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Denim 14: 7 – 13 July

D140713aI’ve got some good news and bad news this week. The good news—I finished the other sleeve of the denim gansey, sewed in all the loose ends and Margaret blocked it out to dry. The bad news? The sleeves are too big and I’ve got to rip ’em out and knit ’em again.

D’, as Homer Simpson might say, ’oh.

You see, it was always going to be a size too large; knowing the winters we get up here, I wanted something big enough to fit over a thermal vest, a flannel shirt and an under-jumper, and possibly a layer of lard, a bearskin and a Persian rug as well. And the body is fine, just what I wanted. But the sleeves…

D140713bLet’s put it this way. They’re so big that if I jumped off the top of a giant redwood, or maybe a poplar, supposing for the moment there were trees in Caithness instead of the desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland I see from my window, I could spread my arms and coast for up to half a mile with a following wind, like an overweight bespectacled flying squirrel with a fondness for Scots tablet. If I was buried wearing it archaeologists of the future would assume they’d found the missing link between birds and portly archivists.

Sherlock Holmes would no doubt describe the mistake as elementary, just before I punched him on the nose. As you may recall, I’ve been trying to knit more loosely, lowering my stitch gauge from 9.25 to about 8 stitches per inch. Like Tiger Woods changing his golf swing after years of winning majors I’m having to rebuild parts of my technique, and calculations, from scratch. If I’d been knitting with the old gauge I’d probably have been fine.

D140713c

Back to square one . . .

How does it feel? You remember the time when NASA lost a £78 million space probe after it travelled 400 space miles because they forgot to convert the calculations from imperial to metric? Well, this is worse.

Oh, well. It’s not all bad. Reasons to be cheerful, number one: the Commonwealth Games are being held in Glasgow this month and, just like the Olympic torch, the baton is travelling all over Scotland. This week it came to Caithness and, like so many tourists, it dropped into Wick on its way south from Orkney via John O’Groats, where it had stopped for an ice cream and a selfie in front of the famous signpost.

140713batonIt passed the end of our road, and it passed the library where I work, and it passed the bloody great articulated lorry that the police had forgotten to stop earlier and which now had to squeeze into the bus stop in front of the hospital to let the baton runners past, blocking the view of the staff and the patients who’d been waiting for over half an hour just for that moment…

Reasons to be cheerful, number two: Judit’s sent another great gansey photo, this one knitted for a friend in Oulu. And if the picture doesn’t make everyone want to move to Finland I don’t know what will; really, Judit should be on commission from the Finnish Tourist Board. It’s another great gansey, too.

Reasons to be cheerful, number three: er—I don’t have to buy any more yarn for a few weeks while I re-knit the sleeves..?

16 comments to Denim 14: 7 – 13 July

  • Ebbie

    If your misery wants a little company, I just sucked up the lap blanket I’ve been knitting on and off for months in my vacuum cleaner. My kids came running when they heard me yelling “No! No! No!” and then watched quietly as I disassembled the vacuum and surgically removed the blanket. I did not cry. I stayed strong for the children.

    Your sweater is beautiful, you will be even more happy to wear it when it fits exactly the way you want, and I truly enjoy reading your blog each week. Glad I found it.

    • Gordon

      Hi Ebbie,

      Yup, that’s the kind of thing I’d do—not having any kids, however, I was able to connect with my inner 12 year-old and blub like anything!

  • Lynne

    Ohhhh, Gordon! I’m groaning for you! It looks so beautiful all blocked out but I know, in the end, it is the thing to do. I hate knitting with frogged yarn but, hopefully, it’s ‘memory’ will be short since not being knit up for that long and all the kinks will work out in the balling up.
    Judit – the tan gansey is lovely, one of my favorite colors and it shows off the pattern so well.

    • Sue Mansfield

      Hi Gordon and Lynn, a good trick with ‘frogged’ yarn as you call it is to wind it into quite loose balls and then steam it! I use an old fashioned 3 tier top of the stove one but a friend has successfully used an electric vegetable steamer. It can take up to 20 minutes so you need to keep an eye on the water level in the bottom pan and then of course it will need to dry. It’s a good idea to then rewind it and check that the steam has penetrated to the centre of the ball. If the centre is still kinked then it can be quite safely re-steamed. Much, much easier than the alternative of hanking it up and washing it by hand and it is so much easier to then re-knit it up.

      • Lynne

        Thanks for that info, Sue. I have frogged before and done it the hard way, so this may come in handy at a later date.

