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Flamborough (John Knaggs) I: 24 August

FJK140824a It’s not yet September and autumn is already knocking at the door, with chilly nights and a dusting of frost on the fields. And on a clear, bright morning like today there’s a sharpness to everything, as though God’s adjusted his binoculars and brought the world into focus. (And then it rains.)

FJK140824bA few weeks ago, when I realised I had to go back and re-knit the sleeves on the denim gansey, I decided to make a start on my next project, just for a change. I’ve kept it going since then, on and off, whenever the urge to put the denim one into the woodchipper grew too strong. As a result, now I come to unmask my batteries, I have eleven inches of welt and body under my needles, and suddenly it doesn’t seem so daunting.

It’s for my old friend Derek, whom I’ve known for over forty years (and if that thought doesn’t send me back to the bottle of Old Pulteney tonight, nothing will) – and will hopefully be a Christmas present for him (unless I get side-tracked again, in which case he’s likely to get it for Easter).

TJohn-Knaggshe pattern is John Knaggs’ from Flamborough Head, and is taken from Rae Compton, page 54. It consists of alternating bands of “birds e’en and a narrow rib with stocking stitch edge and one repeat of a basket stitch pattern in the centre”. (And if that sounds a bit too much like modern jazz you can do what I did and look at the pattern chart instead!)

This is something of a departure for me (there are no cables, for one thing), but I’ve always liked the look of it. Rae Compton suggests that the pattern “recalls a time when patterns were simpler”, but the interesting thing is just how busy, by which I mean fiddly, it is to knit—simpler doesn’t mean easier! The maximum number of plain stitches side by side you ever get is four: the rest of the time almost every stitch alternates between knit and purl. You have to pay attention.

The texture is different too, with so much seed stitch; there are times when it feels like I’m knitting a tote bag. (The ribs give it a pleated effect, as though I’m knitting a concertina; I can’t help thinking I should be able to play “Over the Hills And Far Away” while I knit.)


Gordon and the Rainbow

As for the denim gansey, I’m delighted to say that it’s finally finished—re-knit, washed and blocked. We went up to John O’Groats on Saturday for the photo shoot (yeah, give it to me, oh yeah, that’s the way, baby), dodging the squally showers. A strong wind was blowing in off the sea, and watching the tourists trying to photograph each other in the gale I realised that the famous signpost was most useful as an anchor, if not a windbreak.


The Isabella heads out to sea

What else? Oh yes, my collection of fantasy short stories, The Dragon of Stroma and Other Tales, will be free until this Friday from the Amazon kindle store.

Finally, many congratulations once again to Judit for another spiffing gansey, this time in violet, with a very effective pattern, and once again measured entirely by eye. (It was knit for another of her doctors, thus reinforcing my view that Finland is a country where the doctors are all as rugged as the landscape…)

18 comments to Flamborough (John Knaggs) I: 24 August

  • Gail Donkin

    Stunningly good pic of Gordon, enhanced by the gansey and the rainbow! Congratulations!

    • Gordon

      Hi Gail, About Margaret’s photographs, to quote PG Wodehouse, some say she’s got a great eye, but others say she’s got two of them…

  • Lynne

    That denim gansey is one of my favorites! It looks great on you and I’m sure that rainbow in the sea made a showing just to compliment the photo! I was shocked to see the progress on the new project, I’m assuming it’s Navy, is it also Frangipani?

    • Gordon

      Hello Lynne, yes the new gansey is Frangipani navy—and it’s so nice to be using yarn that isn’t all snarled up again! I offered my friend the full choice of colours but he opted for traditional navy, and luckily I happened to have a couple of cones in my stash. (I also offered him 3 patterns and this was the one he preferred, to my secret delight; this is a real change from my usual type of pattern, and it’s always been one I wanted to try.)

  • =Tamar

    The glow of finishing one gansey and finding that the other one is already well-started – that sounds dangerous. Be careful, or you’ll wind up with multiple projects on the needles at once.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, despite several attempts I’ve still not mastered the art of knitting with my toes while simultaneously knitting the conventional way! So I think I’m safe. My problem is, once I start something I identify with it closely, so it’s mentally a drag to switch between things, and I find once I lay something down to work on something else, I find it hard to get back to where i was. Anyway, I’m back to being a one-gansey kinda guy. No moonlighting!

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Gordon, the denim ganseys fit is perfect. Especially the sleeves looks great ! The new project is very interesting and the pattern only looks easy, it needs a lot of attention. The dark colour is challenge to the eyes! Take care.
    Ps. Surgeons in Finland are usually slim,they know the surgical complications of patients with overweight.

    • Gordon

      Thank you, Judit, coming from you a compliment on the fit means a lot! It’s still very light here and I hope to break the back of the project before the really dark nights come, which is one reason why I started it before i finished the denim one—I don’t want to be peering at this pattern in dark yarn come December!

      Ah, doctors—if only someone had warned us archivists while we still had waistlines…

  • Jane

    The denim gansey has turned out really well, and so well done on the photo, wonderful harmonising blues with a rainbow. You must be really pleased, and the sleeves are a triumph!

    I must admit I would also have had a background project to save my sanity, and lovely to see Flamborough, super pattern and definition. The navy is a very good choice, but watch out as dark colours do seem to “absorb the light” as I am sure you know. I do so agree about simpler not necessarily being easier.

    Speaking of which the vintage cardie and I are now on slightly better terms. The weather in the South has turned dismally cold and wet, all twenty ducks are even damper than usual, and on every corner of the house is a peacock from next door sheltering, three on the front doorstep.

