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Denim 9: 2 – 8 June

D140608a We’ve had a taste of summer this last week, with blue skies, high fluffy clouds, sunshine, and the kind of heat that makes a Highlander strip to a T-shirt and shorts—as if there wasn’t enough sadness in life—yes, we’re talking a sweltering 15ºC. Even someone as sun-averse as I have been lured outdoors, so that my head and neck are now bright pink, while the rest of my body remains the colour of semi-skimmed milk—when I take my shirt off I look like a partly-eaten coconut ice.

I read this week that the White House made the classic mistake of hitting “reply all” to an email, and so revealing the name of the CIA’s top man in Kabul to everyone on the mailing list. I’ve never done anything quite this crass on email—I prefer to be dumb and gauche up close and personal, face to face.


A Sunny Day in Caithness . . .

Once upon a time we were Morris dancing at a festival in York, when the city was full of tourists. The various sides were supposed to take turns dancing in a public square, once dance each. We were up next, but frustratingly the side before us decided to do several dances, hogging the limelight and keeping everyone waiting. I was pretty keyed up, we all were, because if you’re a Morris dancer your usual audience is a couple of resigned people and a dog outside the pub, so to perform in front of hundreds of tourists with cameras is quite a big deal.

D140608cOne of the dancers in this side wasn’t very good. As time passed, the tension in our party grew; so by way of relieving it I began to be extraordinarily witty at this guy’s expense: I criticised his posture, his coordination, his balance and his dancing, everything from his galleys to his capers. I didn’t really mean any of it, of course. But the Devil took possession of my mouth and I flew…

…right up to the point when a woman standing in front of me turned round furiously and snapped, “That’s my son you’re talking about,” and stalked off.

The echoes of that moment will resonate across the universe until the light of the last star has perished in icy darkness. Sometimes when I read of scientists detecting what they think is a faint trace of the Big Bang, it’s really just the ripple of that moment, travelling through interstellar space at the speed of shame.

D140608bTurning hastily to ganseys, I’ve finished the neck and started on the first sleeve. The armhole measured 8.75 inches from gusset to shoulder join, and I’m knitting at about 8.75 stitches to the inch, so I cast on 151 stitches in the round, using the famous “suck it and see” approach. I’ve just decreased the hell out of the gusset, and am on the sleeve proper, which will eventually be about 18 inches long plus a 3 inch cuff; I’m decreasing at a rate of 2 stitches every 7th row, so I should have in the region of 90-something stitches by the time I start the cuff.


. . . and a stormy one

Finally, I’m indebted to my friend Dav for the news that Glasgow University is looking for a knitter-in-residence this October, if you’re feeling adventurous. “Knit is”, they say, “the pin-up craft for sustainability, creativity and authenticity”. I shan’t be applying as my days as a pin-up are, sadly, long behind me—that, and when I knit I look like someone impersonating a chicken laying an egg—but if you’re feeling creative and authentic, why not give it a go? (http://knithistory.academicblogs.co.uk/knitter-in-residence/ )

14 comments to Denim 9: 2 – 8 June

  • Annie

    Your posts are wonderful, endearing in your descriptions (and, yes, even shame, poor dear – you), and inspiring to us large needle, bulky yarn scarf people.

    This job posting: Do you think someone who barely casts on evenly and uses large needles, etc. would be considered?

    By the way, Jessica Kincaid, a wonderful author and gardener wrote one time about standing in line in a tiny village in, I think, upstate New York. For some reason, she said to the postmistress that the man at the store cash register was the ugliest man she ever saw. You guessed it: he was the postmistress’ husband. Ms. Kinkaid said she slinked home and just went to bed for awhile.

    Do keep up your postings, they are appreciated!

    • Gordon

      Hi Annie, if you did feel like giving it a go, the only advice I can offer is to bear in mind that a “Glasgow kiss” is slang for a head-butt, not something more romantic. I remember this one time, when… Well, never mind…

      I once worked with a very dear South African man on a project. One day he came to me, very serious, and asked me to go for a cup of coffee with him. Oh Lord, I thought, what have i said now? We got our coffees and sat in the cafeteria, and after a minute when he gathered his thoughts and I tried frantically to think what the hell I could have done, he said solemnly, “Gordon. I have finally figured out that you do not always mean everything you say. Sometimes you just say things because you think they are funny.”

