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Hebrides, Week 4: 17 April

Just a short blog this time, as it’s Easter weekend—and, let’s be honest, if we’ve done this properly we should all be far too full of chocolate to read a whole bunch of words and stuff. Anyway, it’s spring—the daffodils are expiring in a riot of yellow; the gorse has picked up the idea and run with it, as if God, looking over His paintbox after finishing the world, realised He had loads of cadmium yellow left over and decided to splash it all across the Highlands for a laugh; and out in the fields the lambs are—to use one of my favourite Scots words—friskling (in the sense of, leaping or frolicking: these are not Special Branch plain clothes lambs patting down other sheep for concealed weapons).

And now for the good news. Easter was ever the time of renewal and hope, and so it has proved for me: this week I received the All Clear from the doctors and am now preparing to return to work after my long illness. I’m not out of the woods yet—and I have to stick with the meds till the autumn just to make sure my serotonin levels come back up to strength—but compared with how I felt in December, this will do nicely. I don’t have a date to go back yet, but soon.

Of course it’s helped having something creative to keep me occupied these last few months, and I suppose three ganseys isn’t a bad return, not counting this one. I’ve finished the back and started the front, and hopefully I’ll get that done this week. As ever, this sort of pattern forces you to pay attention; it’s not the kind of thing I can do while watching television, for example. But the results are so stunning I start to wonder why I knit anything else.

In parish news, Judit has sent us this splendid picture of her brother wearing a gansey in cream. It’s the classic Filey lifeboat design, but for the whole gansey, not just the yoke, and perfectly realised, as ever. Many congratulations to Judit on an excellent gansey and excellent photograph.

Happy Easter everyone, and a happy Patriots Day weekend to all our friends in Massachusetts!


And so we come to the yoke. The classic Hebridean arrangement is three bands each on three pattern “squares”, making a total of nine squares. They don’t have to be, of course, but in this case all the squares are all the same size—it makes them interchangeable, and it’s easier to do the maths, too. My reasons for choosing these particular patterns was as follows.

I knew beforehand that I wanted to include the tree of life—it’s a strong design which looks good in cream, and is symmetrical so can be broken into two equal halves by the steek. This I decided to use to anchor the corners and be the centre. (Also, living in Caithness, we need all the trees we can get.)

Again, the diamond is an effective design and can be split in two by the steek (which is why they’re in the centre column), but it’s also quite a plain pattern. The overall design of this gansey is very busy, and I wanted to balance some of that busy-ness with plainer patterns, or it just gets too much, I feel.

Finally, the recipient has a connection with the sea so I wanted another nautical connection, hence the anchor. I didn’t have a pattern that exactly fit the size I needed, so I more or less made up my own based on the examples in Michael Pearson and Rae Compton’s books.

The cables and yarn over triangley pattern thingeys are more or less self explanatory, though I’ll just note that I’m flanking the cables with a 3-stitch seed stitch on each side. I don’t think I’ve done this before—I usually opt for 2 purl stitches either side of a cable—but this is, apparently a feature of the north of Scotland ganseys, and, although a wee bit fiddly, it does look effective. The ladders at either side of the body are a great regulating mechanism, and can be made as large or small as you like to fit the number of stitches required.

13 comments to Hebrides, Week 4: 17 April

  • Judit M./Finland

    Hi Gordon and many thanks for mentioning my last gansey. I was happy reading that you are healthy again and going back to work.
    Your pullover looks fantastic, rich pattern , fine color and excellent knitting.
    Best regards and happy knitting !

    • Gordon

      Hi Judit and thanks. It’s been a long road back, hopefully I can put it all behind me and just go back to enjoying my job. A couple of years ago I told someone I thought I had the best job in the world, and it’d be nice to reacquaint myself with that point of view!

      Happy knitting,

  • Dave

    Hey Gordon great to hear you are on the mend. We’ve had a chocolate free easter this year – a strange beastie – one feels something is missing but I did need to lose a bit of weight. I’ve not braved the scales yet – it had better have been worth it.

    Another geat Gansey – though I have to say, Judit’s is pretty impressive too.


    PS. My daughter has been away in Spain – paragliding – and I understand she has plans to rectify this when we next see her.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, yes, it’s nice to feel a little more myself again. We decided to do without easter eggs this year too, but unlike your good self we had the foresight to stock up on a big box of Thornton’s chocolates first!

      I think your daughter has the right idea. For wasn’t it Socrates who said, “The un-chocolated life is not worth living”…?

    • Judit M./Finland

      Hi Dave and many thanks for your kind comment on my gansey.
      Regards !

  • Ruby Davidson

    Thank you for posting the picture of Judit’s Gansey. It is gorgeous! I appreciate you taking the time to show the graphs of your motifs and why you chose them and the modifications that you made and why. I’ve learned so much from reading your blog. I’m glad I found it.

    How wonderful to hear that you’re feeling better. I’m hoping that you fall in love with your job again. Best wishes!

    • Judit M./Finland

      Hello Ruby,
      Many thanks for your kind comment concerning my gansey.
      Best regards from Finland

    • Gordon

      Hi Ruby and thank you. It’s always good to know that the explanations are of interest, though always bear in mind that I’m making it up as I go along…!

  • Lois

    So good to hear that you are well on the mend, and if that decreases the gansey production, so be it. Though I really can’t imagine you without a set of needles.

    I see that someone in the media has suggested that when (or if) Scotland leaves the union, it should become the 11th Canadian province, arguing that the climate is similar and we have a large Scottish descended population anyway. I can just imagine the bristling reaction of all true Scots to that! Though my whole 2 drops of Highland blood wistfully imagine it.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, I read that there’s apparently a joke in the new Doctor Who that whatever planet the Scots settle on they always end up demanding independence-! So make of that what you will, and be careful what you wish for – though I don’t suppose Nova Scotia was named by coincidence…

  • Lois

    Well, I’m right next door to Nova Scotia, so I think I could manage. Lol

  • That little change from p2, either side of the cable, makes all the difference. One or more rows of vertical garter stitch is another effective option which changes that little bit from a simple defining space to a more active part of the overall pattern. Mary Wright likes garter stitch & I can see why – particularly as it can mean every alternate row becomes plain knit, for which relief much thanks.

    • Gordon

      Hi Deb, sorry not to get back to you sooner—life intervened, as it sometimes does!

      That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, i.e. using the border stitch as part of the overall pattern, but I like it a lot. I’ve tended to stick to my customary habit of flanking cables with 2 purl stitches per side—partly because I’m a slave to habit, and partly because I like the effect. (And partly, if I’m honest, because they can act as a means of regulating the width of a gansey: if it comes out too big those purl stitches pull it in again.)

      But there’s no question, seed (or moss) stitch looks darned effective—just a wee bit fiddly. But perfectly in keeping with the overall twiddlyness of this gansey pattern!

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