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Humber 10: 28 November – 4 December

As you’ll see from the photos, I’ve managed quite a lot of knitting this last week. Partly this is down to being up here on my own still, partly down to the weather – for winter has finally come to Caithness and I’ve spent a lot of time indoors, huddled over the fire, listening to the hail rattling the windows. And not just hail – Sunday morning broke in snow; I opened the curtains to see a snowstorm sweeping horizontally towards me across the low fields, as if the ghosts from a thousand Lost Arks had been unleashed and the restless spirits had come to claim the citizens of Wick. (Come to think of it, maybe they have, for I haven’t been out today and it’s very quiet.)

Right. Time for the Big Reveal – the yoke. I’m following Mrs Jackson’s pattern from Michael Pearson’s book (p.102 in his 1984 edition), part of his chapter on keel and sloop patterns from the Humber Estuary.

We’ve had the moss stitch and chevrons up the seams; and last week I started the triangular patterns that lead into the yoke. Now the yoke proper is introduced by 3 purl rows, each 3 rows apart. The interesting thing about these purl rows is that they run the full width of the yoke; the moss and chevron patterns resume above them, but the purl rows slice right through the pattern. (I debated whether or not to let the moss and chevron panels continue uninterrupted up the yoke, and only have the purl rows delineate the centre, but decided in the end to stick with the pattern; and I’m glad I did, because it looks quite striking.)

Ready for some maths? The pattern calls for a centre star 25 stitches across; on either side of that is a double cable of 18 stitches (p2, k6, p2, k6, p2); a diamond panel of 13 stitches; and another double cable. This comes to 123 stitches (25 + 18 + 18 + 13 + 13 + 18 + 18). As the total number of stitches in the centre of my yoke was 142 (excluding the moss and chevron panels), this gave me 19 extra stitches to fill (142-123=19).

I could, I suppose, have increased the star and/or the diamond panels accordingly, but in the end I preferred to add a little 9-stitch diamond panel at each edge, and keep the original proportions. (This still gave me 1 extra stitch per side – serves me right for not working all this out months ago – but I cunningly “disappeared” it with a subtle decrease on one of the purl stitches flanking a double cable.)

Snow outside; it’s that time of the year when they start playing Christmas music on the radio, including Handel’s “Messiah”, which gives me the chance to wheel out my annual joke about “His yoke is easy, his burden is light” – but not this time. His yoke is bloomin’ complicated, and his burden requires rather more concentration than is conducive to watching NCIS on tv. I feel a “Bah! Humbug!” coming on – but after all, there’s only 20 more sleeps till Christmas…

14 comments to Humber 10: 28 November – 4 December

  • Lynne

    Way to be inovative, Gordon! it’s going to be stunning! Aren’t you going to have fun once you divide your work and do the purl side!

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne,

    I should probably have tried one of these patterns years ago, but Pearson’s book doesn’t have a picture – just the charts – so I found it hard to visualise, I always do in those circumstances. So I’m as curious as anyone else to see how it looks in practice – so far so good!


  • Lisa Mitchell

    It’s looking great. The maths is part of the reason I’m such a coward about starting a gansey. *cluck, cluck*

  • As usual, your gansey is amazing! Every time I see one of yours, I want to make one for myself. Only, I might never finish – all that stockinette would kill me. *grin*

    I’m glad you’re staying warm inside.


  • Veronica

    This one is going to be beautiful! The idea of decorating just the side seams seemed (sorry) to be a strange choice to me at first, but now I can see the sense of it.

    I have a request. This yarn is showing the knitting nicely in photos, so would you take a close-up of how the welt looks when it’s being worn?

    I’m intrigued by the idea of including a couple rows of plain knitting before starting the 2×2 rib and would like to see how it looks “up close and personal”. That is the one element I am missing from the how-to description.

  • Gordon

    Hi guys,

    Thanks as ever for the positive comments. But much as I’d like to take credit for this, I’m really just following the pattern in the book – so here’s to Mrs Jackson!

    Lisa, it’s not hard to figure out the maths bit – and I speak as a non-mathematician. In fact, I find it’s the other way round, I have no idea how people can follow, or even understand, a written out pattern. It looks like algebra to me!

    Veronica, I’ll see what I can do about a welt picture. This isn’t compulsory, of course – I know some patterns used it, but there are as many different welts and cast-ons as there are patterns, I think.

    Best wishes

  • Veronica

    Thanks Gordon.

    And while I know you are on the eastern side of Scotland, I really hope you and Margaret are safe during these storms. The pics on BBC are impressive, especially considering how used to wind Scotland is.

  • Gordon

    Hi Veronica,

    Well, it’s been a wild few days – 79mph winds in Edinburgh, 106 mph recorded in Tayside. Hail and snow, and temperatures at or below freezing – none of it a lot of fun. But so far we’ve survived (though I’m glad I don’t own property right now!), and Margaret even managed to make it up here yesterday – an 8-hour journey turned into a 30-hour one!

    Have the heating on and the hot-water bottle on standby…


  • Lynne

    My WORD! With winds like that and near freezing temps, your heating bill must be astronomical!

  • Sarah

    Beautiful! I love how the purl rows bisect the pattern. It’s intriguing. You’re going to need a gansey with intense wind like that. Nothing like a good layer of wool to keep you warmer. It hasn’t been particularly cold yet here. I keep hoping for sweater and fireplace weather but it really hasn’t happened yet. Snow we got in October, a whopping five inches, and then a weird icy dusting the other day, but that’s it.

  • Lisa Mitchell

    Thank you for a wonderful series of blogs. I’ve been following your work for several months and find it to be an endless source of inspiration and humourous obervations.

  • Gordon

    Hello again,

    Lynne, well at least we don’t live in the Cairngorms, where winds clocked around 160 mph! You’d need more than a gansey to get by in that.

    Sarah, today the wind’s dropped, the temperatures risen to 5 degrees Celsius, and the snow’s all gone. 5 inches seems a long way away…

    Thanks, Lisa – there have been times when I’ve wondered if it was all worthwhile, but the support and enlargement of so many readers – a sort of Gansey Nation – certainly resolves any doubts!


  • Gordon, have you ever wondered how (or if) the knitters of, say, Polperro or Penzance or any of the other gansey-towns of yore talked about their designs?

    I recently contracted a bad case of gansey fever and reread my four or five books on the subject (Pearson’s being one of them). I look at the pictures of those knitters and think about how we discuss design elements and construction in our times and just try to imagine this in their time (that being a rather large swath). Perhaps it would be somewhat like how we might discuss how we commute to work– mundane and uninteresting because it is essential?

    I love reading your writing as much as I enjoy seeing your ganseys emerge from a cone of yarn like an iris pushing its way out of ground in the spring, over time emerging in all its glory. The nice thing is, ganseys last a lot longer than irises (and so does writing).

    Thanks for your inspiration and entertainment. I will endeavor to be a good Citizen of the Gansey Nation.

  • Gordon

    Hi Sheila,

    Very nice to hear from you, and thanks.

    I used to Morris dance, and it was fascinating the way dances from adjacent villages were similar, but not quite the same – obviously the people knew what each other were doing, but gradually the styles diverged – obviously different people preferred things slightly differently (see also the divergence of religious sects!). I think gansey patterns were similar – you could see what everyone else was doing, and as the fleets migrated round the coast you’d see patterns from further away – and it all got mixed around. I like to think of the online communities – such as Ravelry – as a sort of online village, where it can all be shared and mixed around too. Or something! It was work to them, I guess – like archiving is to me – but they had fewer meetings to go to, and didn’t have to cope with local government IT departments!