Support Gansey Nation -

Buy Gordon a cuppa!

Many, many thanks to those of you who have already contributed!

Filey 2.8: 20 May – 2 June

F20602aAnd then you get a day like Saturday, when the wind drops and the clouds part and the sea is so flat and calm it shimmers like taffy cooling in the tin. It was one of those days when the sky is as blue as a child’s painting, and clouds of delicate white butterflies, disappointed in love and tired of life, try to end it all on your car windscreen as you drive past.

I was in a reckless mood myself: I drove with the car window open. Well, it was 13C—we may not see temperatures as high as these again, so it’s best to make the most of it.

The ocean off Mey (yes, it really did look like that)

The ocean off Mey (yes, it really did look like that)

We went up to the Castle of Mey’s teashop for coffee and cakes. I had a piece of chocolate cake so dense it had its own centre of gravity, like an imploding star, and started to attract cutlery from across the table; what I had taken at first to be icing turned out on closer inspection to be an event horizon. Afterwards we did our best to impersonate a bus tour, since it’s embarrassing when the staff keep asking if you’re enjoying your trip to Scotland and you have to tell them you only live 20 miles away…

F20602bI’ve been making good progress on the gansey while we’ve been offline, reaching the halfway point on the gussets and dividing front and back. I’ve made these gussets slightly smaller than I usually do, 15 stitches wide instead of my usual 19-21, just to see how it works out. The body will be 7 diamonds long, shoulder to welt, so as you can see I’m not far off finishing the back. Meanwhile I’m still having a lot of fun knitting the pattern, which is almost foolproof (even for me), and which is rapidly becoming one of my favourites—certainly one I’d recommend to a beginner.

F20602dMany thanks for all the suggestions for eye drops to treat my dry eye condition. I still have to talk to a pharmacist, but in the meantime I must admit I rather enjoy spending ten minutes every evening with a warm flannel pressed against my closed eyelids, a sensation not unlike being licked by a very affectionate bison.

Heb0602aI spend the downtime listening to an audiobook. In another life I might be meditating, or praying; in this one I’m listening to Proust. In some ways I find it resembles a traditional religious service: I have no idea what the words mean, but they sound nice.

Finally, here’s Kathleen in her Edinburgh garden wearing the cream Hebridean cardigan I knit recently. Of course, in any other country the beginning of June would hardly be a suitable time of year to wear a gansey—but then, we’ve been through all this before…

25 comments to Filey 2.8: 20 May – 2 June

  • Lynne

    It’s great to see the Hebridean cardigan on Kathleen, she wears it well and proud. I hope she was able to follow the blog during the ‘construction’ and was as ‘awed’ as the rest of us with the finishing of the band.
    The new gansey is one of my faves!

  • Ohhh, Chris and I listen to audiobooks, but not usually any as, erm, hefty as Proust. We did give up on the incredibly dated SciFi book we’d been listening to over the last holiday weekend and changed to one about Real Science, written by Bill Bryson, which has turned out to be very funny, especially in conjunction with the previous (very inaccurate) book.

    The Hebridean cardi looks amazing and she looks so chuffed!


  • Marilyn

    I’m sure Kathleen will cherish her gansey from Gansey Nation. Lovely.
    I felt badly for your white butterflies, though… did they have any mental health counseling prior to throwing themselves at your windshield?

  • Gordon

    Hi all,

    Ha, little do the recipients realise that they are not really ganseys, but alien pods that engulf the wearers and devour them, and then create a perfect alien replicant. Slowly but surely we are taking over the world, one six-month gansey at a time! Now, what else was I going to say? Oh yes: Mwahahahaha!

    Song, what was your disappointing audiobook? I love audiobooks, and have a collection of over 200, some of which I even paid for… (Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter is brilliant, if you can find any of those, and anyone reading Terry Pratchett, of course. But it depends on my mood. And Proust, like Joyce, is much more fun if someone reads it to you!)

