The Guernsey Sleeve
Guernsey’s Cottage Industry
Until the 20th century, apart from small quantities of furniture in the 18th and 19th centuries, the only Island-manufactured export from Guernsey was knitted goods and included the Guernsey sleeve from before 1538, worsted stockings from the 16th century, breeches from c. 1700, waistcoats from c. 1700 and the guernsey from an early but unknown date (see our article on The Knitting Industry in Guernsey).
In early use the sleeve was frequently a separate article of dress. In the 19th century sleeves of woven cloth (cotton, linen and wool) were worn by clerks in counting houses to protect their coat and shirt sleeves.
The peculiarity of the Guernsey is that it is made of knitted wool and can accommodate itself to almost any sized arm. The total length is about 9 inches and from the elbow end to within some 3 inches of the hand end it is knitted plain. The actual cuff of 3in. in length is knitted double and slightly tapered.
The Guensey knitted sleeve is in essence a short footless stocking and it is not unlikely that a Guemseyman of the 14th or 15th century, whilst knitting stockings, realized the value of a separate sleeve to protect the sleeve of a garment and also to provide additional warmth.