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Dunbeath: Week 2 – 15 February

According to the Met Office it’s been the coldest start to a year for over a decade, with an average UK temperature of 2.2ºc. And I can’t help thinking: 2.2º? (Wait, let me say that in italics: 2.2º?) Bah, luxury! It’s been so cold for so long that even a temperature of 0º would’ve been an improvement. Last week Wick fell overnight to -9º, with daytime temperatures around -3º to -1º. Half the river was frozen over, confusing the heck out of the ducks—I checked in case the penguins from The Muppet Christmas Carol were holding their annual skating party, but alas not—while moody seagulls scratched rude words in the ice and waited for spring, and the sun, and tourists careless where they put down their sandwiches.

Ice in the river

The rainwater in the barrel froze, then it snowed on top, then that froze too. If we were pirates, our timbers would be well and truly shivered. I’ve taken to wearing a huge, black, fuzzy Russian hat around the house, leading one work colleague on a Zoom call to wonder how I managed to persuade a baby panda to go to sleep on my head. Even the brass monkeys are resorting to thermal underwear. (Did I mention it’s been cold?)

Last week’s snow

Meanwhile, in gansey news I’ve reached the pattern and the yoke. I’m trying to recreate the pattern on Graeme Bethune’s—whose sheep the yarn comes from—great-grandfather’s gansey, based on the photo in the Moray Firth Gansey Project book. Trouble is, the photo is about the size of a postage stamp, and blurry withal, so it’s impossible to see much actual detail. It could be one of a number of patterns, all similar. So we’ve turned to a photograph in the Johnston Collection of Victorian fishermen for a pattern, one that should give Graeme a distinctive and slightly unusual gansey that’s still pretty close to the original. It involves seed stitch panels, alternating with panels in a stitch that’s new to me: blister, or coin stitch. (“Blister” is the mot juste, as it creates little swellings or pockets, just like the bubble-effect of a blister.)

How pleasing that there are still new things to learn! For I was starting to feel a bit like Ecclesiastes, the Eeyore of the Old Testament: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Also, don’t blame me if it rains.” I’ll post the chart next week. It’s early days, and it’ll show more clearly next time, but it involves five rows of plain knitting: then on the sixth, on every fourth stitch along, you go back four rows and pick up a stitch, then let the stitches above this drop, before carrying on. (You’d think a stitch that has dropping stitches built into it would be right up my alley, but evidently not; I’m only a natural if I don’t do it on purpose.) As ever, I’m indebted to Margaret for this, as she’s charted out the pattern and shown me how to knit it.

Wigeon on the ice

And now, as I write this on Sunday evening, the rain is lashing against the windows, blown by winds of over fifty miles per hour, which I guess counts as a thaw. But then, we do live in the far north of the Scotland, and Thurso, just a few miles up the road, is on the same latitude (59º) as Juneau, Alaska, so the odd bad winter does rather go with the territory. As the soldiers used to say in the First World War: you shouldn’t have joined if you can’t take a joke…

15 comments to Dunbeath: Week 2 – 15 February

  • Meg Macleod

    thankypu for coming out from under the duvet to enetertain us once again..the speed of your knitting equalled only by your humour xxx

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, as you can tell by the delay in replying, I wasn’t out from under the duvet for long! Though as it’s sunny and warmish today I thought it safe to peek out of my burrow, like the Mole in the Wind in the Willows…

  • Annie

    Hahaha, Texas has snow all the way down to the Gulf Coast and low temperature records from 1885 are being broken. Your “you shouldn’t have joined the army …” will be shared with friends and neighbors to help, thanks!

    • Gordon

      Hi Annie, hope things are OK with you? I’ve been following the reports from Texas as they shifted day by day from amusement at snow on the beach to real concern at the hardships some folks in Texas have been experiencing (those who couldn’t just fly to Mexico, obviously… :-))

  • Dave

    I wonder if it is called coin stitch because the pockets would fit a coin. I have an image of the fisherman at the bar fishing in his jumper while supping on a yet to be paid for pint.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, it would maybe fit an old sixpence? Though if you struck it rich and filled all the pockets with coins it wouldn’t be so much a gansey as chain mail…

  • =Tamar

    Blister Stitch sounds like Fisherman’s Rib, only done less frequently. I wonder which is warmer.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I’ve never knit Fishermen’s Rib, so I can’t comment. The blister stitch effect creates these pockets which I assume would trap warm air over the chest (though surely the warm air would escape out of the vent in the side of each pocket caused by dropping several stitches?). Hmm. I’ll probably have to wait till next winter when it’ll be cold enough to find out…

  • Sarah Smith

    I like the idea of the Blister Stitch. Looking forward to seeing the chart!

    In New England, currently raining on top of half-melted snow creating a lovely, slippery mush!

    • Gordon

      Hi Sarah, chart will be posted tomorrow. (I can’t promise it will make things any clearer though…)

      All our snow has gone now, which is a shame, but also the ice, which isn’t…

  • Mollie Chambers

    This new wool looks so deliciously cosy, a lovely thing to have draped over your knees on a February evening’s knitting.
    In Mary Wright’s Cornish Gansey book I came across a stitch called the hobble which looks to have a similar effect to blister.

    • Gordon

      Hi Mollie, it is a lovely yarn, soft and warm. I’m trying to persuade myself that I need a gansey in it, though so far the bank manager of my innermost soul is pursing his lips and shaking his head…

      I’ve never tried hobble stitch, though I think i might have to now just because of the name!

  • Carol

    Evening Gordon
    I attempted to post under ‘contact me’ but for some reason I couldn’t post, I hope it’s ok to leave a message here.
    Just about to attempt my 1st gansey and wondered now that you appear to have mastered the art (she says tongue in cheek) whether you still use the same cast on you started with or whether you have found another that works well with the garment.
    I have the pewter colourway and will be attempting the Mrs Laidler’s Whitby pattern over a half the gansey after I have worked out the number of stitches required.
    You have knitted some wonderful ganseys.

    • Gordon

      Hi Carol, it’s part of my makeup that once I find a way of doing something, I have zero desire to improve it, or “learn new tricks”! So I still cast on in exactly the same way I did 30 years ago.

      I appreciate that if the gansey is going to get a lot of wear, then a stronger cast-on may be desirable. But mine seem to be doing ok! Honestly, I have my work cut out for me doing all the maths for all the different patterns without trying to learn new techniques at my time of life… 😀

      Best of luck with your project, and please let us know how you get on, Gordon

      • Carol

        I seem to be going round in circles and would appreciate it you could assist….
        I would like to follow your Mrs Laidler revisited half gansey but I am having problems with the calculation.
        The chest measurement is 41″ and with a sample in stocking stitch There are 9 stitches to the inch and between 12.5 and 13 rows in height.
        Do I work out the pattern on 41×9=369sts or do I add the additional 2″ for breathing room 43×9=387sts? Once known I then deduct 2sts for the side seams and then attempt to fit the pattern within this.
        I also seem to keep reading that the welt should have approx. 10% less sts than the main work – do I take this from 41″ or 43″
        The other measurements i.e length and arm length appear to be the same as yours.
        Really sorry for all the questions and many thanks in advance for any assistance. carol

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