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Filey 2.5: 29 April – 5 May

F20505aIt’s a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, and to celebrate we took the old jalopy for a spin up to the north coast, in quest of a tea shop selling good quality coffee and cakes. (This is not as easy as it sounds; in fact, in the first draft of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Frodo was offered a choice between venturing to the wastes of Mordor to destroy the Ring of Power, or finding somewhere in Caithness where Gandalf could get a decent latte; our hero chose the former quest because he thought it would be easier…)

Spring hasn’t quite made up its mind yet, and is hedging its bets, like a gambler studying his cards and debating whether to raise or fold. When the clouds part and the sun comes out it’s staggeringly beautiful, there’s really nothing between you and God, and the sky just recedes away to a hazy blue infinity; other times—Saturday, for instance—the temperature is just above freezing, the rain turns to sleet (ah, snow—Caithness’s May blossom) and you start thinking about what you want for Christmas.


John O’Groat Hotel. The debate still rages as to whether the new extension fits in.

The daffodils were out at John o’Groats, as were the first tourists of the season. (You could tell they were tourists by the way they stood on the sea wall and stared longingly into the fog as it condensed on their cycling shorts and tried to imagine a view they could only hear.) The swallows have arrived too, our avian tourists; we saw them clustered around signposts, trying to work out where they’d taken a wrong turning to end up here—birds and humans both thinking, “We came all that way just for this? Well, if you think I’m buying a souvenir lang-may-yer-lum-reek tea towel/ bird bath after this you can blooming well think again…”

Heb0505bSo, it’s not time to put away the gansey just yet, not while there’s still ice in the rigging, and the wind is strong enough to pick up young girls and send them spinning out of Kansas. I’m about a foot up the body of my Filey gansey, the one I plan to donate to the crew of the Reaper (although, as Margaret has observed, my way of describing this as the “Reaper gansey” does rather make it sound as if I’m knitting a sweater for the harvester of souls…).

Now it’s over to Margaret for a progress update on the button bands for the cream cardigan.

– § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § – § –

Heb0505dDespite the general murkiness of the Bank Holiday in Caithness (especially since England is basking in tropical sunshine), progress has been made on the button bands.  The button-holding band is now finished.  It’s a bit crinkly, but if blocking doesn’t fix it, there is always the option of ripping it out and doing it again.  After all, it isn’t a whole gansey.   The button-hole band is nearing completion, with only the cast off to do.  Both bands will have an i-cord cast off.


The Oystercatcher on the Roof

The buttonholes were made using the method described last week, and generally speaking came out well for something I just made up.   Each buttonhole has a tubular/i-cord edge.  That is to say, as I knit each section between buttonholes, the right-hand side was knit with a tubular selvedge.  At the left-hand side, the yarn was wrapped around the needle at the turn.  At the end of the last row of the section, these wraps were used to knit an i-cord edge down to the base of the buttonhole.  Then these stitches were used to make the tubular edge on the right-hand side of the next section. None of the sections were bound off, so after the last section was completed, one row was knit in pattern across all the stitches.  Except at the buttonholes, where the last two stitches of one segment were overlapped the first two stitches of the next segment.  Sort of like a two needle bind-off, but with only two pairs of stitches and not actually binding off.  It would of course be easier to visualise if I’d taken pics as I went along, but I’ll do some samples when I’ve finished the band, for better explication and delectation.

20 comments to Filey 2.5: 29 April – 5 May

  • Gail

    From the many descriptions of Caithness that have appeared here, I think the John O’Groats Hotel is just what is needed – COLOR during the winter!

  • Gordon

    Hi Gail,

    Well, it’s true that John o’Groats needs all the help it can get, but even so… In fact, if you ever want to know what a migraine feels like, get so drunk you wake up with a hangover, then go and stare at the JOG Hotel—that feeling of grey hopelessness, headache and nausea combined with colours dancing before your eyes, and hey presto! The full experience.


  • Lynne

    Gordon, I think this new gansey is one of my favorites, I had no idea that “dimpled” pattern would look so striking. It is a lucky person who ‘reaps’ the rewards of your labor.

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne,

    I know what you mean, it seems such a simple pattern on paper but it knits up really effectively. But then, I’m starting to think that any pattern from Filey, Flamborough and Whitby are pretty much foolproof, and eye-catching to boot.

    Next time the Reaper visits Wick I’m sneaking out there with my pot of paint to insert the word “Grim” in front on the bows!


  • Marilyn

    Hi Gordon, I’m really appreciating the buttonholes on the cream gansey- they seem much sturdier than a plain bind off. Very clever of you. Here in Minnesota it’s finally warmed up a little, but I refuse to put the AC on immediately after turning off the heat!