    Marilyn, the problem is that evolution naturally leads to complexity in the animal kingdom, and some Caithness butterflies have now evolved to a point where they can comprehend how boring their lives are—after all, I suppose, even entire days spent just having sex with flowers must pall eventually (not that I’ve tried it myself, of course, or at least not recently). Thankfully they haven’t yet invented television—once they realise their future is the butterfly equivalent of the Fox network, they’ll all commit hari-kari!


  • Gail

    I hope Kathleen has been following your blog about “her” sweater – Hi to Kathleen. It is a stunning sweater; chuffed is a good word, I hope is means pleased. She look like she is feeling great.

    • Gordon

      Hi Gail,

      “Chuffed” is a British word (not sure if it’s slang, but it’s certainly informal) meaning rather pleased, gratified, delighted. So I hope it’s appropriate!


  • Gordon, the book was (is?) Midnight at the Well of Souls, which gets great marks everywhere and is, in point of fact, terrible. Dated, sexist, stupid, poorly plotted, pointless, dreary, obvious, and, generally, badly written.

    We’re onto A Short History of Nearly Everything now, and it’s amazing how funny a well-written book about science can be.


  • =Tamar

    That blue gansey looks different every time I see it. It makes me wonder if it was designed to be a puzzle to other knitters. I can’t wait to see how it looks once it’s blocked.

    Song: It’s been years since I reread Midnight at the Well of Souls; the Suck Fairy has probably visited. It’s old, so of course it’s dated. It’s sexist – unfortunately, yes. Evidence about the rest wouldn’t fit into a blog comment. I do wonder how you can say it is pointless and obvious when you haven’t finished the book to learn whether there is a turning point at or near the end that might be worth some poor writing. That is why I don’t do audio: I like to be able to scan rapidly.

  • Gordon

    Tamar, you’re right that you can’t skim audiobooks. That’s part of their appeal for me (i have a bad habit of skipping long descriptions in Victorian novels!), but it does mean that if you get to a rough patch you’re stuck, or else you have to bail out. Sometimes a skilful reader can make the difference, sometimes not.

    Mind you, I give up novels more often than I do audiobooks (most recently, Eifelheim by Michael Flynn and Light by M John Harrison. Both annoyed the hell out of me, though neither as bad as my all-time Least Favourite Novel, The Flounder by Gunther Grass!)

    You can’t go wrong with Bill Bryson, though.


  • Gracie

    Well and truly chuffed indeed!! Kathleen looks absolutely fabulous. The gansey looks so good with her hair and rosy complexion. What a super lucky lady. I love a cardigan with plenty of room to breathe and move – perfect size! I’m particularly fond of the rough-edged bottom hem – nicely lacy. Seriously, it is a prize-winner. Forget the temperature, she’ll never take it off. Does she know she’s a rock star?

    And the new blue one is lovely too. Are those seed-stitch diamonds? Apart from the busy bits in between, maybe even I could try a sample! Do you have any close-ups? Superb color – looks like a real find. Where do you get your wool?

    You’ve probably told everyone before, but do you invent your own patterns from books and historical photographs? How many years have you been doing this?


    P.S. Bill Bryson wrote a very funny book about England. I seem to remember his description of an afternoon tea as particularly clever.

  • Gordon

    Afternoon, Gracie,

    I try different wools, depending on what mood I’m in—this one is knitted in Frangipani sea spray (Frangipani probably do the widest range of colours) – see the suppliers link for details.

    I’ve been knitting ganseys for over 20 years now, though the blog is a lot more recent—5 years or more? I’m thinking a lot about where I go from here: Bob Dylan once said, comes a time a man feels like he’s written enough songs, and there are times when I feel that’s true about gansey blog posts! So we’ll see.

    All my ganseys are based on traditional patterns. Sometimes, like this one, or the red Filey gansey, they’re pretty much as collected; other times I mix ‘n’ match pattern elements from here and there to make a new combination (though as the preacher said, there really is nothing new under the sun, and they’ve probably all been tried before). In the gallery pictures I try to credit my sources! There are still a number of patterns I’d like to knit up – yes, I have a list! – and even then that’s just scratching the surface. It always reminds me of musical notation: there are only so many notes, but the number of ways they can be combined seems infinite…

    I’m a big fan of Bill Bryson, a very funny writer with a real warmth and generosity (his humour is never mean). His science book is ultimately a bit depressing, though, since every chapter seems to be about how humanity is ruining things for everyone and we’re all doomed!

