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Filey 2.12: 24 – 30 June

F20701aIt’s the beginning of spider season here in Caithness, so I’ve just been down to the Post Office to get my official hunting permit, and to stock up on a few necessaries (safety goggles, pith helmet, cartridges).

The little devils are everywhere just now: we have high ceilings and you can see them lurking up there, cocooned in grey webs, pooling in the corners like cigarette smoke. The house now has so many webs that a simple trip to the bathroom resembles Indiana Jones unearthing a lost temple.

And then there’s the matter of, ahem, spider spoor. (We had a visit at work from our conservator recently. He was examining an old ledger of 19th century parish accounts for insect infestation; at one point he gripped it by both side edges and banged the bottom edge down hard on the table – when he lifted it, grains of black dust lay in a heap. “Ah, frass,” he said, in the tone of Sherlock Holmes decrypting a cipher. “What’s that?” I asked, trying to place the word. He smiled: “Insect poo.”)

I’ve had a bit of a thing about spiders ever since I woke up once as a child with one crawling across my cheek. (We lived out in the country, and our walls were about as porous as the US-Mexico border.) I’m not afraid of them, as such: but opening your eyes to find a little hairy face regarding you with a sort of detached curiosity, as if wondering which Tantalising Nostril of Mystery to explore first before laying its eggs in your brain, certainly teaches you that we are not put on earth for pleasure alone. (Well, that, and not to sleep with your mouth open.)


Spectacular gansey progress this week, with the front completed, the shoulder straps joined, the collar done and dusted, and the stitches around the first sleeve picked up. Of course, this is the fun bit of knitting a gansey, where there are lots of short tasks that can be knocked off in short order, giving you a real sense of achievement.

F20701bWhile I was on a roll, I picked up the stitches around the first sleeve too. As regular readers will know, generally I find this about as much fun as hacking off my little toe with a tomato knife, but it has to be done. (The trickiest part for me is keeping the stitches even along the entire length, and not leaving myself too much, or too little space, at the end; it’s hard to judge it right since I knit 12 rows vertically to c.9 stitches horizontally, so if I’m not careful I end up picking up one stitch per row, resulting in 25% too many stitches.)The collar is 1.25 inches high, or 15 rows, and the neckline at the front is indented by 9 stitches, or 18 rows (decreasing every second row), about 1.5 inches. (I know indented necklines weren’t traditional, but this way I don’t feel like I’m being slowly strangled by a giant hairy caterpillar.)

For a change, I thought I’d try Lynne’s technique of using two circular needles, instead of four dpns. It worked a charm on the pick-up row, though because I wasn’t using stitch markers I kept having to recount the stitches.


But perhaps I’ve been going about all this the wrong way. I’ve been thinking of breeding an army of tame spiders to pick up the stitches for me; or, why stop there, to knit entire ganseys out of spider thread. Initial tests have been discouraging, however, as they have a tendency to kill and eat anything they wrap in silk – not really a successful business model (this never happened to Snow White). But I’m determined to persevere: we’re in a recession after all, so the little beggars can jolly well work for their rent.

12 comments to Filey 2.12: 24 – 30 June

  • Lynne

    Love the spider narrative, I (on the other hand) AM an arachnophobe and there would have to be a Psych ward available with that infestation! I think you’ll like going down the sleeve with the two circulars. When I pick up the sleeve stitches, I use long straight pins and section the sleeve into 8ths, that way I know to PU 18sts (or whatever) between each section and it keeps them pretty well distributed.
    Again, this is one of my favorite ganseys!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne,

      I found the two circular needles worked really well in the pick-up row, but as soon as I tried to carry on into the first row they became too tight, there wasn’t enough room to knit properly. What am I doing wrong?

      Little British spiders are kind of cute, really, but they do make a mess, and make the place look like mad Miss Havisham’s bedchamber, or a Tim Burton movie!


      • Lynne

        With two circular needles, the Golden Rule is: only use one needle at a time, so you let one needle rest, and work with both ends of one needle at a time. When you get to the end of that needle, pull the needle through and let it “droop”, grab the other needle, move your stitches to the knitting end, grab the other end of SAME needle, pull the yarn from the last stitch knit, and around you go. You might have to find something on You Tube that demonstrates better than the written word.

  • I just love that every Monday regular as clockwork there is a blog post and I can catch up with your progress. Simple.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jean, and thanks for getting in touch. I try to synch my blog posts with the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone! The really scary thing is if I do a sort of time-lapse thing and look back the blog posts and realise how long I’ve been doing it…


  • I bet our spiders are bigger than yours ! 🙂
    Take care.
    Regards, Keith.
    New England Australia.

    • Gordon

      Hi Keith,

      Not only are your spiders bigger, they’re LETHAL in a way our wimpy little web-spinning cowards, generally speaking, aren’t. In fact my impression of Australian spiders is based on Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies, only yours are worse. (Over here, a diet of deep-fried Mars bars may kill you, but the wildlife tends not to. I like those odds!)


  • Gracie


    Super laughs every time! Cigarette smoke – excellent. Indiana Jones – louder laugh. Good stuff. Oh, oh – frass. ieuw!! Oh DEEEEAR, this is getting too funny to bear – even the deaf dog has leapt off the couch again – downstairs! I kid thee not.

    I gasped when I saw your spectacular gansey progress. I’ll be over shortly for my fitting. With my red hair, it’ll work a charm. Stop – the tomato knife – both dogs are on their feet now. Yup, picking up for sleeves – I’m with you man. I’m going with the circular vote. I actually rewrite patterns for circulars. It’s how I learned at 16 from a Norwegian friend.

    We don’t kill spiders in this neck of the US New England woods (truly smaller than AU relatives). They eat mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus and animal heart worm. Again, I kid thee not. Spiders are safe in this casa. Of course, there’s always the Anguillia honeymoon villa (gift!!!!), grapefruit-size, screaming orange spider sharing the couch with me incident. He/she was coaxed into a fry pan, covered with a pillow and let loose outside. Where was my camera? As a chef, James was armed for the task – with a “brought from home” frypan. Really?


  • =Tamar

    Spectacular progress indeed! That gansey is looking good. Don’t believe what they say about “no indented necklines”; if you study those 19thC photos carefully, there are some indented necklines to be seen. Also, the instructions for neck gussets can be interpreted to create a similar effect.

    I don’t mind spiders so much as long as they’re not poisonous and they stay away from me. I dislike stinging insects very much; I once woke up with a wasp walking around on my face and had to wait for it to decide to fly away before getting up (never startle a wasp).

  • Gordon

    Hi everyone,

    Many years ago when I was a kid I saw a nature documentary about a spider that gets irradiated and grows to giant size. (At least I think it was a documentary. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.)

    Anyway, by the end of the programme the spider’s the size of a cathedral, and gets taken out by the air force. But there’s a scene early on which really spooked me, where it’s about the size of a large dog, and you see it in someone’s house when they don’t know it’s there, half-glimpsed in the background or through doorways. (A tiny spider you can stamp on; a giant spider is preposterous, and – as I learned from the programme – you can always nuke it from the air; but a spider the size of a space hopper inside your house is genuinely creepy and disturbing.)

    I think the problem with spiders is, their elbows and knees are higher than their eyebrows. You can’t trust ’em. (Useful tip: this is also true for people.)


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