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Humber 14: 26 December – 1 January 2012

And a very happy New Year to all.

My mother, who is a fund of old folk wisdom, told me when I phoned her on New Year’s Day that “what you have at New Year’s stays with you all the year long”. Now, when you consider that I’d just told her I had a rotten cold, and that she went on to laugh heartily, I think I’m justified in feeling, as PG Wodehouse would say, if not actually disgruntled, then not exactly gruntled either…

So what did Santa bring you? Apart from the cold I got a 4-day migraine and – a nice Dickensian touch, this – a notice by our landlords to vacate the flat by March (but the joke’s on them, given that we’re hoping to move out before then anyway). Still, I also got a centenary box set of all Mahler’s symphonies (well, you can never have too many, can you?) and a season of the fabulous old black-and-white tv series The Avengers with Diana Rigg on DVD (“Mrs Peel, we’re needed”). So that’s my 2012 sorted.

We watched the Hogmany fireworks from the comfort of our living room window this year, which was very civilised. Apart from the weather – very blustery and showery – there was the whole question of 80,000 people jammed into the city centre like passengers on the Japanese underground; and besides, the whole occasion was spoiled for me by the bizarre decision to turn the official street party into a deafeningly loud rock concert with Primal Scream pounding out till 1am. Bah. And possibly humbug. (On the other hand, I did discover that there’s a Scottish band called the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, leading exponents of bagpipe rock, so there’s still hope for the human race, I feel.)

What with all this sitting around and listening to Mahler and all, I’ve got rather a lot of knitting done. All of the back yoke, in fact, and two-thirds of the front. I’ve kept the armhole length short this time – 8.5 inches including 1 inch of rig ‘n’ fur shoulder strap – on the grounds that the moss stitch will open up and stretch a bit once it’s blocked (I’m learning!). You will also see from the photographs that, now I’m home, I’ve gained access to my stash of spare yarn from previous ganseys, so I can finally put the gusset stitches on proper holders!

In other gansey news, many thanks to Lynne for pointing out a really interesting Radio 4 programme on the ganseys of the Moray Firth in Scotland. You can listen to it at Open Country – the BBC usually has its programmes online to listen again for 7 days, so this should be available till Thursday. It was of more interest to me than it would otherwise have been, too, since the presenter talked to knitters in Helmsdale and Dunbeath, communities not so very far from Wick. I now have some useful contacts for my own research!

Also, if you haven’t already come across it, Wendy Johnson recently knit a Filey pattern in Rowan yarn – you can see pictures on her blog from last November –  or click on the link in her “completed work” section and sign in with a Ravelry account to see more details. Which just shows how effective gansey patterns are however they’re used.

Finally, a special hello to Song, poster of this parish, who took time while she was over in the UK to come up to Edinburgh and pay us a visit. It’s always good to meet people after corresponding through the blog – so that makes two now, along with Judit (hello Judit!). Like the old joke about what do you call a thousand lawyers at the bottom of the sea, it is, I feel, a good start.

So, here’s to a great 2012. And I hope that whatever you saw in the New Year with will be with you the rest of the year – always providing, of course, it wasn’t a cold…

24 comments to Humber 14: 26 December – 1 January 2012

  • Barbara

    Your marvelous notes have just got me through the neck and shoulder straps of my gansey ( epic gansey). Thanks so much – love the rig and fur!

  • Lynne

    The gansey yoke looks stunning and I think those ‘hanging triangles’ are going to be very effective once the blocking is done.
    Thanks for sharing the fireworks display – I kept thinking I would hear Mahler in the background, but I think I did hear the clicking of knitting needles!

  • Lisa Mitchell

    The chevrons running up the sides are a nice touch. I’m also more than a little partial to stars… Great to see all the progress over the hols. The radio piece was great too – ’til my bandwidth ran out! Hopefully I can catch the rest later… Happy New Year to both you and Margaret.

  • =Tamar

    Unusually for me, this year I saw in the New Year while knitting at a casual get-together with friends.

  • Thanks for the shout out! I’ll be embarking on another gansey-type knit in the next couple of days, as soon as I finish Alice Starmore’s “Cromarty” which is almost complete.

  • Alison

    It is looking great! I tried to get the Open Country broadcast but could not open it – it probably isnt accessible from the USA. Santa brought me a longer set of double pointed needles and some circular needles so I am running out of excuses not to start my own gansey! I have the cones of Frangipani yarn I brought back from GanseyFest prominently displayed.

    We have had temperatures above freezing (at least during the day) at Christmas and New Year (this is almost unheard of in Minnesota)and lots of high winds (but nothing as bad as you folks got recently)

  • Lynne

    Alison – I was able to get the broadcast in Western Canada. I Googled “radio broadcast UK ganseys” and found the BBC site first on the list. Try again, it’s worth it.

  • Gail

    The Open Country broadcast was great – got it fine on Cape Cod.

  • Alison

    Thanks Gail and Lynne! I will keep trying, I was trying to access the broadcast via my iPhone, I will try the computer next and see if I can get that to work.

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Good Morning Gordon ! Many thanks for the new years greeting and congratulations to the gansey you are knitting just now !
    “Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.”

  • Linda Confalone

    Dear Gansey folks; just received my two cones of Falmouth Blue from Frangipani [what great people!]. I opened the package and stood about five minutes in front of it saying to myself “oh boy, oh boy…I’m in trouble now…”
    So I ask for wishes of good luck as I attempt my first Gansey. I have decided to work up the Whitby pattern as the history is really wonderful.
    Many thankyous to Gordon for this amazing website, without which I would never be able to attempt this!
    linda confalone

  • Gordon

    Hi all, and thanks for the comments.

