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Filey 1: 19 – 25 March 2012

So here we are, after a couple of weeks off, back to the fray: it’s time for a new project. You probably can’t tell from the photographs, but this one’s a bit, ah, vivid. You see, I decided to postpone my intricate Caithness-based cream gansey project to next winter, as I can see light-coloured yarn better than darker colours in the black winter evenings. Instead, I’m knitting a gansey for a friend who works in Edinburgh – he rashly requested one in “fireman red” – so that’s what he’s getting.

I’m more of a muted, natural colours sort of guy, myself (or as some would have it, bearing in mind that 80% of my wardrobe explores the rich, exotic palette of grey, “drab”); so all this comes as something of a shock. I keep looking down and thinking I’ve set myself on fire, or I’m haemorrhaging badly. Several tropical birds have smashed into the lounge window thinking they’ve spotted a mate.

North shore towards Pulteneytown

After some of the more complicated patterns I’ve done recently I have the need to do something simpler (i.e., one I don’t have to think about too much). So I’m doing a Filey pattern from Gladys Thompson’s book, one I’ve always really liked. By a happy coincidence, my friend is the same size as my last victim (the pullover has a 46-inch chest), so once again I’ve cast on 388 stitches for the ribbing, and away we go.

In other news, you know that scene at the end of The Empire Strikes Back? The one where Luke’s got a new hand to replace the one Darth Vader sliced off – and a robot tests it by prodding it with a needle and all his fingers twitch? I’ve never been able to watch that without flinching, but last week I found myself in a very similar situation (the needle thing, not the father slicing off the hand thing, in case you were wondering).

I’ve got a long-standing problem with my forearms: I can’t lift heavy weights for long; I get shooting pains and my hands lose the ability to grip. I’ve been able to ignore it up till now because I haven’t had to carry stuff about much. But now I’m serving in the frontline infantry, 3rd Battalion, Queen’s Heavy Archives, it’s a bit inconvenient.

So we tripped the 100 miles down to Inverness last week so I could have electric pulses zapped into me. In short, they attach electrodes to your elbows and wrists, and slide wire loops over your thumbs and a couple of fingers; and then the doctor says, “Igor, the switch,” and throws his head back and cackles maniacally while you watch your hand flopping around on the table like a landed fish, totally out of your control. The pulses come as regularly as a disapproving knitting teacher clicking her tongue, and they’re happening inside your body, there’s nothing you can do, except watch your fingers twitch like a frog’s leg in science class.

St Fergus' Church

Anyway, I learned two important things. Firstly, I don’t have carpal tunnel or a trapped nerve (but maybe tendonitis); and second, if I’m ever arrested by the secret police I should just sign anything they put in front of me because I have as much resistance as a meringue helmet.

By the way, I said last week that the Caithness dial was set to gloom. Well, that all changed last week – the whole of Britain’s been basking in glorious sunshine. God’s adjusted his set, and turned up the contrast: so the river and sea, which since we moved up here has been a steely grey-green, has suddenly turned deep blue. Coats and scarfs are discarded, and knees tentatively exposed (looking pale and unhealthy, like skin that’s been covered by a cast); the clouds have parted like a theatre curtain, to reveal a whole bigger sky behind the one we’re used to. I’m developing a squint.

And suddenly a fireman-red gansey doesn’t look so out of place after all…

22 comments to Filey 1: 19 – 25 March 2012

  • Brenda

    I will be following closely on this one as I have the pattern that you are doing. Red is fantastic because we on this end of the screen can see it much better and the pattern will stand out. The sun seems to be out everywhere these days but God also invented humour and its such fun to see everyone put their winter gear away only to be cursing in another week or so when the storms come back to destroy whatever work we have done in the garden or undo any of the raking up we have done.I have learned not to put winter clothes away at all anymore. The sun may peek out again in June.

  • =Tamar

    Enjoy it while it lasts, regardless. We have just had a few days of 70F weather, followed by a return to the usual 50-60F weather, now that we’ve all lost our acclimation to the lower temperatures. This happens every year. I’ve finally learned not to put away anything that keeps me warm. NB this is in the area where the UK diplomatic corps used to get hardship pay for tropical conditions.

    Do you wear a face mask to keep out the dust when moving boxes of papers around? I’m learning I need to.

  • Gordon

    Hi Brenda, now you’ve got me worried – what if it’s not the right pattern?! (It’s Filey V in Gladys’s book – still debating whether to tweak it or just replicate it as is.)

    My birthday’s in April and on my 21st birthday it snowed a blizzard in Northampton. So I’m not taking anything for granted till July – and maybe not even then!


  • Gordon


    We do wear face masks if there’s a lot of dust, and if we’re rescuing documents from an old shed or basement/ attic, then definitely. And gloves. Archives is a dirty profession. Masks are a must if there’s a risk of mould, though – you really don’t want to be breathing in spores.

    Many years ago I was clearing out an old police cell where records had been stored for over a decade. (This was back in the early 1980s before health and safety had been invented, so I didn’t have protective gear.) I opened a big ledger to see if it was worth taking, and saw – too late – that the edge was covered in a sort of yellow fungus. As I opened the book, the fungus stretched like elastic until – poof! – the threads snapped and I was completely engulfed in a silent cloud of yellow dust and spores. Probably all my health problems stem from that hour. (Either that or I am now controlled by a gansey-loving alien hive mind life-form.)

