I first came across the term “displacement activity” in Desmond Morris’s bestselling book of popular sociology from the 1970s, Manwatching (along with some rather racy photographs that helped me through adolescence – well, the internet hadn’t been invented yet, we had to make our own entertainment). A displacement activity is anything you do that brings comfort while at the same time puts off some other activity you don’t want to face up to.
So, faced with a mountain of laundry, you might decide to have a cup of tea first, or write a shopping list, or arrange your fish knives in alphabetical order, or (ahem) write a blog – anything that helps you avoid facing up to reality. This week, faced with the logistical nightmare of moving up to Wick, my displacement activity has been knitting – which goes some way to explain how much I’ve got done. (Hey, it’s not like I haven’t done anything – I’ve started a list. That’s got to count for something, right?)
As I said before, I cast on 388 stitches. After 3 inches of basic knit 2/purl 2 ribbing I increased to 432 stitches. My basic stitch gauge is about 9.25 stitches to the inch on 2.25mm needles, so that should give me something in the region of my target width of 46 inches or so. (The yoke pattern will involve cables, which will pull the chest in a bit, and there will be purl columns running the length of the body, so I should have some flexibility when it comes to block it in, oh, about three years’ time.)
I’m going to follow one of the Humber “keel and sloop” gansey patterns from Michael Pearson’s book (the old edition, not the new reprinted one, since when I went to order it from Amazon UK I found it had already sold out, after just 3 days, dammit – so congratulations to Michael on a successful launch). I plan to adapt Mrs Jackson’s pattern from p.102, one of the really elaborate ones.
It’s one of those ganseys with a plain body and a patterned yoke. I’ll post the yoke pattern when I come to it (in other words, when I’ve worked out what it’ll be!) but one of the elements of this pattern that’s a little unusual, and which I wanted to explore, is a narrow patterned panel either side of each seam stitch (see pattern chart). This consists of a section of moss stitch bordered by a 15-stitch chevron panel – the rest of the body is plain. These strips run the whole length of the body, and continue uninterrupted into the yoke, and on up to the shoulder. It’s too early to tell how they’ll look – I’m barely an inch into the body – but already it helps break up some of the endless knit stitches you get with a completely plain body.
We occasionally get asked what Margaret gets up to when she isn’t riding shotgun on my various gansey projects. Being rather more representative of the wider knitting community than I, the answer is, pretty much whatever takes her fancy. Here’s her latest project – I think it’s a modified fishing net for catching moths, but I could be wrong.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, I finally depart for Wick on Thursday 13th, when hopefully I will move into my temporary lodgings (Margaret’s coming up for a few days, but will be returning to Edinburgh until we find somewhere more permanent). So there may be some disruption to the blog over the next few weeks – please bear with us, if so. And I start work on Monday 17th, which gives me a week to try to remember just what it is that archivists do.
Meanwhile I suppose I’d better get started on packing and sorting out what clothes to take – oh, is that the time? Well, maybe after lunch. Oh, and I’ve got to post that letter. Well. Perhaps I could just squeeze in another couple of rows first…