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Dunbeath: Week 3 – 22 February

What a difference a week makes! Last weekend it was winter, we were being hammered by gale-force winds and rain was washing away the ice and snow. The winds blew hard enough to crack the brackets attaching our satellite dish to the wall, turning it, as the repairman observed, from an aerial into a weathervane. For three anxious days we were deprived of television news, only to discover when we were reconnected that not a lot had changed. There may be a lesson in that.

Heron fishing

And now suddenly it’s spring. Everything is blues and greens instead of greys and, well, more greys. God’s got His attic conversion done, and the sky now extends all the way up to the ozone layer. Snow has been replaced with snowdrops. The trees and hedges look thicker somehow, as though, despite it being too early for blossom, they’re getting ready to bud, like athletes limbering up before a race. Children were actually playing in the play area and, what’s more, even seemed to be having fun; the last few months the handful I’ve seen down there shuffled about sullenly like prisoners being forced to exercise in the yard. Walking by the river the other day I saw a heron on the island raise its beak like a periscope out of the long grass and survey the waters, before mysteriously submerging again.

Snowdrops by the riverside

And while I’m sure winter hasn’t done with us quite yet, this will do to be going on with. As I write this it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, the sun is shining and the sky is filled with seagulls making cries like the laser cannons in Star Wars. It’s windy, of course, but you expect that. Hmm: I wonder what’s on tv…?



As I mentioned last week, this gansey is being knit using blister (or coin) stitch. On the pattern row, which is every sixth row, you knit 3 plain stitches, then insert the needle through the next stitch four rows down, loop a new knit stitch over your needle, draw it back through the stitch, then, with a gentle tug of the yarn, allow the rows above the stitch you’ve just made to drop. Then you knit the next 3 stitches as before, and repeat the process. (The diamond in the chart shows where to knit the blister stitch.)

It takes a bit of getting used to, this business of actively dropping stitches, but you soon get used to it. It’s both very easy—five rows of plain knitting is always a joy—and slightly stressful. You do have to concentrate: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve, er, lost count, and cheerfully dropped four rows on a stitch, only to find it was the wrong stitch, and had to go back and pick them all up again. Plus inserting the needle through a stitch four rows down is a bit like trying to vaccinate someone while you’re wearing a blindfold.

I don’t really understand how it all works—it seems like the sort of thing that would’ve got you burned at the stake a few hundred years’ ago—but it makes for a very neat, unusual effect. I’m more than halfway up the front (or back; this gansey won’t have a shaped neckline) and should finish it sometime this week, before we do it all again on the other side.

10 comments to Dunbeath: Week 3 – 22 February

  • Gail Donkin

    How many stitches did you have to add to compensate for the bubbles??

    • Gordon

      Hi Gail, none, strangely enough – you’re not actually losing any stitches in terms of width. (I said I don’t really understand it! 🙂)

  • =Tamar

    Does it leave any gaps? I would think that it wouldn’t as the pulling together of the raised stitch should compensate.

    Not watching TV, I have to get my daily dose of worry from the internet. Fortunately, the internet has antidotes for itself, unlike TV.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, you’re quite right, the stitches close up and there are no obvious holes. Of course, if you hold it up to the light you can see daylight; but that’s true of any knitted garment.

      I discovered that if I unfollowed friends with strong political opinions, over time the internet just showed me bread making tutorials and cute cat videos. (Much cuter than the Prime Minister of Great England’s press conferences anyway!)

  • Nigel Southworth

    Oh, weird. But it looks great. I wonder who thought of doing that?

    • Gordon

      Hi Nigel, I imagine that it started with an accident, in much the same way that the discovery of fire probably resulted in a trip to the Stone Age accident and emergency unit…

      Probably someone dropped a few stitches, tried to cover it up and thought, oh, wait, this looks very cool!

  • Mary Macgregor

    Surely another way to get the same effect would be to simply slip the stitch for 4, or however many you want, rows? You just wouldn’t have the looseness in the gap from having knitted the stitch then dropped it.
    Or have I grossly mis-understood?!!

    • Gordon

      Hi Mary, I think my answer is “maybe”! (Many years ago my father tried to teach me the fundamentals of mathematics- the dull throbbing sensation between the ears I got then only comes back to me as an adult when someone tries to explain knitting to me… Sorry!)

  • Mollie Chambers

    Hats off Gordon, it’s looking amazing. I just had a go but discovered a mistake several rows back and now I’m in such a spiders web muddle trying to sort it out. My granny would’ve told me to persevere…and something about character building. But the sun came out and dogs needed a walk, so maybe later!

    • Gordon

      Hi Mollie, I find that I do fine for a time, then catastrophically miscount a pattern row, and there is enough sadness in life without me unpicking a row, and picking up several rows of dropped stitches every fourth stitch. If it’s just a few stitches I can cope, but if – as it might be this very morning – i have a whole row to undo, I have to fess up and hand it over to tech support (aka Margaret!)…

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