    None of it’s as bad as the other time – I think I’ve mentioned this before – i was excavating a heap of rank old records and realised that, while my hand was filthy and covered in revolting powders, the tip of my thumb was shining pink and clean. At some point without thinking I’d licked my thumb to turn a page…


  • Lynne

    If that’s the Frangipani ‘red’, I’ve seen that worked up in the Esther Nurse/Sheringham pattern – and – once you’ve blinked your eyes from color shock – it really works up beautifully. (Sue, from Elton, U.K., has this). I was just looking at all the Filey’s in Gladys Thompson’s book and you certainly have a lot of room to tweak, and no doubt, you will. I see there is no rest between projects by you!

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne,

    Sorry, I meant to say (but forgot) that I’m trying Wendy’s yarn again for a change. It’s a little pinker than I was expecting, not so scarlet, but still very eye-catching!

    I’ve had a couple of weeks break, and that’s enough. My fingers are twitching for something to do after resting up for a week. Thinking about it, this is probably addictive behaviour…


  • Freyalyn

    Fabulous colour – and I don’t even like red. Whoever is losing all their tropical birds won’t be pleased with you…

  • Gordon

    Hi Freyalin – I rather agree with you about the colour. I reckon wearing it will be as good as a tan!


  • Sarah

    I don’t know. Wearing it might GIVE you a tan. It’s pretty intense. I’m not really a red-lover either, but it is a beautiful color.

  • Sandra

    Hi Gordon, I agree a great colour. I love red. My own Gansey has taken off like a rocket as predicted after dividing, the back is finished and I’m halfway up the front. Have to admit I took a few weeks off as I got bored with it, but I’m back in the mood now. Does anyone get pins and needles in their fingers whilst knitting? I thought it would go away when I got used to knitting again but it appears not. Happy knitting everyone, Sandra.

  • Gordon

    Sarah, when the sun’s out it glows like a Japanese lantern. I expect my friend if he wears it in the sun will have to dodge people throwing buckets of water over him to put out the fire!

    Sandra, I can sympathise. I mean, obviously this is gansey city here, but there are times when it does get a bit samey and, yes, boring. In the old days I’d put them down and weeks, months would sometimes pass until I picked it up again. But since I started this blog I find I’m motivated to keep going, and ride out the rough times. Though sometimes it’s noticeable that I don’t do a whole lot from week to week! (No pins and needles, but I haven’t told the doctors I knit ganseys – just in case they tell me that’s what’s wrong with my arms and wrists – hey, if they’re so smart they should figure it out, right?)


  • brenda

    FileyV it is. Steps and cables if I am reading it right. Are you going to put initials on it? I am finding the sweater I am making quite heavy and I am not even at the gussets{gulp} yet. Not quite as heavy as a cowichan sweater but pretty close. Now there’s a sweater to make you swear a blue streak. Ever made one?

  • Lynne

    Your hand and arm, strength and pain symptoms sound an awful lot like my son-in-laws symptoms that came from C5-6 in his neck. ?CT scan scheduled?

  • OMG, that red is amazing. Wow. I hadn’t thought – I mean, I’ve been resisting staring a gansey for myself (yes, with the fish skeletons in the pattern), but I’d been restricting myself color-wise. Wow.

    I should go look at the Frangipani colors again!

    And if you don’t start using a mask and gloves, I’m going to cry! Don’t die of preventable mold poisoning! NOT allowed.


  • Gordon


    You’ll quite often see archivists round the back of nightclubs surreptitiously brushing away red and yellow powder from their noses – man that mould is addictive! Once you’ve had a spore rush, baby, you won’t never go back (according to the latest edition of the Society of Archivists’ Journal anyway…). Of course, you have to cut it on acid-free tape to get the full effect.

  • Gordon


    Yes, I plan to knit initials on this one, make good use of the inch or so between the ribbing and the pattern. I hadn’t come across cowichan sweaters before (I’m a little ashamed to say I had to look them up) – they look pretty cool. Unfortunately my court order prevents me from knitting in more than one colour – union rules, you know the kind of thing – but I’m a huge fan of Fair Isle and those look right up my street. Next time I’m in British Columbia…


  • Gordon

    Lynne, I’m sorry, I have no idea what a C5-6 is. It sounds a bit like a robot from Star Wars.

    So far I’ve had blood extracted and have been mildly electrocuted. I’m starting to think the cure is worse than the disease!


  • Lynne

    Ooops, sorry about that – it’s compression of the nerve root between your 5th and 6th cervical vertebra, and the cure might SOUND worse than the disease but, in my ‘son’s’ case, the recovery was such a relief. A one inch incision on the front of the neck, removal of the offending intervertebral disc, and a fusion of the two vertebrae. Some people go home the same day, he was an overnighter because of Type I Diabetes. The worse part for him was not biking for six months post.

  • Leigh

    Oooooo, I luuuvvvv the Rrred! I want to do Erskay in red.

    P.S. Humber is a magnificent success!

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne, interesting, thanks. I’ll see what the doctor says, but I have to say my enthusiasm waned at the word “incision”!

    And hello Leigh, and thank you. I think the red would show off any pattern well, especially moss, but the one I’m thinking of doesn’t have moss stitch in it and I really don’t think I should put it in just because!


  • Lisa Mitchell

    I have some Buffalo (the brand name – not the animal) yarn you can have! Dark brown, grey, white…

  • Lisa Mitchell

    Sorry… Buffalo yarn’s used for knitting Cowichan sweaters.