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Filey Pattern IX: Week 3 – 11 January

I was reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire this week—call me a pessimist, but I’m beginning to suspect it doesn’t have a happy ending—and I was interested to learn in chapter nine that women’s fidelity is frequently undermined by “licentious spectacles”. That sounds fun, I thought; I wonder if I can persuade the optician to prescribe me a pair at my next appointment? (*Ba-dum, tish!*) Yes, it’s another lockdown, remarkably similar to all the other lockdowns only this time with added ice, and we’re just going to have to get through it the best we can.

Cable on the quay

Last year there was a meme doing the rounds, a quote from the movie Men in Black. Will Smith (Agent J) has declared that people are smart and Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K) corrects him: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals.” But, you know what? Persons can be pretty dumb too. Let me offer myself as Exhibit—or Agent—A. Before Christmas I went to fill up at the gas station. I carefully put on disposable gloves before I went, to ensure I didn’t directly touch any surface that might be contaminated. I drove up to the pump, got out and inserted my bank card into the slot. But I couldn’t type my PIN with the glove on. So—and I want you to follow me closely here—I removed my glove, entered my PIN, licked my finger to better replace my card in my wallet, filled up with petrol, and only then realised I still had my glove in my other hand, and the tip of my index finger looking suspiciously clean and pink. Sigh. I expect the CCTV footage of that incident is on Facebook by now, along with that tragic guy at the convenience store who takes his glove off and holds it in his mouth while fishing for his wallet…

Stranded pancakes

In gansey news, the rapid progress continues. I’ve finished the front and back, joined the shoulders, completed the collar and picked up stitches around the armhole of the first sleeve. I know it’s a smaller gansey than I usually knit, but the pictures are deceptive: the cables and all the purl stitches actually make it some four inches narrower than it will be once it’s been washed and blocked. (I’m sure it’ll be fine, so long as the recipient doesn’t want to, as it were, breathe.) I’ll say more about the sleeves next time, but it’s the exact same pattern as the body, just inverted.

Turnstones on the harbour wall

Finally this week, I’d like to share with you a quote, which is sort of a riposte to Agent K above. It’s from the movie Harvey, the one where the amiable Elwood P Dowd, marvellously played by James Stewart, is accompanied everywhere by a giant invisible rabbit. At one point Dowd explains his philosophy: “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’—she always called me Elwood—’In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.” And to be honest, especially after my gas station experience, so do I…

13 comments to Filey Pattern IX: Week 3 – 11 January

  • Sharon Gunason Pottinger

    Beautiful gansey, as always, and great good humour–I can see that tell tale digit staring back at you. But mostly I want to say Elwood and that quote are among my favouritest things. Thanks for the much needed reminder.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, watching the movie again I was struck by what a subtle performance Stewart gives. All through the film other people are trying to boss him around, one way or another, and he just sails on serenely.

      Then it stops when the doctor and nurse couple actually ask him for his perspective, and Stewart is absolutely mesmerising as he explains. Remarkable film.

  • Meg Macleod

    love the picture of the cable lying on the quey..looks like celtic neck art , my first impression.Gordon ..have you ever kept a tally of how many ganseys you have knitted?

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, I tend to follow the counting system used by the trolls in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld: “One, two, three, many…”

  • =Tamar

    Unconscious behaviors will get you almost every time.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, as far as the unconscious goes, I like the definition of a Freudian slip as “saying one thing but meaning a mother…”

  • Dave

    Nice looking pullie Gordon. I love that movie must watch it again.

  • To put things in perspective, I witnessed a lot of people being dumb, panicky, dangerous animals here in Washington DC last week. In comparison you made a genius move.

  • Signe

    Gordon,
    Thank you for your fabulous website. I’m in to knitting my very first gansey based on pattern from Thompson’s book and helped by all the good and helpful descriptions under Knitting Ganseys.
    One question: At what mesure do you set off stitches/ start for the collar in the front when preparing for a collar like the one you are making on your present project?

    • Gordon

      Hi Signe, here’s my solution. (The number of stitches isn’t important – I just picked some numbers that made the maths simpler as an example.) It looks complicated, but it’s easier to do than to explain. No doubt there’s an easier way!

      So, I usually knit the back first, which doesn’t have a shaped indent. I divide the number of stitches roughly into thirds. Suppose your gansey is 362 stitches in the round, minus 2 fake seams = 360, so dividing that in two gives you 180 stitches for the front, and the same for the back.

      If you divide 180 by 3 you get a central collar and two shoulders of 60 stitches each. So, for the back, you put the middle third (of 60 stitches) on a holder for your collar and forget about it for now; you then knit each of the outer thirds (in rig’ n’ fur or whatever) for c.12 rows and put them on holders as you finish them. That gives you your shoulder straps for the back.

      Now for the front. If you’re going for a shaped neck, my method is as follows. The first thing to do is to decide your rate of indentation – I find decreasing one stitch every 2nd row works well.

      Next, how deep do you want the neckline to be? I usually make mine about 26 rows, and this is what I used in this gansey – this gives me an indent of about 2.5 inches, give or take. This means that you start your shaped neckline on the front 26 rows before you’d start the shoulder straps.

      Now, you have your ratio of two shoulder straps of 60 sts each, with a central collar of 60 sts. A decrease of 1 stitch per side every 2nd row for 26 rows means that you have 13 decreases to plan for per side. (N.B., you want to finish your shaped neckline before the start of the shoulder strap; looks neater.)

      So, you steal 13 stitches from the collar stitches on either side: in this example, you only put a measly 34 stitches on a holder for the collar (60-13-13 = 34).

      Each shoulder is now 13 stitches wider (60+13 = 73), to a total of 73 stitches wide.

      Now you finish the front, working the left and right sides in turn, decreasing every other row at the edge of the collar for 13 decreases over 26 rows, so that when you get to the start of the shoulder straps, as if by magic, you have 60 stitches.

      You then knit the remaining 12 rows of the shoulder strap without any decreases, exactly as you did on the back, after which you join your shoulders of 60 stitches each in a 3-needle bind-off.

      N.B., I now leave an edge stitch when I make the decreases on the collar. So the first stitch on the row is always a knit stitch, then I do the decreases on the 2nd and 3rd stitches. (It’s a small point, but it means that when you pick up stitches around the neck to knit the collar, you pick up the edge stitch, leaving a nice, clear line of decreases delineating the collar either side of the neck.) But that’s very much a matter of personal taste!

  • Signe

    Tank you, Gordon, for your thorough explanation.

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