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Balerno 3: 6 – 12 June

So here we are, La Gansey Nouvelle. (Or, of course, Anciente, depending on your point of view, and your understanding of French; mine, as the Francophiles among you will have spotted, has already been exceeded…)

Let me say first of all what my criteria were in selecting this pattern.

As I explained the other week, this is a gansey for my uncle John, who has associations with both the east coast of Scotland and the Devon coast in the south west of England. So my starting point was to select patterns that were common to both areas, Scotland and the south west. Of course, there are dozens to choose from, but some of the most popular were chevrons and diamonds (both open and moss stitch) and, of course, cables.

This project comes off the back of two quite intricate ganseys, with the cardigan perhaps being perhaps the most fiddly project I’ve ever attempted (all those individual knit and purl stitches felt like encoding part of the King James Bible in braille, probably one of those tiresome genealogies from the book of Kings). Each panel on the cardigan was different, and required close study of a separate pattern chart, so that it took a vast amount of concentration not to make a mistake (more concentration than I could manage in the end, ahem).

So I wanted to go back to knitting something that was just fun to do, and relaxing, and which didn’t require constant cross-referencing. It was always going to be a full-body-pattern gansey, but I wanted it to be a good, old-fashioned, single pattern from top to bottom, with lots of cables. (I’ve always thought the patterns where cables run all the way from shoulder to ribbing are some of the most effective.)

While I was experimenting with combinations of chevrons and diamonds, using the essential aids of a calculator, graph paper, a pencil, a wet towel and some Class A drugs (or, failing that, strong coffee) I happened upon a pattern that crops up in all the books, one that features just these patterns: Jim Curtis of Polperro in Cornwall’s gansey. This is such a classic combination, and the pattern fitted the number of stitches I was working with so closely, that I knew at once I’d found what I was looking for.

The pattern as recorded consists of 7 alternating panels, each of 19 stitches, comprising a central chevron flanked on either side by 2 diamonds (one moss stitch and one open), and then each seam is flanked by another chevron panel. The panels are separated by a 4-stitch moss stitch border.

I’ve made a couple of minor alterations. First of all, Jim Curtis’s gansey is patterned only on the yoke; mine, as I’ve said, is going to be patterned from top to bottom. I’ve also, as is my wont, replaced the moss-stitch borders with cables (for what, as Alice in Wonderland might have said, is the use of a gansey without cables?). And I’ve tweaked the central chevron to be 25 stitches wide, not 19, to fit my stitch gauge. It all clocks in at 404 stitches, including 2 seam stitches and a couple of border stitches either side. (As Margaret has pointed out, compared with the cardigan with its central steek, it actually looks rather small…)

Anyway, it’s nice to go back to first principles and just knit for fun again, rather than feeling I’m sitting for an exam!

Another reminder, the Moray Firth Gansey Project has now published its programme of events for its “Ganseyfest” on 1-2 October in Inverness (it can get a bit nippy up there – so wear a gansey, is my advice…), and among the tutors will be Beth Brown-Reinsel. Timetable, prices and booking forms on their website.

4 comments to Balerno 3: 6 – 12 June

  • Lynne

    Oh, Gordon – I love this pattern! This is so classic and tidy, and – you’re right, FUN!

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne,

    Yes, it works really well, doesn’t it? If only I could claim the credit for it!

    And once again it highlights the key weakness in the old myth that you could tell which village a drowned fisherman came from from the pattern on his gansey – since most elements were pretty common all round the coast, from Cornwall to the Western Isles of Scotland…

    But let’s not go there again.

  • Dave

    I like it! Simple, traditional, timeless.

  • Gordon

    Hi Dave,

    It also has the advantage that there’s more plain knitting in it than the last one, so it goes faster…