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Flamborough (John Knaggs) 9: 19 October

FJK141019a And there we have it: the John Knaggs gansey is finished, washed and blocked and ready for the coming of winter. It’s taken just under three months, which may be the fastest gansey I’ve ever knit.

FJK141019cIt helps that Derek, the friend it’s intended for, is a trim 38-inch chest. The jumper is blocked to 42 inches in the round, allowing him plenty of room, but as with any gansey involving body-length ridges or furrows it can be expanded quite a bit further if required—if, say, Derek ever acquires a taste for that rare Scottish delicacy, the deep-fried Mars bar.

It’s 25 inches long, and cuff to cuff it measures 51½ inches (though the fold-back cuffs offer further flexibility). If I were ever to knit the pattern again—which, at the moment, seems unlikely—I’d use slightly fewer stitches, or add cables to pull it in. The constant in-and-out of seed stitch and basket stitch does seem to have impacted on my stitch gauge.

FJK141019bMeanwhile, as I’m between ganseys, I decided to try my hand again at bread making this weekend. Alas, both my flour and yeast were past their use-by dates: even after a quarter of an hour of desperate kneading, which looked at though I was trying to administer CPR to a lifeless albino puppy, the dough stubbornly refused to rise. It lay there on the counter, flat and inert, like the brain of a deceased aquatic mammal ready for dissection, and it was pronounced dead at the scene. (I left it out for the seagulls, which explains why I found so many rolling on the ground groaning this morning, too heavy to take off.)


On a calm day . . .

I have another gansey project lined up, one that will take me into the New Year, and it’s another one for me (well, you can never have too many ganseys, can you?). But I’ll say more about that next week; for, you see, we have the remnants of ex-hurricane Gonzalo to deal with first, which is barrelling in towards Wick like a bowling ball aiming for a perfect strike.

Winds of 60-80 m.p.h. are predicted tonight and tomorrow (when they said we’d be blown away by the scenery of Caithness they weren’t kidding). The trees have lost most of their leaves already in the autumn gales; to be honest I’ll be grateful if we still have any trees left by Tuesday night. So forgive the brevity of this weeks’ blog: we’re off to batten down all available hatches and lash ourselves to the cooker, just in case.

And if you look out your window tomorrow morning and see someone in a fisherman’s sweater shooting past like a human cannonball on his way to Iceland, chances are it’ll be me…

19 comments to Flamborough (John Knaggs) 9: 19 October

  • Felicity

    Well, we’ll grab a hold of that gansey if you show up outside our windows!

    A question about gauge, please Gordon: Do you and(or) Margaret knit by ‘throwing’, or ‘picking’? These seem to be the best description of what we used to call English or Continental styles of knitting. One knits up tighter than the other?


    • Gordon

      Hi Felicity,

      It’s definitely one or the other of your two alternatives. Margaret did explain, but I’ve already forgotten! I follow the technique of sticking the needle through the stitch, and then trying to wrap a loop of yarn round the needle using much the same style as a rodeo rider lassoing a steer—sometimes it works, sometimes not. This may be the British style. (Margaret did once try to teach me the other one as it’s quite a bit faster, but I recognised this as outrageous underhanded European interference in our fine old British institutions and rejected it out of hand, and wrote to my MP urging legislation as a matter of urgency.)

      I hope this answers your question?

      • Well, being a Swedish knitter and so a ‘picker’, that answer of yours really lit my morning! Really nice job, that gansey for Derek.

        • Gordon

          Good morning Lillemor, thank you, and greetings to Sweden. As for the knitting, you may think I’m exaggerating but you haven’t seen me knit. It’s more like a series of time-lapse photographs than actual movement…

    • Sue

      Getting older and now having arthritis in my fingers I find that I can no longer be a ‘picker’ and my knitting of Fair Isle or Nordic colourwork has definitely slowed down! I used to be able to work with up to 4 colours at the same time wrapped around different fingers on both hands but alas, I am now a ‘thrower’ who has to lasso each colour separately with the right hand only. The fingers are definitely no longer as nimble as they once were 🙁

      In the meantime the finished gansey is magnificent.

      • Gordon

        Hi Sue, I’m sorry to hear that. (Though I have to say that using four colours over two hands is a bit like watching a concert pianist play Liszt: the fingers move, you hear the results, but they get from A to B is witchcraft.) I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this up—one reason to build up a stockpile while I can!

        Take care,

  • Marilyn

    You’ll like Iceland, they sell yarn in the grocery stores. Their yarn knits to a different gauge, though, you’ll be flummoxed all over again.
    Derek is a lucky man to have a knitting friend like you, excellent job, really.
    Here’s hoping all the hatches will hold, hang in there!

    • Gordon

      Lord, Marilyn, I get flummoxed switching from circular to double-pointed needles, so perhaps it’s best if I steer clear of Icelandic supermarket yarn for a while longer. Anyway, my passport’s expired…

      I’ve decided to weigh myself down with layers of ganseys if the roof blows off. (At least they’ll be able to identify me from the patterns… No. On second thoughts, let’s not go there!)

  • Lynne

    Lucky Derek! that is a grand looking gansey.

  • =Tamar

    About the bread – no doubt your decision was the wisest, but I have been glancing into cookbooks lately (for me it’s the equivalent of hiking the Himalayas, another thing I’m not likely to do), and there used to be something called “beaten bread.” One old cookbook specified that if the flour and yeast are just beyond help, you make beaten bread, but was unclear about the exact method except that it took a long time. I might have thought that it was simply beating the batter as for a cake, but another even older cookbook described the process as literally pounding it with a stick, presumably folding it over occasionally, as the result apparently trapped enough air to make it rise. If I ever find a clean butcher-block container and a clean wooden club, I may try it someday.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I certainly felt like beating the bread with a stick until it said it was sorry and decided to mend its ways, but experience has taught me that you can’t play God and bring life where there is none. Even if it cooks – and rises fractionally as the water in it turns to steam – you’re still left with an indigestible lump of Terry Pratchett’s dwarf bread.

      I have one or two colleagues I might give the technique a try on, mind you…

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Good Morning Gordon,
    Congrats to the new, fine gansey!

  • Jane

    Congratulations on the gansey, lovely, lovely work, and all before the clocks go back and the really long dark evenings close in! That hints at total control of the navy colour! Derek is very lucky!

    I hope that everything is still all in its place after the hurricane. Can I ask whatever happen to the ship carrying the radioactive concrete?! Bit rough on the South Coast, but only one small tree fell over. Peasants are a bit quiet though.

    Being English and a bit of a Slow Knitter (I get there in the end) I am a thrower, definitely. When I do the Fair Isle stuff I am very right handed, but I get there. Congrats again.

    • Gordon

      Hello Jane – just made it in time, didn’t I? (As John Lennon might say, “I’ve got blisters on me fingers!”)

      Survived the ex-hurricane, but it wasn’t a lot of fun. I wouldn’t mind, but we’ve been getting almost as bad every couple of days ever since. Some part of the Highlands had 6 inches of rain over the weekend – I know it keeps down the midges, but still!

      The ship with the radioactive cargo was tethered, and then a tug came a few days ago and towed it away (into Invergorden I think, where they service the oil rigs). A radioactive ship adrift and crewless in an ex-hurricane isn’t a good scenario, is it? Fortunately it seems to be under control—for now.

      Best wishes,

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