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Wick V – Donald Murray 1: 27 November

cam161128-1With less than a month till Christmas, Caithness is sliding inexorably into midwinter darkness: already the sun is rising at 8.30am and setting at 3.30pm. Mind you, the sunrises and sunsets have been stunning, enough red skies at both ends of the day to alarm and then delight any bipolar shepherds or sailors.

We’ve had a week of sharp frosts, the pavements slick with ice, so that I’ve been going out each morning dressed like a member of the Captain Scott Re-enactment Society who’s just discovered that walking on thin ice isn’t only a metaphor. If we have a really bad winter my current plan is to set up a dog-walking business and sneakily train the canines to pull a sled, so I can still get to work.


Sheep at sunrise, near Clyth

There was something of a thaw on Saturday—judging by the forecasts this will be known as the 2016 Caithness Interglacial Warm Period—so we went for a stroll out to the south head of Wick Bay, past the old quarry, which I remembered as a lovely spot with picnic benches and artistically recreated standing stones. Well, we were in for a shock.

cam161126-1The scene is now a store yard for the council apparently, a muddy basin filled with muddy pools and dirty mounds of tarmac, grit and builders’ supplies. It reminded me of the Scouring of the Shire, the epilogue to the Lord of the Rings when the hobbits return home to find it transformed into an ugly industrialised wasteland. I expected any minute to be beset by marauding orcs with whips and forced to go work in the salt mines (or, as I think of it, “Monday morning”).

Oh, well: we could still turn our faces to the clean horizons of the ocean, which has yet to be tarmacked. And I daresay people a hundred years ago felt much the same as we when the quarry was being worked. But that passed, in time, allowing nature to reclaim it; and so, I guess, will this.


Where’s the next gansey at?

The Matt Cammish gansey has now, as you can see, been taken for a test drive and it holds up pretty well. The body has settled back to a comfortable 47 inches in the round, but the purl stitches act like ribbing so it can stretch a bit if it has to. All in all, a modest success.


Sunset, Coghill Bridge, Wick

The new gansey will be another Wick pattern inspired by a photograph in the marvellous Johnston Collection. We haven’t charted it out fully yet—there’s still a fortnight at least before I have to worry about the yoke—but it resembles Fergus Ferguson’s in general style, without being quite so ornate (what I’m coming to think of as a typical Wick pattern, in fact). By way of a change I’m knitting it in Wendy’s aran Guernsey 5-ply yarn (they had a sale). I cast on 336 stitches and increased to 372 stitches after a welt of 3.75 inches.

Meanwhile Judit has sent me this nifty idea for a Christmas gift which she’s devised. The patterns are tree of life, Betty Martin panelling and diamonds and the overall effect is rather splendid. (It looks like it could also be adapted into stylish knitwear for the dalek in your life…) It should serve as inspiration, too, if any is needed—so what are you waiting for?

6 comments to Wick V – Donald Murray 1: 27 November

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Not too shabby there, Old Sock!! Another great looking sweater. The only problem is – you’ll disappear into the mists if your weather is anything like ours. Grey days, grey sky, grey rain . . Looked out today around noon & actually saw a patch of blue!!! Threw on my woolies & went out to sit under it to catch any sunshine that should drift through!! If it isn’t raining, it’s called sunshine around here on the Wet Coast this Fall. I think it’s rained every single day since September!! We’ve broken old records!! The only good thing is, it’s been warmish. I still have indoor plants outdoors on the patio.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, my plan is always to disappear into the mist, like the ghost of archivists past… Grey is not so much a colour, more a way of life! Our weather’s been a good mix—bit of rain, bit of sun, bit of ice and frost. If it wasn’t for the wind i could almost be happy here!

      As the old saying goes, if you can’t see the hills it’s raining, and if you can see them it means it’s about to rain…

  • lorraine

    Gordon- A modest success? A great success, I’d say.

    I have also worked with Wendy Guernsey and find it to be much rougher than Frangipani.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lorraine, yes, Wendy’s is not as smooth and silky as Frangipani – though once it’s washed and blocked Wendy’s does lose some of the scratchiness. Wendy’s also feels heavier somehow, but this is an illusion, surely, as ganseys knitted with both end up weighing the same, more or less.

      I mostly use Frangipani nowadays—partly for the range of colours, partly for the smooth feel of the yarn, and partly for the convenience of the 500g cones—but every now and again I like to try other yarns, for old times sake, and just for variety. But once I have to darn in all those blasted ends for every 100g ball (not to mention the splits—I’ve been spoiled by Frangipani here too) I may reconsider!

  • Jane

    More positive triumph than modest success! The gansey has turned out really well, and you must be really pleased with it!

    The Johnston Collection must be a wonderful place! I find that I do tend to favour certain yarn producers. I think I use the yarn, like it and return for more. Usually colour, feel and end quality are the deciding factors! Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      The best bit about the photos is that the museum have blown up some of the clearer photos to big poster size, so you can actually see the patterns. Some of them are a bit indistinct, though, as if the photographer was focusing more on the faces than the ganseys, for some reason…

      I return to Wendy’s partly for nostalgia—it was one of the yarns I used to knit with before God invented Frangipani, along with British Breeds/Creskeld (are they even still going?). Also, the colours are subtly different, so it gives you a little bit of extra variety. But there’s no such thing as bad gansey yarn, to my mind, like chocolate!

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