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Fife 12: 8 – 14 February

Deep in my basement laboratory machinery has hummed, electrodes have crackled, eerie blue light has flickered under the door, dials have, er, dialled, and in short, I emerge with a manic stare and a wild cry of triumph*, while on the table my creation twitches with galvanic life.

But more on this later.

First of all, if you were paying careful attention last week, you will notice that something strange has happened to the centre panel. The pattern we printed shows the arrows pointing left to right like a series “greater than” symbols (>>>>). But for some reason, when I came to knit it, I transposed them into mirror writing and knit them the other way round (<<<<). I have no explanation for this: I fully intended to knit them as charted. But somehow they’ve ended up backwards. (It doesn’t matter in the slightest, of course, but it does give me the opportunity to say, “We’re through the looking glass here, people!” in my best Kevin Costner voice.)

I’m well into the gussets, too, working on my default increase of 2 stitches (one either side of the gusset) every 4 rows. As ever, it looks laughably amateurish and uneven for the first few rows, then gradually resolves itself into a nice, orderly shape. (I’m adopting the totally unnecessary style whereby I don’t actually increase on the edge stitches, but on the stitches next to the edges on the inside. This gives a nice clean un-distorted stitch on either edge, which makes for a clear border.)

Last week I was boasting that I had reached 60,000 words on the novel. This week I also have 60,000 words. Not that I’ve been putting my feet up, watching daytime television – I would sooner stab myself in the eyes with a rusty nail – have in fact come close on occasion – for want of a nail, etc. – but I finally went through the document and started pulling it into shape. This meant deleting about 16,000 words I’d written early on, and which just didn’t fit the story it’s become. Now it’s on track and we’re on the home straight. Another week might even finish the first draft.

So what is my new invention? As hinted last week, I have created a new bread product which will make my name a hissing and a byword among weight watchers everywhere. I call it the “Chip-batta”, which is a bad pun, i.e., a cross between a ciabatta and a British “chip butty” (basically, a thick sandwich, traditionally on white bread, whose filling is the large, soggy French fries we call chips). At a stroke, it’s the ultimate comfort food (stroke being the operative word, I suspect, alas).

It’s basically a variation of the Piadina flatbread I made a couple of weeks ago. Roll out one flatbread dough, add a layer of chips, cover with a second flatbread, and cook in the pan till done.

Full recipe: 500g flour, 340g water, 1 tsp instant yeast, 1.5 tsp salt. Combine all ingredients into a loose dough. Leave 20 minutes in the bowl. Tip out and knead for 10-12 minutes. Put back in bowl and leave to rise for 1.5 hours. Once risen, tip out onto a floured surface and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a flat round. Liberally cover one piece with leftover or otherwise cooked low-fat chips. Lay another piece on top and seal like a pasty. Cook dry in a heavy frying pan, turning frequently, until done – 5-10 minutes per bread. Allow to cool, slice and snarf. (Small slices recommended – it’s very filling.)

Finally, thanks to Leigh for reminding me that the Moray Firth Gansey Project is having a 2-day seminar in Inverness, Scotland on 1-2 October 2011. There’s not much information as yet, but they say they’ll have “talks and master classes by experts such as Beth Brown-Reinsel, Liz Lovick and Di Gilpin”. Keep an eye on their website at http://www.gansey-mf.co.uk/seminar.html for more information as it emerges.

[* Probably best represented by “Mwahahaha.”]

12 comments to Fife 12: 8 – 14 February

  • Lynne

    Gordon, regarding your increases in the 2nd st.of the gusset, do you use the ‘lift’ increase? or the ‘knitting-the-knit st. twice’ technique? Regarding the book, how many words is the goal for the finshed product? How many words was in the three parts of the Wraiths . . .? The bread looks wonderful – and I’m SO glad I’m not your neighbour! I would gain weight just from the smell of it baking!

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne,

    I’ve just checked with Margaret (who understands these things), and apparently what I do is knit through the stitch below for the increase, then knit the stitch on the needle. (Actually, what I tend to do is close my eyes, stick my tongue out the corner of my mouth, and jab optimistically like an incompetent nurse in pursuit of a vein. Sometimes it takes a few goes.)

    The Wraiths altogether was just under 90,000 words. I’m aiming for a nice, tight 70,000 words on this one, which is the average length of a Graham Greene or Brother Cadfael sort of story. (This is just a bit of fun – well, rather more than that, of course – but I enjoyed rewriting Wraiths so much I thought I’d see if I could write a novel in 4 months, and not throw it in the bin at the end. The jury’s out on that, mind you. It’s gone pretty well, so my plan is to finish the first draft this month, rewrite it in March and set it aside to ferment in the vat for a few months. Then – who knows? I might try a real novel…)

    I’m rather pleased with the bread – and it’s really not very fattening. There are actually only a couple of chips per portion, and the bread itself is pretty pared down. Honestly…


  • Gordon

    Hi again,

    A quick check online suggests that you get about 250 words to a page of a standard paperback. So 70,000 words = 280 pages. (Wraiths at 90,000 would be about 360 pages.)


  • Lynne

    Thanks for the increase instructions and I will use this technique for this gansey. I usually use the lift increase and twist the stitch which closes up the little gap, but coming up from under the stitch sounds like no gap at all.
    I just finished a Nelson DeMille paperback that was 1000 pages, a lot of it just diarrhea of the mouth! (excuse the analogy), so 90,000 words in comparision is a piece of cake and your writing is much more interesting. Looking forward to it.