        • Gordon

          Thanks Lynne, and Sue, the yarn is a little frogged, but then so am I, so we’re quits. In fact, our memories are also about as short! I’ve done a couple of inches and it’s OK to work with—the only problem is, the ball now sometimes gets stuck and tightens the yarn—but I still have some left on the cone, so if I find it annoying I can always switch to the pristine stuff.

  • JuditM./Finland

    Many thanks to Gordon for adding my gansey to readers gallery and many thanks for You Lynne for your kind remark. I know that the real gansey colour should be navy blue but I think that the patterns are better seen in light colours. The only dark gansey I knitted up is the violet one seen also in the gallery .

  • Jane

    What a shame, a real shame. It was an absolutely beautiful gansey and it will be again, only better, and it will be exactly the way you want it. Just think of this, if a garment does not come up to snuff, it will not get worn, you are doing the right thing.!

    Again, a super gansey from Judit and what a lovely photo. The colours are beautiful. I have found a few of Rae Compton’s gansey patterns in “The Traditional Sweater Book” by Madeline Weston, and it has been a real treat to read them.

    I too am facing a little knitting dilemma of a tension related nature. My younger gal, the soon to be married one, chose the yarn of her dreams for a vintage pattern. The swatch in a ply similar to the original pattern worked fine, but the new yarn doesn’t! I shall be brave and silent and adapt and think of the gansey I shall knit next! Gardenwise, I saw a slow worm today, it’s been warm and muggy in the South.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, the alternative is of course to demand that your daughter gains or loses weight depending on the variance of the new yarn. Trust me, it’s probably easier in the long run…

  • Judit M./Finland

    Hello Jane,
    In case you are interested in the patterns collected by Rae Compton , here is her own book:The complete book of TRADITIONAL GUERNSEY AND YERSEY KNITTING.A Batsford book.ISBN 0 7134 41259.I knitted up four ganseys with her patterns, but the pattern of the tan coloured gansey is my own design. Happy knitting ! I got the book via Amazon for about 10 £.

    • Jane

      Hello Judit, treasure your copy of Rae Compton’s gansey book, it is now quite hard to find, and its scarcity is reflected in its price! In the meantime I dip into her traditional and practical knitting books!
      I am very impressed that the gansey is your own design, how very rewarding and very nice.

  • Gordon

    Hello everyone, and thanks for the kinds words of solace and consolation!

    In fact, knitting has never been a results-orientated business for me, so it’s not so bad as it seems. The activity is as important to me as the finished garments, in some ways. If I was stranded on a desert island with a gansey and a set of needles I could quite happily knit and unknit it over and over until rescue came. And I’m so pleased with the pattern, and the looser feel, that I’d rather get something I’m happy to wear.

    The main problem was the length of the sleeves, as well as the width of the cuffs. When I tried it on my knuckles dragged along the sidewalk like an anthropoid ape, and i had an urge to find a blonde, sling her over my shoulder and climb a skyscraper (which I managed to resist, as there aren’t any tall buildings in Caithness; I haven’t checked for blondes, but I hae ma doots).

  • Marilyn

    Ah, Gordon, sorry for the mishap. Whenever you know what you don’t want, you know more clearly what you do want. Call it a clarifying experience. I’m with you on the process front, it’s what prompted me to knit so many washcloths from perl cotton, (5 or 3).
    Good luck with the blonde and the new sleeves. Happy knitting.

    • Gordon

      What ho, Marilyn, yes, it’s probably a blessing in disguise—though, as Winston Churchill once observed after losing an election, and getting into the car after leaving Downing Street with his wife, and she suggested something similar, he replied, “Well, if it is a blessing, it’s very well disguised!”

      If it was my first gansey I might have been more exercised, but I know it’s only a few weeks to put right, and I find the pattern quite soothing to knit, so it’s not so bad. But I’d just got into the mindset of starting the next one, so it took while to turn the slow-moving supertanker that my brain increasingly resembles, instead of the frisky speedboat of my youth. [Just read that again. Hmm. Time for bed!]

      Cheers,
      Gordon

  • Sarah

    I had the giant sleeve problem with my first gansey, though it was more in length than in width. One could have used them for repelling DOWN said giant redwood. Disheartening, because there are SO MANY STITCHES in a gansey sleeve that it’s kind of heartbreaking to rip them out, but the new sleeves were perfect. And I had actually stalled in the sleeve process because of doubting how many rows to have between decreases, so having the sleeves too long only justified my paralysis of months (yes, it took me months to realize that just knitting the stupid sleeves and figuring out if the decrease was going to work or not was quicker than burying the sweater in my WIP basket and forgetting about it).

    I love the color of this sweater, btw. It’s lovely. Very ocean-y.

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