpkins themselves, the house was suddenly bedecked with orange, and I was feeling inspired. After having a bit of an Instagram/Pinterest lurk, I decided that I would pimp my pumpkin (leaving one for my brother to work his artistic magic on) by turning it into… a princess carriage! A carriage missing its Cinderella, but a princess carriage none the less. It is perhaps not the most conventionally ‘spooky’ of ideas but one that would allow me to keep the knife action to a minimum and also give me an opportunity to glitz it up.

The pumpkin family. I attacked the biggest, deciding to save the pumpkin goop from the middle for cupcakes. Very experimental. I also put the seeds aside to roast later.


With the first part of the pumpkin all carved out, I turned my attention to the experimental baking. I roughly followed a Martha Stewart pumpkin cupcake recipe online, although I cut down the amount of sugar (for fear of an overdose) and stewed the pumpkin goop for about forty minutes until it was purée. I then mixed the purée with the other ingredients, fearing a Bridget Jonesesque cooking disaster, and spooned the mixture into muffin cases and one big foil case. The cakes baked for twenty minutes and I later frosted them with cream cheese frosting and pecans. THEY WOULD TURN OUT TO BE DELICIOUS. Pumpkins, you are a revelation.


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Putting cupcakes in treat bags with ribbons and handmade labels is a sweet halloween activity and make for a good little gift… 😀

Back to the Pumpkin pimping. Using a household paint brush , I coated the outside of the pumpkin with orange glitter glue. Hello fire hazard. I then used some old strass/diamanté/beads that I had lying around in my room to decorate around the ‘windows’ and ‘door’. The little orange curtains are made from organza, which originally came from a flower bouquet. (I buy all the flower bouquets) The purple ribbons and bows cost about £1.50 from a local craft shop. All the material and bows were pinned on. This carriage concept is a great activity to carry out with little girls (or boys who want to turn their halloween pumpkin into a death wagon) however it’s imperative to make sure that children are supervised around flames and pins. Because nobody wants a paint splattered screaming child with a pin through their eye and a flaming hand. It’s also best to let an adult do the carving. You get the picture.

IT’S SO GLITTERY.

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And here is the finished result. I added an old glittery tiara from Claire’s Accessories on top (originally from a cheerleading gypsy wedding social) and used two smaller pumpkins for the wheels – they’re not overly sophisticated, I may alter them. The large pumpkin is actually supported underneath by a bowl which has been covered in the glittery orange organza.

I really enjoyed the carving (surprisingly therapeutic) and decorating… and there is one large pumpkin left. Watch this space! If you have any Halloween decor ideas or recipes, then please feel free to comment below! 😀 Coming up…. my verdict on roasted pumpkin seeds and some costume ideas!

Growing up Guernsey

‘Sarnia Cherie. Gem of the sea.
Home of my childhood, my heart longs for thee.
Thy voice calls me ever, forget thee I’ll never,
Island of beauty. Sarnia Cherie.’

 As a little girl, growing up in the Channel Islands, I always used to gaze out to sea and daydream of places that I had visited and other lands yet to be discovered. I caught the travel bug at a young age – having family that lived abroad meant that my first ever flight was at the age of three months old, and now at the age of 22, I find comfort in travelling – comfort in the routine of waiting in airport departure lounges and harbours and in the thrill of embarking on a new journey.

My late grandfather was an aircraft engineer, who lived a stone’s throw away from the airfield in Guernsey, and I remember always feeling secure in the knowledge that I would be able to catch a glimpse of my grandparents waving ‘goodbye’ (or ‘hello’ on the return voyage) when I was in a tiny tin can of an airplane. Voyaging is something I savour. I am always going to want to travel, yet I also love the feeling of ‘coming home’. Gliding over the sea in a plane and having the whole of Guernsey suddenly come into sight is always something that makes me catch my breath.

At 16, I started working a weekend job in the tourism industry as a museum assistant – this became a summer job and is something that was a part of my life for six years. Through this student job, I met many tourists from different corners of the world and it led me to appreciate the island from a touristic point of view. For those curious as to what Island living is like, I will include a selection of photos that I took during the past summer in Guernsey in my next post… for now, here is a taster – a photo of Fermain Bay.