  • Gordon

    Hi Marilyn,

    Thank you, but credit where it’s due—all the clever stuff on the cardigan buttonholes is being done by Margaret, while I just stand by like a surgeon’s assistant, passing her equipment as it’s needed and occasionally dabbing the sweat from her forehead…

    Today is supposed to be warmer and sunny—at last—but drawing the curtains I see it’s thick fog instead. Job must have felt like this, some days.


  • =Tamar

    Cold, rain, and fog have been the weather theme for the past week or so here as well. According to my calendar notes it was like this last year, so I am optimistic that summer will eventually happen.

  • Gordon

    Hello Tamar, suddenly, out of nowhere, we’ve just had the most amazing day of the year: clear blue sky, sunshine, temperatures into the upper teens, light sea breeze, and—I know it seems incredible, but it’s true—objects actually casting shadows. The postman was doing his rounds in shorts. Down by the river I saw a single crow holding off a dozen seagulls as it scavenged its way through a discarded box of fish and chips, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime holding off a dozen bad guys while snogging the leading lady. I know it’s not going to last, and to be honest one day a year of good weather is a smidgeon on the stingy side, but even so… Spring’s coming.


  • Lynne

    . . . . and we’ve had a sudden surge of summer with 33C yesterday! Not much time to acclimate after a cool spring!

  • =Tamar

    Today we’ve had an unexpected day of 85-F with a return to 65-F predicted for tonight. Next week it’s predicted that we’ll be back to 65-F days. I dimly recall when we could actually put away winter clothes for the summer.

  • Gordon


    The last time it was 33C I wrote my death haiku and carefully prepared for seppuku, deciding that I no longer wanted to live in a world of damp patches and general unsavoury stickiness, but fortunately temperatures tailed off a bit (and moving to Scotland helped, of course). In fact I may have overdone it, moving to Wick: I have several short-sleeved shirts I haven’t worn in two years…


    This wintery spring isn’t giving up without a fight, is it? But then, I’m writing this in shirtsleeves, whereas up till now it’s been a least a jumper and a baseball cap (as well as other clothes, of course, I wouldn’t want to give the misleading impression I’m a naturist blogger), so it’s getting there!


  • Judit M./ Finland

    “I have several short-sleeved shirts I haven’t worn in two years…”

    Gordon and why not wearing these shirts under a warm gansey ?

  • Dave

    Hrmph–33C is nothing. The hottest weather that I’ve worked outside was about 44C (112F), and my coworkers will testify that I did not roll up the sleeves on my flannel shirt, nor did I exhibit any signs of heat-related stress.

    As I’ve aged, I don’t work quite so vigorously in hot weather, but the heat of a 38C day feels really, really good on my back and shoulders. The heat loosens and relaxed muscles that otherwise do not release their tension in the hottest tub or under determined massage.

  • Judit M./ Finland

    “The heat loosens and relaxed muscles that otherwise do not release their tension in the hottest tub or under determined massage.”

    Hi Dave,
    Have you ever been in a finnish sauna?

  • Gordon

    Hi Judit and Dave,

    Well, I must admit it got so cold at work this winter I did wear a gansey to work on a few occasions—but so cold was it that I certainly didn’t wear a short-sleeve shirt underneath!

    I’m thinking of marketing a new line of Caithness thermometers this year—the scale only goes up to 30C to save money, because we don’t need to measure anything higher…


  • Lisa Mitchell

    We’ve had a long chilly spring in Calgary. Then I had to spend all day outside yesterday at a Girl Guide event in 25+C weather. Sure found out where I forgot to put sunscreen since I come from a line of red-heads. Love the blue gansey so far Gordon. Glad I don’t have to hold my breath any more over the steek – cardi looks a treat!

  • Gordon


    It amazes me to think of the days I happily spent outdoors in the sun Morris dancing in my youth. Mind you, at least I got to wear a top hat, which I still have, though it’s a little beat up. We need to get top hats back in fashion, dammit!

    I resolved never to expose myself to sunburn again—not so much a problem, living up here, I find!


  • Dear Lady,
    I was wondering if you had any historical information regarding the Frock (smock)in the 18th century. I read somewhere that it was called a Gurnsey Frock.
    Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.
    Regards, Keith.
    Armidale, NSW, Australia.

  • Gordon

    Hi Keith,

    I’m not an expert, but I read in Mary Wright’s Cornish Guernseys and Knit-frocks that in Polperro, Cornwall, at least, the word for a fisherman’s jumper was a “knit-frock”. She says that in the past, “frock” was the word to describe a man’s knitted garment, as opposed to a sewn one. It was also tacked onto other words, such as smock-frock, frock-shirt, Guernsey-frock, etc. But it was such a loose term it’s hard to pin down.

    Unfortunately, the only really reliable information dates from the 19th century, when photography came in, and there is very little about guernseys or ganseys before then. I’d be inclined to drop the British museum an email and see if one of their experts can help.

    Best wishes

  • Thank you Gordon.
    Regards, Keith.

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