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Fife 11: 1-7 February

Yesterday I thought it was probably time to check on my progress, and come to some decisions about how long Margaret’s cardigan is going to be, since if I wasn’t careful I’d end up knitting not so much a gansey as a cocoon. Imagine my surprise when I discovered – not that I wish to fall into the stereotype of a heedless typical male, you understand – that she isn’t in fact quite as tall as I thought, and that unless I changed course soon she’d have very warm knees but rather restricted mobility.

After some complicated calculations involving a tape measure, a slide rule and an abacus, we agreed on a total length for this gansey of 23 inches, from the top of the shoulder to the bottom of the welt. Given that I’ve already knitted 11.5 inches, and that my usual gusset-plus-yoke combinations come to about 12 inches, clearly it’s time to hastily change gear, start the gusset, stop knitting the body pattern and switch to the central band. (If you open the window and listen carefully that sound you hear will be me frantically crashing the gears of my knitting brain.)

The central band will consist of 2.5 to 3 inches of a diagonal pattern from Gladys Thompson (page 111) “Scottish Fleet Pattern XXII” (I think they use the same numbering system for popes). She gives the pattern in both single and double stitch versions, but we’re going for the single stitch version as you’ll see from the pattern here.

The yoke will consist of a combination of diamonds, trees of life and cables, in the usual way, all very traditional and adapted from the Scottish fishing fleet patterns. (If this seems a little vague, it’s because it is – I haven’t worked it out yet, and will worry about that once I get to the end of the central band. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, our new motto, closely followed by, All those who do run will be put to the sword – Isaiah 13:15.)

I’ve also started the gussets – I’m only a row or two in, as I started them on the knit row just before the purl row that marks the start of the central band. They will run the length of the central band, and will be slightly smaller than some of my more recent gussets, probably ending up 2.5-3 inches long by the armhole.

If I sound tired, it’s because I am. Not only because of the usual insomnia, migraines, etc. – that gets boring after a while – but because I have today reached 60,000 words on the novel I’m writing. (The tragedy, alas, is that nearly all of them are the wrong words, and it will have to be substantially rewritten once I get to the end, but just at the moment I’m aiming for quantity, not quality!).  I’m still rather pleased to have got there in just 3 months – 2 of which were spent writing, the other lying in bed thinking the sort of thoughts that made Thomas Hardy such a riot at parties.

My recent experiments combining mashed potatoes and bread led me back, inevitably, to the fons et origo of my inspiration, my father’s celebrated traditional Scottish “tattie” (potato) scones. (See last week’s comments for recipe.)

They are a lethal combination of being both incredibly filling and very more-ish, so before you know it you’re easing your waistcoat buttons before they ping across the room, while at the same time extending a trembling hand for just one more… No matter how much flour I used the mixture stuck to the counter, so in the end I just divided it into balls and rolled each one out into a sort of triangle individually. Incredibly easy to make, they’re the perfect comfort food in cold weather, hot or cold, just add a smear of butter and roll them up and watch the little blighters disappear!

Tune in next week as we push back the bounds of taste and decency with oven chip flat bread…

9 comments to Fife 11: 1-7 February

  • Lynne

    Good to read your post as it fit in perfectly with my thoughts yesterday to start watching my measurements so I wouldn’t miss the start of the gusset. How tall IS Margaret? I, too, had determined a 23″ length, but a slightly deeper armhole than last winter’s project, so had planned the beginning of the gusset at 10.5″. I’m only at 7.5″ right now, so plenty of time left. My hands are pretty sore so I’ve been limiting myself to 4-6 rows daily.
    I’m anxious to see what you’re going to do with the top band and your steek!

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne,

    I have of course no idea how tall Margaret is. She’s not as tall as me and taller than our cats used to be. Somewhere in between, I’d guess. (H’m – you think maybe I should try to find out?)

    With the drop shoulders I find 9 inches is enough for the armhole (8 inches for the yoke + 1 inch for the shoulder strap) and c.3 inches for the gusset. Much more than that and it’s hard to decrease sufficiently down to the cuffs and I end up with baggy sleeves! But then, I always find sleeves problematical, alas.

    Re top band and gusset – you and me both!


  • =Tamar

    The blue wool looks better and better. Was that sunlight on it?
    I may have to buy some potatoes. The scones look very good.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    One of the attractive features of the yarn is that it seems to change colour with the light. Yes, surprisingly, after grey skies, pouring rain and then heavy snow, the sun came out yesterday afternoon for the photo shoot! Some of the pictures have come out a bit drab, but this shows it better.

    I would offer you one of the scones I made, but they’re all gone now, alas…


  • Leigh

    Hey Gordon!

    Have you heard of the Moray Firth Gansey Project. The project is going to have a big Autumn Seminar in Inverness in Oct 2011. See below web site. I think you should enter some of your ganseys in the competitions. I bet you would give many a run for their money if not win outright!


    We could all meet and sample your wares.

  • Gordon

    Hi Leigh,

    Thanks for that – you’ve just reminded me I meant to flag that up in the blog! D’oh!

    I’m curious to see the details of what the seminar will consist of – they’ve got star names, anyway. 2 days intrigues me – my concern is my gansey-related conversation runs dry after about 15 minutes…!

    (Actually I’m more concerned that people will discover I don’t really exist but am in fact a consortium of 15 Albanian goat herders using this website as a front for illegal goat’s cheese smuggling. But I’ve said too much already.)


  • Leigh

    Oh thank you Gordon for that laugh at 6:30 a.m. US East Coast time. Fifteen goat herders, Albanian or Mongolian, notwithstanding, if I ever had the chance to go back to Scotland, meeting you, or at the very least Margaret, would certainly be a highlight.

    Fifteen minutes, Pshaw! How long have you been writing this gansey blog? In fact, perhaps I will drop you name in the “suggestion box” to head up a “show and tell” group at the Seminar?

  • Gordon

    Hi Leigh,

    I’ll be interested to see what they finalise before I make my mind up. If only they were holding it somewhere in Fife! Why, are you thinking of coming, then?


  • Leigh

    I would give my eye teeth to come. The USD is not with us at this time, so traveling to GB/Europe is very expensive. It might be doable if I could find some inexpensive lodging.