    Thank you for the freeby books, have downloaded both, I remain a big fan of “The Cuckoo’s Nest”! Judit’s gansey is awesome and I have left a message on page 2 of her site!

    • Gordon

      Evening Jane, one of the drawbacks to running a blog such as this is that I’m required under my contract to have pictures of me posted on the internet at regular intervals. It’s hard to retain the self-image of a 25 year-old hirsute athlete when you see something more closely resembling old man Steptoe, or the Emperor from Star Wars, looking back at you!

      I’m always worried about the way navy hides the pattern, that’s a good point you make, indeed I urged my friend to consider carefully before choosing the colour, but he was sure this was what he wanted. I spent the first few inches being very nervous, as I couldn’t see much of a pattern at all—but I’m delighted to say that it’s showing clearly now, especially in strong sunlight, so I think it’ll be fine.

      Good luck with the cardie, and the weather. For once it’s a stunningly beautiful few days up here in the far north, in fact even as I type this it’s a golden evening with not a cloud in the sky, just this immense deep blue spanning from horizon to Tescos…

      Oh, and thanks about the books—I had 600 free downloads over the weekend, and since I’d rather have readers than not, that’s a great result for me.

      Cheers all,

    • Judit M./ Finland

      Hello Jane,
      Many thanks for your kind comment on my last gansey.

  • Sue

    ‘Denim’ looks fantastic, Gordon and the decision to,re-knit the sleeves was clearly the right one. And the new one is definitely going to be a corker. I’m still ploughing on with the aran for my brother but as I am now halfway down the second sleeve the end is in sight!

    I was planning on a making gansey for myself next but I cannot summon up the strength of mind to start something in Frangipani dark navy this close to the Autumn equinox and the rapidly drawing in nights. So it is either a case of changing tack and ordering some cream and making a Hebridean one instead or else finally getting around to the Shetland Fair Isle circular yoke cardigan for my mother that she has been dropping such big hints about for the last two years! I suspect it will be the latter that will win out as I do have the wool already in the stash for that. And whilst the main colour is dark green it does mean that any mistakes in the fair isle show up very quickly and easily against it.

  • Gordon

    Hi Sue,

    I’m a big fan of Fair Isle; mind you, I saw some Faroe Island jumpers on a website a few weeks ago and I must say they looked remarkably warm and inviting! I have a certain number of gansey patterns I still want to knit (the list is definitely growing shorter now though) and I’m thinking that once I’ve done them all I might switch to something like Fair Isle.

    Like Sherlock Holmes giving up detective work and retiring to keep bees, I see myself in my dotage, reclining in the garden, cricket on the radio, the gentle hum of a lawnmower coming from next door’s lawn, and two—count them, two—colours of wool on my needles…

  • Marilyn

    Hi Gordon, as I don’t think Sherlock will ever give up the game of deduction, your two color career may never get off the ground. I’m doing some Estonian lace at the moment, which sounds very fancy, but it’s increases and decreases all down the row- three into one, one into three. Thrilling, satisfying and I can walk and chew gum at the same time. Good knitting- the gansey rocks.

    • Gordon

      Evening, Marilyn,

      As Sherlock famously says when called out of retirement in His last Bow (1917):

      “There’s an east wind coming, Watson.”

      “I think not, Holmes. It is very warm.”

      “Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and I tell you what, I could really do with something warm of an evening. Something with gussets.”

      (Wearily) “I’ll get me needles out, Holmes.”

      “Remember the case of the Poisoned Needle, when a ninety year old grannie was killed by her nephew who was just back from the Congo?”

      (Sighing, parrot-fashion under his breath) “You deduced that he’d coated the tips with a little-known Asiatic poison.”

      “I deduced that he’d coated the tips with a little-known Asiatic poison.”

      (Muttering) “I wish I’d got a little-known Asiatic poison. Then we’d see who wears the gussets round here…”

      ‘What was that you said, Watson?”

      “Nothing, Holmes.”

      “Good old Watson!”

  • Helen Edwards

    Hi Gordon
    Denim looks lovely – worth the gnashing of dentures.

    I thought I’d share with you a lesson on the dangers of running multiple projects learned the hard way by my mother when I was quite small. She decided to knit both grannies bed jackets for Christmas in a soft pink mohair rich yarn, with pearl-drop detail – lovely but ambitious given the deadline. The pattern required the front, back and sleeves to be started separately and then completed together for the yoke. She got to the start of the yoke for both jackets simultaneously but could not get the stich numbers right for either, one with far too many and the other too few. With Christmas rapidly approaching she was beside herself with frustration and could not resolve the problem. One evening we laid both jackets out on the living room floor to recalculate against the pattern. And then the tears of frustration became tears of hysteria when we saw that one jacket and only one sleeve and the other had three! I know this couldn’t happen in gansey-land, but a stern warning, nonetheless!

    Greetings from glorious sunny (at last) mid-Wales.


    • Gordon

      Hello Helen, how nice to hear from you.

      What a great cautionary tale! Alas I lack the technical ability to even begin to make a mistake on that scale. (Though part of me wonders if at some point a grown-up would have taken you aside and explained that the ladies in question worked on the top secret nuclear research facility…)

      Margaret sometimes shows off by knitting a pair of socks on the same needles simultaneously which does my head in, it’s like watching a party magician making balloon animals, there’s an awful lot of squeaking and elbows and confusion and suddenly there’s a giraffe—or, in this case, a pair of socks. It’s very much the same way I imagine God made the duck-billed platypus, probably to impress a pretty girl at a party when he’d had one cherry schnapps too many.

      Stunningly beautiful day here today too. Now it’s raining. Such is, apparently, life.

      All the best!

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