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Fife 2: 7 – 13 December

As this is, at heart, a gansey knitting blog, it’s probably time to get back to the basic, nitty-grittyness of actually knitting a gansey again.

This one is going to be a cardigan for Margaret, which isn’t something I’ve ever tried before, and which is going to be … interesting. (And, without wishing to give away the ending prematurely, scissors may be involved later. Sooner if it doesn’t go well.)

After much debate in which Margaret, bless her, tried to get me to understand the various ways in which a cardigan can be knitted in the round (and to which I responded, as a good student of medieval philosophy, by applying Gordon’s Razor, my own version of the “lex parsimoniae”, which basically holds that I will stop paying attention as soon as I’m asked to understand anything complicated), we agreed that I would attempt it via the steek method.

This means that I will knit the cardigan exactly as I would any other gansey, in the round, but that I will add a panel of some 20 stockinette stitches in the front centre (where the cardigan’s zip will go). This is the “steek”. When the gansey is finished, we will ceremoniously take the aforementioned scissors and cut the steek up the middle (hopefully with greater success than when I try to cut Christmas wrapping paper, which looks like I was being tickled while simultaneously having the hiccoughs and accidentally sticking a toe in a light fitting). The edges are then folded back and stitched down and a zip will be attached up the middle. Sounds straightforward, no?

One advantage to having quite a few ganseys lying around the place as moth hatcheries is that sizing is relatively simple: you just ask the subject to keep trying them on until they stumble across one that seems to fit, or they lose interest, and use that as a model.

So this one has 384 stitches in the round at cast on, plus a central steek of 20 stitches, making 404 stitches in all. (As ever, it is important that all the stitches add up to a multiple of 4 for the knit 2/purl 2 ribbing, or 96 ribs plus the steek, which isn’t ribbed, of course.)

I haven’t sorted out the pattern yet – I’ll worry about that when I get to the end of the ribbing – like waiting till you’re out of harbour before charting the exact course of your voyage. But I’m keen to do a Fife fishing fleet pattern of some kind, probably a combination out of Gladys Thomson’s recorded patterns.

Thanks to those of you who’ve already downloaded and read my fantasy novel (my “shabby little shocker”, as a critic once famously described Puccini’s Tosca), and for your positive feedback. I’ve decided to try my hand at another book, the idea for which came to me while I was sitting in the hospital last week. I’ve written 24,000 words already, and I can best describe the plot as a combination of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Kant’s metaphysics,which should be an easy sell to a publisher, right?

Finally, I’m still persevering with my sourdough experiments. Here’s a light and airy white loaf, not quite as successful as the loaf I posted a few weeks back, but still pretty good. The other is an attempt at a wholemeal sourdough, which alas counts as a failure – same recipe, but the wild yeast culture just wasn’t strong enough to raise the heavier wholemeal flour. (On the plus side, placed under doors and on window cills they make great draft excluders…)

7 comments to Fife 2: 7 – 13 December

  • Leigh

    Good Morning Gordon!

    I really love that color for your gansey. I am starting to get my supply list ready (costs) for my gansey. I see you have almost 400 stitches cast on. How long is your cable? I have about 350 +/- to cast on. Would a 40-inch cable be long enough?

    Thanks Leigh.

    P.S. If I concentrate very hard, I think I am getting a whiff of that bread all the way across the Pond against prevailing winds.

  • Leigh

    Followup: Okay, OKAY, so I read your instructions and all the questions answered. I also like your gauge dissertation, very user friendly.

  • Gordon

    Hi Leigh,

    I’m glad you’ve sorted out what you’re about – reading some of my own instructions again I’m no longer sure I do! I use an 80cm circular needle for 360-440 stitches – is that what you mean? – a size smaller than that and the stitches bunch up and are hard to manage, a size longer than that and they stretch on the needle which feels like I’m torturing my own knitting on the rack…

    Though the ribbing at the bottom always pulls in awkwardly, no matter what.

    No matter how many ganseys I knit, the gauge varies depending on the yarn I’m using, how warm it is, or how tense the cricket tends to be (not very, while England are kicking Australia’s butt, heh heh heh). So I go for “approximately right” and trust that it will all work out in the end. Which it (usually but not always) does.

    Good luck!

  • Leigh

    Yeah, 80 cm = 32 inches so I guess I will go with the 32 metal needles from Knit Picks. One of these days when I get rich and good lookin’, I will be able to afford the Addi’s. Good Idea about getting back up ones. Do need to find some good dpn that are long enough to pick up all those sleeve stitches. The longest Knit Picks have are 8 inches.

    Good idea about getting the 5 cones for 2 sweaters. Frangipani will give me 2 cones plus 2 balls which will make my 1200 g. So I guess I could go either way. After 2 ganseys being of the same color, I might go wacko…well okay, even more wacko than I am.

    I can tell this is going to be very invd. Let me know if I become a pest!

    “tense the cricket” translation: Okay, crickets loud (tense), summer, heat must also affect gauge. I cant help it. Say “cricket” and I immediately think of the little brown insect that keeps me up half the night come early fall, and if they get in your house… OMG!

  • Nigel


    “I have written 24,000 words already”. Are you the new Walter Scott my dear man? It took me three months to get 15,000 done and then I gave up.
    Anyway, you may not be able to answer this but… here goes. I am 5′ 8” and a 40 inch chest. How much wool do you reckon I need (aprox of course) for a gansey?

  • Gordon

    Hi Leigh,

    Milward and Inox seem pretty good. I tried a “Pony” brand but didn’t get on with them so well. 12″ dpns are great but almost impossible to find these days.

    There’s a line in TS Eliot’s great modernist poem “The Waste Land” which describes a desolate landscape in which “the sun beats, And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief”. I have a friend who swears blind that this doesn’t refer to the sound of the insect, but the fact that things are so bad that even the great game of cricket can’t provide any entertainment…

    Feel free to ask or raise as many questions or ideas as you like! If I can’t answer them, perhaps some of the knowledgeable coves who occasionally visit these pages will be able to help.

    Best wishes,

  • Gordon

    What ho Nigel,

    The tragedy is, I could spend my life writing with no difficulty, I think -the blank page holds no terror for me and I’m not short of ideas – but I just can’t see myself ever getting off the publisher’s slush pile and into print. Unless there’s a publisher out there who’s a fan of ganseys, I may struggle to get their attention! Maybe what I need is a rich patron…

    If I were knitting a gansey for someone of your height and build I’d probably expect to use 10-12 100g balls of yarn. I usually work to an average of 100g giving me 3.5 inches on the body, so that’s 7-8 balls for the body of a 27″ inch gansey, with another 3-4 for the neck and sleeves.

    I’s say you can either get 11 balls’ worth, and worry (probably needlessly) about running out of yarn by the end (not a problem so long as the supplier has more in that dye lot), or buy 12 balls’ worth and expect to have about 1.5 balls left over at the end.

    Hope that helps. Please get back to me if you’d like to discuss further, or want to see some examples sometime.