    Back in Wick after driving the 256 miles from Edinburgh in horrid weather – sleet and snow, and gale force winds (102 mph recorded in Edinburgh recently – and to think I went south to escape the wind!). Not sure that a house with no heating for 10 days and sub-zero temperatures outside is the best remedy for a rotten cold, either! Thank God for hot-water bottles and whisky.

    Linda, Many congratulations on venturing on your first gansey. I always find the moment when you unwrap the wool and get that “new car” smell is lovely – like a fresh spring morning, it’s full of possibilities. Please keep us posted on your progress, and remember, if you have any queries at any stage, I or anyone else on here, will be only too pleased to help if we can!

    “A gansey is for life, not just for Christmas…”

    Best of luck,

  • HI! I had a great time visiting you and your lovely wife (and all those lovely knitted things. I didn’t steal any – aren’t I good?). We were worried about you and the storm winds, but … well, you’re sturdier than you claim, so I wasn’t too worried.


  • Gordon

    Oh my God – sturdy? You thought I looked fat, didn’t you? I knew I should have worn my special battery-operated Captain Kirk gravity-defying corset…

  • *snort*

    You wretch. Next to my Strapping Geordie Lad, you’re but a slender weed. And anyway, I’ve seen the stairs you have to climb to get to your eyrie. I can’t imagine having to haul all my shopping up those stairs!


  • Gail

    I also have started a gansey, although a pseudo-gansey. Got a great deal (do you see trouble looming…?) in Howard County at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in May but they only had two cones of this wonderful naturally brown wool. So, it may have to be a vest, but I have started on my #2 needles using Gordon’s marvellous instruction (including swatch knitting) and some of his patterns from past projects, Flamborough and Fife. I started Jan 1 and am now 8″ into it. I wish I could say it is a great project during the snow and ice of winter, but this darn climate change had me bike riding Dec. 20, ice on Buzzards Bay (salt water) the other day, ocean-effect snow this morning, and we are in a warming trend. Most unsettling and not what anyone could call winter. Mother Nature may just reach out and grab us yet exacting payment for my heresy.

  • Alison

    I have been knitting mittens most of the winter (maybe that is why we aren’t getting any winter? it is 46 degrees F/7.7 this afternoon which is record territory for Minnesota in January).

    I feel I need a change. Those two cones of Frangipani yarn and Elizabeth Lovick’s CD are haunting me. I think I should make a start on a gansey. After swatching, I was wondering if there is any good reason why I should not start with a sleeve (which would be much easier to take around with me)?

  • Lynne

    Alison, the glory of the gansey is that there are no seams to sew when you finish because the sleeve stitches are picked up and knitted down to the cuff. If you don’t like double-pointed needles, I did mine on two circular needles and it worked very well (without getting poked every time the position is changed.)

  • Gordon

    Hi Gail, and happy new year. 8″ is just showing off! Mind you, brown is my colour, for all Margaret keeps heroically trying to brighten me up with reds and yellows (a losing battle alas). It’s interesting that so many forecasters predicted another freezing cold winter in the northern hemisphere, mainly on the grounds that the last couple were so bad. But in fact it’s been pretty mild (though incredibly wet and windy here in the UK, especially in the far north of Scotland!). I went into town this morning and at one point was almost knocked off my feet – no riding a bike for me! When I walk to work now I attach a line to my front door just in case…

  • Gordon

    Hi Alison,

    As far as I’m concerned, anyone can do anything! There are no gansey police to make a citizen’s arrest and ensure that the regulations are being obeyed.

    As Lynne says, the traditional method is to start at the bottom and work it seamlessly, as a tube, with the sleeves picked up organically from the body. (This is its main attraction for me – no sewing! Huzzah!) Speaking as a non-sewer (that’s someone who doesn’t sew, not somebody who isn’t a channel for effluent, you understand) I don’t know how you’d incorporate the gussets if you knit the sleeves first, but that could be just ignorance on my part.

    The only thing I’d say is that if you knit it the traditional way, you spend a few weeks with just the welt ribbing to do, and then you start the body – it doesn’t become onerous to carry round for a couple of months. (After that it is a bit like lugging around the dead body of a faithful labrador, I admit, but by then you have the glow of satisfaction of seeing your creation really taking shape.)

    Anyway, however you decide to go, please let us know how you get on!

    Best wishes

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Hello Gordon !
    My new gansey is ready and I wonder how can I show it to you and to the ganseyfolk here ?

  • Sue

    A Belated Happy New Year to everybody! Back home and trying to get into the usual routine again but have still to take up the knitting again. Belatedly discovering that a 3 day family houseparty not only takes up a lot of time in preparation but a lot of time sorting everything out once you get home again! Posting off the various pieces of ‘left behind’ property to their rightful owners, making sure that 4 ‘not-quite identical’ slow cookers are all reunited with the right outer, inner, lid and owner, getting 12 dozen glasses washed, sorted and returned to the wine merchant, washing 12 damask linen tableclothes etc has taken the best part of a week.

    But oh the joy of getting it all done and being able to look forward to picking up the knitting again in front of the log fire!

  • Gordon

    Hello Judit! Congratulations – email me any pictures at gordonr@ganseys.com and we’ll get them onto the Reader’s Gallery, and I’ll flag them up next week.

    Best wishes

  • Gordon

    Hi Sue, and happy new year. Your festivities sound like fun, if a bit overwhelming. You could always just auction the left-behind stuff on eBay… No? Well, it was just a suggestion.

    Knitting in front of a log fire paints an idyllic picture – somehow an electric storage heater isn’t quite the same!