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Denim 8: 26 May – 1 June


D140601aSpring has come to Caithness, and possibly summer too, with blue skies, light winds, and temperatures in the mid to high teens. (Or at least I presume they are—I have a special Caithness-adjusted thermometer which only goes up to 13ºC, on the grounds that any further numbers are redundant.)

0531aThe air is full of birds, too. The trees are as noisy as school playgrounds, and our car’s been used as an avian lavatory so often it looks like a painting by Jackson Pollock. Swallows are zipping about all over the place, with that weird dipping flight that makes them look as though they’re being jerked along on strings for a joke.

On Saturday we went for a stroll along Dunnet beach, which lies on the north coast somewhere between Thurso and John O’Groats. There we encountered a new breed of dog, a cross between a dachshund and a friendly piranha. If you held out your hand for a neighbourly sniff, the next thing you knew your arm had disappeared up to the elbow in slavering jaws and drool, and you looked like a novice vet trying to conduct a rectal examination orally.



Not a bouncy castle, or why we were at a standstill for 20 minutes. The road was closed to move this huge piece of equipment.

Significant progress on the gansey this week: the front is finished, the shoulders are joined and I’ve started the collar. The jumper is 209 stitches across; so each shoulder is 70 stitches and the neck is 69 (70+70+69 = 209).

I decided to make the neck quite deep this time, some 28 rows, and so—since I decrease on the neck at a rate of 1 stitch every 2 rows—that meant 14 decreases per side. I therefore started each shoulder with 84 stitches on the needle and decreased down to 70 to give a nice, rounded (yet daringly plunging) neckline; and the stitches that were left for the neck at the front were correspondingly reduced to 41 (i.e., 69-14-14 = 41). The shoulders were cast off using the conventional three-needle bind-off.

It usually takes me 6-8 weeks to do the sleeves, so I might actually finish this one by the end of July—in other words, just in time for the Caithness winter…

12 comments to Denim 8: 26 May – 1 June

  • Cathy

    This is a great gansey, Gordon, really admire the pattern – have been watching it grow every week even if haven’t left a comment for a while. Are you continuing the same design down to the cuffs?
    We had our summer a fortnight ago (all 3 days of it) – seem to be at autumn now.


    • Gordon

      Hi Cathy,

      Yes, the pattern will go down to an inch or so above the cuffs. It’s gone so well so far I expect I’ll find a way to screw up the sleeves somehow!

      We’re having an odd week. Cloudy and rainy and dank at first, often with sea fog, then sunny and humid and sticky, then light drizzle or showers in the late afternoon. Amazing how everything changes when the sun comes out—Wick can be a very grey, hard, monochrome town in winter—suddenly the sky is blue, the sea and the river are blue, the trees and fields are a rich, deep green, and even the stone seems softer. Then—it rains.

  • Marilyn

    Hi Gordon, I like the lower neckline- no strangled adam’s apple and quite the place for a jaunty silk scarf, if ever you are feeling jaunty. Smiling at the image of Jaunty Gordon on his jaunts down the coast.

    • Gordon

      Hello Marilyn,

      I haven’t jaunted since the late 19th century, in my youth, when I didn’t have to conceal my bald patch by enticing a cat to sit on my head, and the word “waist” was automatically followed by “of time”, instead of preceded by “48-inch”.

      I don’t have silk scarf—blame an Isadora Duncan biography at a tender age—but I do have a red-and-white country neckerchief from my Morris dancing days. (One of these days I’ll post some photographs, but you must remember I was young, they were different times, I needed the money…)

  • =Tamar

    Wow, with the shoulders done it’s looking like a garment! Beautiful design, too. Weather here is being annoying; in between too cool and too hot, it’s too rainy. The afternoon cloudburst season is upon us. This is what June has become. They tell us the entire East coast will be underwater in about five years. I need to find a place in the mountains.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar,

      Yes, I suppose I could just stop here and wear it like a vest. Which is tempting, given how much I hate picking up stitches around the armhole (starting tonight, after I’ve Dutched up my courage)!

      One very foggy day in Mid-Wales a friend of mine and I went up to the local hilltop golf course. We stood above the fog-level; it was a bright sunny day up there, and we looked down on an ocean of mist, out of which rose other scattered hilltops like islands stretching away into the far distance. It was like a sudden vision of a God-drowned world.

      This is why I resolved to live in the far north of Scotland. My theory is, there are so many people in the south-east of England, i.e. in London, that they are weighing it down and sinking, and correspondingly lifting us up out of the sea. (I think this is how geography works, though I admit I’m a bit sketchy on the detail.)

  • Felicity

    It’s looking so gorgeous, Gordon.

    For a novice like me, would you say again what the wool is and needle diameter?

    Have just got my hands on one ball of Wendy (aka formerly Poppleton I believe) in the same colour. Stuck at needle choice- double point or circ.- i.e. whether or not to hold out for a knitting sheath/stick- and dps and the changeable weather in the San Francisco Bay area. We seem to have a second winter in June.

    Thank you for your website and blog.

  • Gordon

    Hello Felicity,

    The wool is usually “gansey 5-ply”, and the needles are usually 2.25 diameter (US1). The ball of British Breeds wool I have to hand advises 28-32 stitches & 36 rows to 10cm or 4″. But Lord knows there was enough variety in the old days that whatever you do will be authentic!

    I’m trying to plot out a murder mystery where an old fisherman is found dead, with a tiny puncture would through his heart. The solution will be, of course, that he was going out, and stopped to kiss his wifie goodbye, forgetting she was knitting with a sheath, and ended up impaled on the end of a needle.

    I’m also disappointed that no one has marketed a knitting sheath in the shape of a fluffy cat, or a puppy, as I’d love to see the outrage from a casual acquaintance thinking you’re using a pet as a needle holder!

    • Felicity

      Thanks for the recommendation. Matches what I have as well. I tried a tiny bit of stockinette after a Channel Islands cast-on. What I got was much too tight at both cast-on and cast-off edges, so scratch that. Am about to try again with your cable cast on

      Embraced his wife! And here I was thinking HE was the knitter and leaned over to retrieve something dropped…

      • Gordon

        Well, I’m an incurable romantic, of course, but on reflection that may be an overly demonstrative sign of affection for certain strict Scottish religious sects. Like the old joke, why don’t the Wee Frees approve of sex standing up? Answer: because it might lead to dancing…

  • Nigel

    I have left my gansey with one baggy arm for too long. Time to try and finish it. You have inspired me, again.

    • Gordon

      Well, funny you should say that, Nigel, as I’m thinking of adopting the stage name of “Mahatma Gansey”… 🙂

      Seriously, though, good luck!


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