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Filey Pattern IX: Week 1 – 28 December

It’s the last post of the year, a time when traditionally we take stock of the previous twelvemonth and look forward to what the future might bring. But, I say—given how ghastly 2020 proved to be, and how uncertain 2021 looks just now, what say you we all just avert our gazes from current affairs and save the haruspicy to another, more fitting occasion? Instead, let us turn our attention to my favourite nature story of the year: octopuses randomly punching fish, apparently just out of spite.

Until I read this my highlight from the natural world in 2020 was the discovery of a new species of fungus that infects flies, turning them into “zombies”, until at a certain point the spores explode out of a hole in the insects’ abdomens “like rockets“, a fact which is going to liven up my reboot of the Alien franchise no end. But I must admit, the thought of bad-tempered octopuses patrolling the seabed looking for inoffensive fish to punch is way more fun. (Fun for the octopus, that is; less so, one feels, for the fish.)

Frosty Path Ahead

Perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that an octopus has a separate brain in each of its eight arms, thus making hangovers so much worse; or maybe one arm just wakes up in a particularly foul mood. (This is even better than my previous fun fact about octopuses, that they sometimes eat their own arms when they get bored; which always takes me back to a stunningly tedious lecture on the history of land law during my archive training in the winter of 1985, when gnawing my own arm off seemed like the only sensible alternative.) Anyway, I shall be disappointed if the coming year doesn’t bring us footage of two octopuses holding down a clown fish while a third beats it up for its lunch money.

St Fergus’ and hawthorn

In parish notices, and just in case you missed it last week, I was invited by the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s important Knitting the Herring project to write a short article on how I got into gansey knitting and where it has led me (spoiler alert: it led me to Wick). You can find the post here, as well as lots more information on the project.

Now it only remains for Margaret and me to wish all our readers a very happy—and safe—New Year. See you in 2021!



My new project is another of the superb patterns from Yorkshire, this time in Frangipani Denim yarn. The pattern is recorded in both Gladys Thompson as “Filey Pattern IX”, and in Rae Compton (pp.58-59) under Flamborough, but knit by Carol Walkington of Bridlington for her husband Fred, coxswain of the Bridlington lifeboat.

You can tell it’s a good pattern because the cable rows, falling every sixth row, coincide with the plain rows of the chevrons, so you scarcely need to keep count. I’m following the pattern exactly, so instead of cabling every seventh row as I usually do, I’m cabling every sixth. In a certain light, the slant of the cables seems like an extension of the chevron.

It’s a pattern I’ve always wanted to try, but have in the past been put off—in a weak and feeble sort of way—by the sheer number of cables involved. (Of course, it’s the cables that help make it special.) Anyway, the chance to knit it has come at last, as this is a gansey for a work colleague who is, I suppose you’d say, fashionably svelte (the gansey will measure a trim nineteen inches across the body).

This also explains how much I’ve managed to get done in a week; well, that and the fact I’ve eaten so many chocolates over Christmas it currently takes a rope and pulley to get me out of the couch, like Henry VIII being winched onto horseback. I average three rows per hour, so I set myself a target of twelve rows, or two cables per day, the equivalent of four hours’ knitting spread through the day.

15 comments to Filey Pattern IX: Week 1 – 28 December

  • Derek

    When I first read this my immediate thought was that I’d be more inclined to leave the haruspicy for another, more fitting curry dish. But then I looked up the meaning of the word and decided maybe not. Wishing you and Margaret a happy new year!

    • Gordon

      Haha, now I want some, maybe in a biriani!

      (When I first came across the word I liked to picture Roman crowds chanting, “Two, four six, eight, who do we haruspicate?”)

      Happy New Year!

  • =Tamar

    That is going to be a fabulous gansey. Happy Hogswatch!

  • Lynne Brock

    I’m with Tamar – that is a spectacular pattern!
    Healthy New Year to all.

  • Dave

    I must admit to being rather fond of octopus (and not just in a white wine sauce kind of way) ever since I discovered one in a rock pool in Ilfracombe and it preceeded to walk toward the sea, squirting water at me as it went. Still, picking up on Derek’s lead, pulpo à la haruspice has a certain charm to it.

    Hope you both had a great Christmas and have a fine new year.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, was it an octopus’s garden, in the shade?

      Pretty sure I saw a new line of vegetarian goats’ entrails in the freezer aisle of Tesco’s the other day…

      Happy new year to you!

  • =Tamar

    P.S. That rainbow looks like a transparent dome with a cloud trapped in it.

  • Nicola Bielicki

    Happy New Year Gordon, Margaret and fellow knitters !

    • Gordon

      Happy New Year Nicola! And of course to all knitters out there – what better way to make the most of a new year’s lockdown?

  • annette

    So much fun here on your site! Thank you. I imagine you have seen the movie, “My Octopus Teacher”; I found it heart warming and personal with beautiful cinematography. Your pattern choice is making a very handsome gansey and is an inspiration for me.
    I am new here and happy to have found your site as I venture out to make my first gansey. Though I have the usual gansey books, I realize I am lost without a specific pattern. Even though an experienced knitter, I just don’t have the bandwidth to decipher all elements. Will be making the sweater for my 40 year old son w/a 36″ chest…..long and lean. I am thinking something w/lots of cables like you are knitting here will be a good choice for such a frame.

    • Gordon

      Hi Annette, glad you found us! No, I hadn’t seen that movie, but will now look out for it – octopuses are very cool, though their ability to squeeze themselves through keyholes does unsettle me a bit.

      I admit, ganseys do take a bit of getting your head around. Have you considered a kit from Flamborough Marine? I’m not affiliated to them in any way – I doubt they know I exist – but they offer patterns and yarn, everything you need – see http://www.flamboroughmanor.co.uk/flamboroughmarine/kits.htm

      Anyway, best wishes and thanks for getting in touch, Gordon

      • annette

        Your sweater stitches are so even! How do you do that?

        I will be interested to learn how this sweater fits your colleague when done. You say he is svelte so it seems to me a sweater full of cables will fit more closely to the body than a pattern like seed stitch. How much ease will there be? (I haven’t knitted a full size gansey, yet). Would love to see a photo with sweater on your friend. I need to knit one for a 36 inch chest….imagine 2 or 3 inches of ease but then the cable patterns stretch out so, I wonder how you calculate that into the size choice.

        • Gordon

          Hi again, first of all, my stitches really aren’t always very even. But the gauge is fine enough that it looks even from a distance.

          My colleague is in fact female. I asked her (as I do all my recipients) to tell me how big they want it to be – take their favourite big, chunky sweater and measure that, making sure to allow at least a couple of inches for ease. It should open out when it’s blocked, and I can stretch it by at least 4 inches without really trying. I will ask her to let me have a photo if she’s willing (some people aren’t).

          But to give you another example, I’m about 41.5 inches round in the chest. The best size gansey for me tends to be about 45 inches, give or take.

          Cables do “shrink” the pattern width, and I sometimes add an extra stitch for every cable. But if the pattern has a couple of purl stitches either side of each cable, they will also make it narrower like pleats on a skirt. These purl stitches usually stretch back out when you wash and block the finished gansey.

          So what I’m kind of saying here is that I’ve added some additional stitches to partially compensate for all the cables, but all the purl stitches give me an element of flexibility when it comes to the final width. (Of course, I may have miscalculated, and there’s nothing like posting updates on a weekly blog to make it a white-knuckle ride! No pressure…)

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