  • =Tamar

    Hooray, I prefer the knit-in-stitch-below increase also!
    All of the others leave gaps when I do them. I also like to work increases one stitch in so as to leave a nice edge.
    But at the chip-batta I find I must draw the line, even though it might technically be considered a form of potato patty.

    Novels have been shorter and longer. I remember when the Picture of Dorian Gray was published by itself as a novel; now it’s a novella. Dickens’s novels used to be the standard for long books, now they are about average, even short. I like some depth in a book, but not the Marianas Trench.

  • Suzanne

    Chips from your kitchen? or from the corner chip shop? Having trouble wrapping my palate’s imagination around the combination. But it did remind me that my favorite potato appetizer is a little fried bread pasty containing well seasoned mashed potatoes. Afghanistan is its origin. I wonder if I can track down the recipe without ending up under surveillance for possible links to terrorism…

    Gansey cardigan is coming along very nicely.

  • Gordon

    Hi all – so OK, maybe the chip-batta isn’t going to make my fortune after all! Or maybe as I’m in Scotland I could deep-fry it? (Oh I say, cheap shot – bad form, that man.)

    If I wasn’t forgoing cheese just now I’d recommend a recipe from Georgia I’m rather partial to, Khachpuri. You make an enriched bread dough with milk and a little butter, then after rising cut into pieces and roll out to flat 8″ circles. Then you cut some cheese cubes (cheddar and another of your choice, like goat’s cheese), stir in a beaten egg and flavour with salt and pepper. Put the dough circle in a yorkshire pudding or muffin tray, add the filling, and fold it up, tying it at the top with a twist. Bake till done. But I should think mashed potato would do as well…

    Many fantasy & SF novels have gotten as bloated as some Victorian fiction – great series of books, all 1,000 pages or so. Very hard to sustain over time, alas. At least the average Terry Pratchett is a rather more manageable 280 pages or so, which also lets him knock out a couple a year!

    My main complaint with fantasy fiction is that ever since Tolkien authors have to give us entire wars – huge decisive battles – which i find a bit wearisome after a while. I find the approach in SF taken by the likes of Iain Banks more interesting – set the action during a great war, but focus on a small group of people on a mission, and use them to explore your big themes. But obviously battles sell.

    Good luck with your increases! (Sounds like a fertility blessing, doesn’t it – as my old Morris side used to sign off, “Continue to flourish”.) But I take consolation that the gussets will be invisible under the arms and only a knitter is going to scrutinise them, and all you have to do is keep your arms by your sides and they’re baffled, gnashing their teeth in impotent rage. So a little imprecision is forgivable.

    Best wishes to all,

  • Ruth

    Interesting discussion of increases – I tend to find holes, so will try your method when I get to my gansey. I’m waiting for the people at Frangipani to get back from wherever they’ve gone so I can order the wool.

    That’s one hell of a chip butty, great invention!

  • Gordon

    Hi Ruth – all this focus on increases had made me self-conscious. The latest increases on this gansey aren’t looking as smooth as the results I usually get – must remember not to let them be photographed till the heat dies down – but there aren’t any actual holes.

    Re the butty – I must admit i did get some funny looks from the neighbours as I stood on the roof during that lightning storm, crying, “Give my creation … LIFE!” (By the way, it works best if the chips already come coated in salt & vinegar.)


  • Sue

    In other knitting I use both the ‘pick up the loop between stitches and knit into the back’ and also the ‘knit into the front, knit into the back of the same stitch method’ and neither seem to leave holes – but then I do tend to knit to quite a tight tension. I’ve never used the ‘knit into the st below’ method – must give it a try.

    On the current gansey I’m using my latter method because it gives the extra stitch the appearance of a purl on the right side and I fancied the idea of keeping the ‘seam’ stitches running up either side of the gusset. To do this you need to increase in the last stitch before the gusset and then in the last stitch of gusset itself. I do this on every 4th row and as long as you remember to purl each side of the gusset on the 2nd row as well, it seems to give a really nice ‘seeded’ edge to the gusset.

    Once I start on the sleeves I was planning to decrease by purling 2 tog at each side of the gusset on every 4th row (and remembering to purl on the 2nd row!. This I hope will get round the problem of the slight lack of symmetary that you get if you k2 tog on one side and s1, k1, psso over on the other. Started doing this on raglan sleeves, 3 sts in from the edge and really liked the old ‘fully- fashioned’ look it gave so use it whenever I can now!



  • Sue

    PS, Just realised as result of browsing elsewhere on your excellent site that some of my comments above might be confusing because I see that you purl all your seam stitches whereas I only purl on the alternate rows as per good old Gladys’s instructions!

    And my obsession with symmetary means that I make sure that the seam will ‘grow’ from the centre of the p2 in the rib by increasing in the middle of them on the last rib row (as I do for the extra 10% of stitches) before finishing the welt.



  • Gordon

    Hi Sue,

    I must admit when I first read your comment it was just like being back at Chemistry at the Northampton Grammar School For Backward Adolescents. Any moment I expected Mr Fraser to suddenly round on me and ask me to rephrase what you’d written as a differential equation! But then I realised you were talking about a different technique and the panic attack passed.

    It always amazes me how much variety there is in knitting even as simple a thing as an underarm gusset. You’re right, I always knit an all-purl seam round the gusset, come to think of it I may never have tried anything else. (I do occasionally have the seam continuing up the middle of the gusset, effectively dividing it into two mirror-triangles; and every now and again I will knit the wearer’s initials into the gusset, instead of above the ribbing of the welt. But that’s about it.) I agree about the slight lack of symmetry, though it doesn’t bother me – I find it all tends to even out once the sweater is finished – ie, it’s only noticeable if you look for it!