      Or, as Krusty the Clown put it in the Simpsons, “It was a joke! When you look at me like that, it was a joke!”

  • Felicity

    Thank you all for the much needed laugh. Things are far too serious around the world. Oh, except when we are knitting of course.

    • Gordon

      Hi Felicity, I keep hoping that one day I’ll be able to look back on all this and laugh, but no signs of the 4.00am guilt-sweats subsiding yet. If I’m lucky senility will kick in soon, though and “time cures all ills”, as they say…

  • Freyalyn Close-Hainsworth

    Finally getting somewhere with my enormous gansey, but before I start the sleeves I’ve had to lengthen the body (remove rib, knit downwards for 3″, replace rib).

    Several people emailed me about the knitter-in-residence job. It’s only for 3 months, is very limited in time required (but during normal working hours) and money paid, and no accommodation was included or allowed for, so it’ll have to be a local knitter of independent means. Not as good as it sounded…

    • Gordon

      I always think, Freyalyn, that it would be simpler in these cases to shorten the person, not the jumper. Alas, the last time this arose the recipient rather objected to the procedure, especially as I’d misplaced the bread knife and was proposing an improvised operation with a tomato slicer; in the end we compromised and they agreed to only wear the gansey sitting down.

      Yes, the knitter-in-residence proposal looks like a bit of a gimmick, doesn’t it? Given the resources usually available to academic and artistic projects I can’t help wondering if this isn’t something of a slight on knitters—there’s no way they’d advertise for an artist- or a composer-in-residence on those terms; they’d be ashamed to.

  • Charles

    Gordon, As we have been furtively corresponding on my emerging Geansaidh project by email I’ve not posted here. But I thought I’d celebrate the completion of my 1st welt (did I mention the Channel Island cast on – hrmphh?) by sharing with your other reader my gratitude for your encouragement so far. Given this is only my 4th knit I may return to mail for advice but so far so good! Regards Charles

    • Gordon

      Hi again, Charles,

      Well, you’re very welcome, of course. There are some very knowledgeable knitters who drop in here from time to time, so it can also be worthwhile posting a question “en clair”, so to speak, which is like going to the doctor’s and having every GP in the practice giving you a diagnosis!

      Good luck with welt no.2,

  • =Tamar

    Now I’m wondering which “channel island cast-on” people are using. I believe I’ve found at least three variations in the gansey books I have.

  • Charles

    Gosh goodness knows! A kind of twiddly round the thumb thing with doubled yarn that puts me in a foul mood but has a rather attractive knobbly effect after the umpteenth try. My in house knitting coach found it here http://handknittedthings.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/channel-island-cast-on.html and has me do it as she finds my tantrums amusing.

  • Jane

    I think the great James Norbury has a description of a useful cast on for a Channel Island gansey in his encylopedia, a good edge with bobbly bits. I do like the thumb cast on, I don’t know why, something to do with the fingers shaping the loops so directly perhaps.

    Wonderful description of the good old inadvertent comment, so enjoyed it. I know it so well!

    Super progress on the gansey and much advanced in the last two weeks, I have been away on my hols but no Internet. The neckline looks good.

    The squelch has disappeared in the garden, now just soft, and the ducklings are all grown up and gone to live at the neighbours’ with their peacocks, geese and hens and presumably the sack of poultry mix!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      There are times when I think the Reid Family Crest should be the Double Cross Mantled With The Blush of Shame…

      Keep an eye on these neighbours—if they put up a sign advertising “Home Made Suckling Duckling Pies With Added Goose Liver” it might be worth having a quiet word…

  • Cathy

    I found a UTube search for “channel island cast-on” produced about 3 or 4 clips of how to do it – all different but giving the same result, bobbles on three strand reinforced hem. Just pick the way that suits your style of knitting.
    Oh yes, I’d forgotten, it put me in tantrums too, but the end result was worth it.

    • Gordon

      The only time I ever tried a fancy cast-on, I ended up with my thumb securely fastened to the needle with a double knot and the Fire Brigade had to be called out to free me with axes. I have tremendous admiration for those with the dexterity to carry it off—sadly not for me.

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