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Filey 4: 2 – 15 April

So, spring has come to Caithness, bringing with it gale force winds, freezing temperatures, and snow flurries. We went for a walk up to Duncansby Head (near John o’ Groats) and the wind threw seagulls at us as if they were being fired from a cannon. The local lochs have whitecaps and, to celebrate the centenary of the Titanic, icebergs. (I don’t know if you’re familiar with the saying, Summer in Scotland is just winter with leaves?)

How was your Easter? Good, I hope, and filled with oodles of chocolate (or did the Easter Bunny die in vain?). We drove the 12-hour, 600-mile journey to visit my parents in Northampton, after which I was so tired you could have scraped me off the pavement with a shovel.

My parents live in this lovely old canalside former public house, where I grew up – in the words of Neil Young, all my changes were there. I used to spend hours walking along the towpath, enjoying the silence, staring into the slow-flowing water and seeing visions, as you do when you’re young. Well, we went for a walk along the canal towpath on Easter Sunday, and it was sad to see how crowded it’s become: narrow boats moored nose to tail, not for the night but permanent residences with satellite tv; suspicious men with dreadlocks and weathered faces, wearing army surplus fatigues, smoking rollups and brewing up over camp fires; and barking big black dogs with far too many teeth lurking round every corner.

AND we repainted the lounge: Before


As Yeats says, tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Ah well. Closing for a moment the albums marked “nostalgia” and “sentimentality”, it will not have escaped your notice from the photos that I have started the pattern – Filey V from Gladys Thompson (page 28 in my edition). I said before that because I’m using Wendy’s yarn, which is a little fluffier than Frangipani, I’m not entirely sure what my stitch gauge will be; so I wanted a pattern with lots of cables to draw it in a bit, just in case. And this one has cables the way Wick has seagulls.

I also wanted a pattern that would be easy to keep track of. I’ve struggled with some of my recent projects, which have been pretty intricate – always a high-risk strategy for someone with my attention sp… Oh look! A seagull!

Where was I? Oh, yes, the pattern. Although the really fancy patterns are wonderful, I’ve always had a soft spot for the simpler designs, which in their own way are just as effective. But since I started this blog I’ve felt a stupid sort of pressure to keep on with the complicated ones – as if the simpler patterns won’t be interesting enough for my discerning readership. (I told you it was stupid.) So anyway. Here’s a really simple pattern – just steps and cables, ad infinitum. A project I don’t have to think about, but can just relax to. My knitting equivalent of the slowly flowing muddy brown water of the canals of my youth…

In truth, I’ve always fancied this pattern. Its chunky texture reminds me of a Native American traditional breastplate, which I find really cool. And I’m delighted at how well the red yarn shows both the texture and the pattern. In fact, I think when it’s finished it’ll look like Space Marine body armour (bright red).

I’ve included my victim’s initials on this one, one either side of the seam. It’s always a bit of a gamble. If I’ve got the gauge wrong, or if he puts on weight, well, eBay here we come. I used the templates from Rae Compton’s Batsford book, page 60.

Finally, many congratulations to Barbara from British Columbia for finishing her splendid “Point Holmes” gansey, which she has kindly agreed to let us display in the gallery here. It just goes to show how effective combinations of gansey patterns can be – and it’s hard to beat a navy gansey on a sunny day!

13 comments to Filey 4: 2 – 15 April

  • =Tamar

    Why is there a plain bit in the center? Is the red gansey intended to become a cardigan?

  • Lynne

    Doesn’t that paint job make the lounge look so much larger?! and ‘saner’? And, I love the photo of the parent’s house on the canal and the arched bridge – it looks like it could be a calandar print.
    The red is working up nicely, but I’m curious about the center, also.

  • Dave

    I’m guessing that it is centered on the faux seam at the side of the gansey, not the center of the front . . .

  • Gail

    The red is quite spectacular. Can’t wait to see it.
    Trip coming along, no tickets just yet, just finished income taxes. Stay tuned…

  • Hi all,

    Yes, Dave wins this week’s goldfish in a bag, the “steek” is really the effect of the fake side seams. Sorry, I should have clarified that (meant to chart out the pattern, but ran out of time – next week).

    You see, the steps are 12 stitches wide, 2 plain stitches on either side, and then 8 stitches in between (2 rows knit, 2 rows purl). The pattern works out that the last pattern element before the seams is a cable. So you get a cable (pp, kkkkkk, pp) follwed by 2 plain stitches representing the start of the next step, another plain stitch as a border, and then the seam stitch itself.

    The photo is a little misleading because I always stop at the end of a row at the seam, so you’re not looking at the centre, but the edge!

    My parents’ house is lovely. But it used to be lovelier when it wasn’t near a narrow boat trailer park!

    And yes, the lounge no longer gives me migraines. Just snow blindness…


  • Lisa Mitchell

    Whew… Glad you’re back safe in Wick regardless of the gull artillery – I was starting to suffer gansey withdrawal. Nice start on the gansey. I don’t have the courage to start a jumper so I’ve gotten started in lace (sublime to ridiculous – gansey to lace…) Lounge looks much better.

  • Veronica

    I see what you mean about the breastplate effect. The pattern does give the impression of bone beads and twisted/braided leather. Nice effect!

    I’d not heard the say Summer is Scotland is just winter with leaves, but from your stories, it sure seems appropriate for Caithness. Shiver!

  • Gail, we look forward to seeing you if you escape the Feds!

    Lisa, lace terrifies me, but I don’t think I’ve got the eyes for it any more, even if I was brave enough. As for the gulls, I was walking through town with a friend the other day and he was spattered by a gull with a very upset stomach. He wasn’t best pleased – but, as he said, at least he was bald (“a slaphead” was his description, not mine) so at least he could wash it off easily enough!

    Veronica, it’s a very 3-dimensional pattern, very chunky. As it’s the same size as one I’d wear, I’m no longer sure I want to hand it over when it’s finished!

    Thanks for the kind words, all,

  • Hi Gordon –

    This website is a real treasure trove of information! Thanks so much for sharing your passion here.

    I teach knitting (and spinning and weaving) classes on weekends and I have been putting together “slide shows” of images to share with my students when I am lecturing about a topic. I have a class on Traditional Knitting from England, Ireland and Scotland that includes ganseys, arans, fair isle knitting and Shetland lace.

    I would love to use a few of your photographs as examples of modern ganseys. Would you give me permission to do so?

    Thanks so much –


  • Dear Melissa,

    How very nice to hear from you – and yes, of course, I’d be honoured for you to share any images from this site with your students.

    (And thanks for your kind comments – a little flattery goes a long way round here, as you’ve obviously noticed!)

    With all good wishes,

  • Dave

    The goldfish arrived today in fine shape. I was surprised and delighted to see that you took the time to knit him a fish-sized gansey. Thanks!

  • Hey, I didn’t know you were handing out goldfishes in bagses. I’d like a goldfishy. Hmmm. I’ll have to see how much of an overachiever I can be.


    The red color is pretty fantastic – I love the way the traditional pattern looks in such an untraditional color.


  • Hi Dave, Song – too late do I realise my beginner’s mistake, which was trying to post the goldfish in a padded envelope. All was fine until the postmaster brought down his hand-held frank to validate the stamp, and – well, you can guess the rest. It was, for an instant, like a terrorist attack on a sushi bar.

    Personal collection only in future, I’m afraid.