They produced woollen fishing ganseys, or jumpers, distinctive to the individual port and knitter.
Examples from the North East have featured in what is the biggest exhibition of ganseys in the historic Old St Stephen's Church, overlooking Robin Hood's Bay, near Whitby.
The Propagansey exhibition is funded and organised by enthusiast Deb Gillanders, with 125 ganseys on show.
She defines ganseys as a close-fitting, usually seamless garment, frequently dark blue, often knitted in worsted wool on fine needles, traditionally worn by fishermen along much of the English and Scottish coastline, and also Holland.
Woollen ganseys were not just a jumper to generations of fishermen but a lifeline that kept the cold at bay - and provided vital information in the event of being lost overboard.
Ganseys were part of a way of life along the North East coast in years gone by.
Fishing communities along the North East coast like Cullercoats in North Tyneside each had their own gansey designs.
From practical hand-knitted fishermen's ganseys to sophisticated machineembroidered quilts, they represent about 95% of the gallery's textile collection, shown together for the first time.
Skills passed down generations are also on show in a set of small hooky and proggy mats and in the ganseys made for fishermen in Amble, Cullercoats and Seahouses.