Well, here we are, the Big Reveal of the finished Humber Keel gansey: washed and blocked, hopefully so that you can see the pattern in all its glory (and even modelled by a homeless derelict we found fighting seagulls for garbage down by the harbour, who was bribed with the promise of a rum-and-oven-cleaner cocktail).
To recap: the bottom ribbing consisted of 388 stitches, increased to 432 for the body. The finished gansey measures 23 inches wide by 26 inches long (though it could easily be stretched wider – and longer – if required). The armhole is a little over 8 inches deep (consisting of 79 stitches), and the sleeve, including rolled-back cuffs, almost 22 inches long.
It’s been fun, something I’ve never tried before. And have I been assiduously planning what to try next? Reader, I have not. Instead I’ve been enjoying a well-earned break, and actually doing some writing again: I’ve finally started a sequel to my Welsh winter fantasy novel, after all these years; my hope is to finish it by Christmas. And by next week I’ll be refreshed and ready to pick up a circular needle in anger again.
Speaking of writers, I’ve been reading up on my Wick history and discovered that Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Dr Jekyll, etc.) came to Wick in the 1860s when his father’s engineering company were contracted to build a breakwater in the harbour. Alas, the breakwater was destroyed in a series of unusually severe storms and had to be abandoned in 1873, though part of it remains, jutting out like a natural rock outcrop from the entrance to the south harbour, just past the old lifeboat station down by the cliffs).
The event seems to have soured RLS’s attitude to the town, though he later apologised for and retracted some of his harsher observations. But in a letter home to his mother in 1868 he writes:
“Certainly Wick in itself possesses no beauty: bare, grey shores, grim grey houses, grim grey sea; not even the gleam of red tiles; not even the greenness of a tree. The southerly heights, when I came here, were black with people, fishers waiting on wind and night. Now all the S.Y.S. (Stornoway boats) have beaten out of the bay, and the Wick men stay indoors or wrangle on the quays with dissatisfied fish-curers, knee-high in brine, mud, and herring refuse…
“In Wick I have never heard any one greet his neighbour with the usual ‘Fine day’ or ‘Good morning.’ Both come shaking their heads, and both say, ‘Breezy, breezy!’ And such is the atrocious quality of the climate, that the remark is almost invariably justified by the fact.”
I think his first paragraph is a little harsh (even replacing the dissatisfied fish-curer with an archivist); but honesty compels me to admit the second is bang on the money even now, almost 150 years later… But I can’t complain; it’s perfect for wearing ganseys, after all.