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Denim 4: 21 April – 4 May

D140504aAnother short blog this week, as it’s back from our Easter jaunt down south with a cold and a chest infection. (It wasn’t exactly the birthday present I was looking for, but to be fair it’s so hard to find a suitable gift these days.) So now gravity seems to have increased, it feels like there’s an invisible baby orang-utan clinging to my chest, and my breathing sounds like Darth Vader finishing a milkshake.

I think that’s the real secret of growing older—after about 40, each birthday counts double or treble—so I now appear to have the mind of a sprightly 54 year-old trapped inside the body of an octogenarian, and a crotchety one at that.

I read once that the U.S. Civil War Commodore David (“Damn the torpedoes!”) Farragut used to turn a handspring on his birthday each year, even into his sixties, saying that when he found it difficult he’d know he was getting old. Well, I perform a similar sort of test, except in my case it involves removing the silver paper from a chocolate Easter egg. (Yup, still got it.)

D140504dBeing laid up this last week has at least meant that I’ve got rather a lot of knitting done. In fact, I’m about 14 inches up the body, and in another inch will start the gussets. (The gansey is going to be some 27 inches long, viz.: body, 15 inches; gussets, 3 inches; yoke, 8 inches; shoulder, 1 inch.)

I’m also trying to teach myself to knit more loosely, and am getting my stitch gauge down from about 9.25 stitches an inch to something in the region of 8.5. It helps my fingers relax more as I knit, and the finished garment seems softer, and drapes more easily. It also seems to use less yarn.

D140504cFinally, when you’re ill you need things to cheer you up, and I found just the thing in an article in The Guardian newspaper online, about the dangers of formatting books for e-readers, such as the Kindle.

Everyone who’s downloaded an ebook knows that they can be bedevilled by typos, in part because often the printed text has been scanned in using optical character recognition software, and then not proofread. Now it appears that two words that the software can’t actually distinguish between are “arms” and, (ahem), “anus”.

This has apparently come to light in the course of scanning vast quantities of romantic fiction for e-readers. As the article points out, it now appears that a genre in which the hero has a tendency to “take the heroine in his arms” may never be the same again…

7 comments to Denim 4: 21 April – 4 May

  • Jane

    Nice to see you back, hope your trip down South had other better moments.
    Lovely progress on the gansey, you must find the colour and pattern very pleasing.
    Very amusing the unexpected results of scanning the e-books, it ranks with my personal, but minor, dislike of predictive text.
    Speaking of irritations, we have picked about twenty, yes twenty, ticks off the cats in the last week, a little stomach churning. This wet warn winter has a lot to answer for! Think I will keep the wellies and thick clothing on a bit longer! Hope you feel a great deal better very soon.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, and thanks. I’m definitely on the mend—not exactly handsprings, but walking about, anyway.

      Twenty ticks seems like a lot! The poor devils were probably staggering around, weak from loss of blood. Not something we’ve ever been troubled with, thank heavens. When nature rambling on my trips in New England I’m saved by my natural modesty of wearing long trousers, thus saving the world from the sight of my knees, something I fear for which it is not ready. But I was warned to watch for ticks in the underbrush, and so I tend to think of them as dry leeches.

      • Jane

        Too true, nasty little things, but need to be treated seriously. The Number One cat, the nicest of the bunch, had 5 on Saturday and went right off his fodder for a day!

  • Lynne

    Great progress on the denim gansey! and it surprises me you were able to adjust your gauge so easily without changing your needle size, I’ve never been able to do that and my hands sure feel the stress after an evening of knitting.
    I’m still coveting your neighbor’s British Blue and even Googled a breeder for them in British Columbia, but as I suspected, they are definitely a champagne taste on my beer budget, gorgeous creatures they are!

    • Gordon

      Morning, Lynne—I’ve always knit tightly, wanting to make the stitches as small as possible because I’ve always loved fine detail. But it was partly from seeing the old ganseys at the Ganseyfest, which were at a gauge of 8 per inch or thereabouts, that I realised that they really didn’t have to be so fine, and partly from happening to knit one loosely and noticing that it felt less like a plank of wood and more like a jumper, that I decided to experiment.

      But I’ve deliberately knitted this one with lots of purl columns so it can collapse or expand like a Japanese fan to give me some flexibility in width—not that I’m hedging my bets or anything!

  • Sue Mansfield

    Hi Gordon, another cracking Gansey on the way. I’ve just started a navy blue Aran for my brother – something I’ve been putting off until the days started it get a bit longer! Actually it’s more of a French Navy than the typical dark navy and it’s definitely easier on the eyes.

    Re the amount of yarn needed you will find that knitting to just that slightly looser tension will make a big difference. My brother’s gansey measured 48 at the chest because he wanted a looser fit than the traditional one. Using your guidelines here I ordered 3x500gms cones from Frangipan but I was knitting it to the slightly looser tension you Re now trying out and it soon became clear that I would probably only need 2. So like anybody who takes comfort in their yarn stash I immediately ordered a 4th one whilst they still had that dye lot in stock so that I would enough to make another gansey in the future. 1 kgm of yarn turned out to be just enough to finish it, though I have so far resisted all hints from one of his daughters about knitting her one!

    So I think that you will be pleasantly surprised by the potential cost saving of knitting to that slightly looser tension whilst it not making any real difference to the fine detail of the stitch definition. Which brings me back to the Aran – I was quite taken with the cable patterns on a Lion brand pattern I found on the Net but was slightly wary of the yarn quantity stipulated – it didn’t seem like enough to complete a large size man’s sweater and I couldn’t find details of the yardage of the named Lion brand aran yarn either. So to be on the safe side I did order extra of the 100% wool Wendy Aran yarn I planned on using (it was a very good price!).

    I’m glad that I did because when I did a tension swatch it became clear that the tension was much looser than I prefer and would have expected for an Aran weight yarn – I think that cables look better for being a fairly firm texture. So I am having to heavily adapt the pattern – even more than I expected – but it reminded that other friends had also experienced the same problem when using US patterns. Can any of our friends across the pond enlighten us? Is it just that US yarns are actually slightly thicker than their given UK equivalents? Or is it usual practice to knit to a looser tension than is indicated in most UK patterns? And if it is, is it driven by reducing the amount of yarn needed?

    But I must say that I am starting to notice this trend with UK yarn brands too – especially the more expensive ones. For example, I find that the recommended tensions for Colinette yarns also produce a very loose fabric that drops dreadfully not just when you wash it but when you wear it! Thankfully, I’d knitted the sleeves from the top down gansey-fashion so it was easy enough to shorten the sleeves and learn to to live with it being a long-line cardigan but I have never gone by their suggested tension again.

  • Gordon

    Hi Sue,

    Thanks for the post and best of luck with the French navy gansey (I assume the French still have a navy!).

    For a gansey of this size I would normally expect it to take in the region of c.11 balls of 100g 5-ply yarn, so it will be interesting to see if it comes in under 10 (or 2 Frangipani cones). I tend to buy 4 at a time so I know I’ve got enough for a “man size” gansey, and can usually get a more “petite” gansey out of the remainder. Though I recently bought 4 cones plus a 250g semi-cone just to be on the safe side when planning two largish ganseys in rye same colour.

    Mind you, I tend to knit the cuffs as 6-inch ribbing (thus using more yarn) which can be rolled back to suit various arm lengths—I know that I have square shoulders and longish arms, and these days resemble more an elderly gorilla, or an orc on day release from the nursing home, than anything human, and frequently cut my knuckles from trailing them along the ground. So I like my sleeves to be adaptable!


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