    By the way, Kathleen’s cardigan (photos and pattern charts) has now been added to the Gallery—see http://www.ganseys.com/?page_id=5723.


  • Gracie

    Never stop writing the blog. You are a good writer and it is very enjoyable to hear stories from a part of the world I’ve never visited. The descriptions and photos are beautiful. And your knitting is so superb that you motivate the rest of “Gansey Nation”! I like being part of this club of very nce, far-flung knitters.


    • Gordon

      Hi Gracie,

      Actually, that’s probably the reason why I’ll keep the blog going, even if at times the well runs dry—this is my virtual “support group”!


  • Tamar – actually, I read the plot summary online and my partner did finish listening to it – partly to see if the plot summary was accurate. It never improved, and (to our horror) got worse.

    I just … it’s typical of writing from that time, but boy, I’m so glad to have newer, fresher things to read.

    Have I mentioned this guy who writes really cool sort of metaphysical novels? His name is Gordon Reid and I love his books. You should check them out!



    • Gordon

      Song, apart from listening to Proust on audiobook(!) I’m also reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, the classic account of Hitler’s rise to power, which kind of tells you where I am right now. It’s a brilliant account, but it does show its age—so the word “homosexual” usually appears before the word “pervert”, Hitler is despised for being a vegetarian and forcing others at his table to eat his “disgusting vegetarian messes”, and the women in charge of the league of German maidens are “unusually plain”.

      Gordon (blushing a becoming shade of pink).

      • Oh my goodness – you don’t read anything light, do you? Where does all that darkness go – you’re so light and funny and refreshing in person.

        I think I’ll stick with my cheerful reading and let my darkness show with overt cynicism and sarcasm.


        • Gordon

          To quote the immortal Man in Black from the Princess Bride: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something…”

  • Lisa Mitchell

    NOOOOO!!!!! Don’t stop blogging ganseys! It’s my gansey fix that’ll help me get up the courage to knit one someday!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lisa,

      Tell you what, as long I think I have something to say, and as long as people are interested in reading it, the blog will still be here. That’s a promise! (Possibly even a threat, depending on your point of view.)


  • Lisa Mitchell

    Not to mention things are crazy at work and I need a good dose of Kiwi-Geordie humour to keep the world straight!

  • Patricia

    Please continue your blog! I found it mentioned on the Ravelry group “Guernseys, Ganseys, Knit-frocks” several months ago. Every Monday I devour your blog with delight. It is so different from many other blogs, with its variety of topics covered. And your ganseys are so beautiful….I love watching your progress. I am finishing my first adult gansey and have referred to your instructions several times during the knitting process. Thanks for brightening my week with your wit, knowledge, honesty about the human condition, and beautiful photos of Scotland. Looking forward to Monday’s blog……

  • Gordon

    Dear Lisa and Patricia,

    Well, thank you for the kind words. My ears are now the delicate shade of a rich sunset or an embarrassed Alaskan salmon!

    I wasn’t fishing for compliments; it’s just that sooner or later (hard though this may be to believe) I worry that I’ll run out of things to say, and start repeating myself, or become a bit of a bore, even to myself. I’m not there yet, or not quite, but I’m keeping a weather eye out, like a doctor monitoring the condition of a patient who could decline rapidly at any moment.

    And sorry to hear about your work, Lisa. Hope things improve!


  • Catriona

    I love this cardigan and I happen to know for a fact that Kathleen loves it because she told me so just now (she is my mum). Sadly even inside in June is still gansey weather in Edinburgh.

    • Gordon

      Hi Catriona,

      Thanks for your post and for letting us know! It was a balmy 19C in Wick today, and sunny. I went mad and left my scarf at home this afternoon…


Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.