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‘Les Mis’ with a Guernsey Miss

For those of you that don’t know, I am a BIG FAN of Victor Hugo, a French author who penned many novels and poems, the most famous works being “Notre Dame de Paris” (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and “Les Misérables”. Hugo lived in exile on Guernsey, my home island, from 1855-1870 and it was during this time in Guernsey that ‘Les Misérables’ was published – a book that would later become a renowned musical, often referred to by theatregoers as “Les Mis”.

Below, is a picture of one of the many beautiful views that Guernsey has to offer…

Smoke from the Red Arrows appearing as the French flag
Smoke from the Red Arrows appearing as the French flag

It will probably not have escaped your attention that this musical has recently adapted into a film, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, amongst other big names. It was with unbridled excitement that I scampered off to the ODEON at the Metro centre this weekend, to watch the must see film of the year… in IMAX, no less.

During my time at school in Guernsey, I did a lot of musical theatre and also sang in several school choirs – now I can’t recall the exact amount of times I was forced to sing songs from “Les Mis”, but let’s just say that when I was sat in my plush seat at the ODEON this weekend watching the plot of the film unravel, I was lip syncing along. Yeah, that’s right, growing up in Guernsey means that you have quite an intimate relationship with this particular work, whether you like it or not… Luckily, I love everything to do with Victor Hugo, and this film adaptation was no different!

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If I had to sum up the film in one word, I would have to simply say… GLORIOUS.

It really was.

I didn’t notice the time passing. Hugh Jackman was awesome and Anne Hathaway was haunting in the role of Fantine (finally managing to convince critics that she is ‘Mia Thermapolis’ no more*) I particularly adored Isabelle Allen in the role of ‘Cosette’ (you can see from the above poster just how ethereal, vulnerable and credible she looks in the role). The whole film was a sumptuous feast for the eyes and for the senses – at the end I heard the men around me sniffling as they clapped when the credits started to roll. If you enjoyed the film ‘Warhorse’ and the emotions that it stirred up inside you, then please go see ‘Les Mis’… and bring an industrial size box of tissues. At the end, I had to be walked around the Metro centre a few times and shown happy sparkly things until I managed to perk up.

Would I go see it again?

YES, in a heartbeat.

I’m sure that Victor Hugo would have loved to see his novel make it to Hollywood. If you enjoyed the film and ever find yourself in Guernsey, then make sure that you visit Hugo’s old residence, Hauteville House, which has been kept as a monument to him by the City of Paris. if you’re interested in literature, stunning views or wacky interior design, his house really is a must see.

Knock on the door, make an appointment to visit, and you will find yourself stepping out of the hustle and bustle of St Peter Port into a sombre French hallway. You will be led on a visit into Hugo’s world by a guide who will explain how the objects in the house are not what they seem… Mirrors, ornate carvings and the repeated initials V and H alongside other symbols and motifs will reveal themselves to you and remain in your mind long after your visit. The stunning view of the Archipelago of the Channel Islands from the top of the house is worth the trip alone!

 *Although, in my opinion, ‘The Princess Diaries’ is a great film and I will hear no bad word of it!!!

PS. For those interested in reading ‘Les Misérables’, it is available for free on Kindle in both English and French – below is the link for the English version

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Les-Misérables-English-language-ebook/dp/B004GHNIRK/ref=pd_ts_zgc_kinc_341689031-f_3?ie=UTF8&s=digital-text&pf_rd_p=285525267&pf_rd_s=right-6&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_i=341677031&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_r=1K7FY04R3W9VABBR7M2K

Over the sea in a Trislander…

This morning I left the Island in a tiny plane. The wind was howling, my beret almost ended up on the other side of the airfield/in the parish of Torteval, and whilst I wouldn’t exactly say I was in fear of my life, there was definitely some doubt on whether the journey to France would be smooth.

Whilst the first five minutes of turbulence were reminiscent of my foray earlier this year into the world of rollercoasters, the journey was great. The sea looked like a thick blue oil painting with aggressive waves of white smeared through it.

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There were not very many fishing boats out today, although I did catch a glimpse of one! After 25 minutes or so, the plane arrived at Dinard airport – the most exciting airport in Europe…. it is so small it does not have anything in it apart from a hire car stand and a bar which is seemingly always closed… (and also, as we discovered today, the airport also pays host to one lone aggressive fireman) but, hey, we love it anyway!

P.S. The beret is safe. Thank goodness – it’s Granny Jo Couture (my gran is an expert with knitting needles)