Support Gansey Nation -

Buy Gordon a cuppa!

Many, many thanks to those of you who have already contributed!

Humber 3: 10 – 16 October

I hadn’t realised how much simple pleasure you can get by writing old songs and substituting one word for another – in this case, “Caithness” for “Christmas”. It works with just about any song or carol, but is perhaps most effective with the soundtrack to the Muppet Christmas Carol. (“A cup of kindness that we share with another/ A sweet reunion with a friend or a brother / In all the places you find love it feels like C-a-i-t-h-h-n-e-s-s.”)

For I am typing this blog in Wick, on Sunday night, having moved up here a few days ago to get settled in before starting work on Monday. I’m renting a nice little house on the outskirts of town for a few months. Quite a change from the centre of Edinburgh – from the bedroom window I get an unrivalled view of Tesco’s (at night it’s lit up like an alien landing strip) and open fields stretching away to the far horizon. People up here talk about the “big skies” of Caithness and I can see what they mean – sort of like the plains of the Midwest USA but with more midges.

Initial forays to the supermarket are encouraging – not only do they have oodles of fruit and veg, they also sell those imitation burgers and sausages that let vegetarians masquerade as normal people at barbecues like alien pod creatures disguised in human shape. The store is so big I suspect they could hold town meetings there and fit most of the population inside, and I have an urge to replicate the scene from the Blues Brothers movie and drive a car up and down the aisles. So we won’t starve anyway.

In between looking at possible houses to buy and trying to figure out the subtleties of a new heating system, I’ve been making the most of my free time to get some knitting done before work swallows my spare time. The pictures are from a camera phone, so apologies for that. (The blog’s going to be held together with chewing gum and sticky tape for a few weeks till we get settled.)

But hopefully you’ll get an idea of the general rate of progress and be able to see some of the detail of the moss stitch and chevron panels running up the sides of the seam stitches. Already it looks distinct from the usual type of yoke-pattern ganseys where the body is entirely plain – so long as you don’t lose concentration and just knit through the patterned panels, as I’ve already done several times! Ah well.

Well, it’s late, so I suppose I’d better go and prepare myself for work tomorrow with a night’s vigil of fasting and meditation, like some medieval knight on the eve of his investiture, but with a sharp pencil instead of a sword. Thanks to all of you who’ve sent me good will messages, it’s much appreciated.

So picture me tomorrow, skipping to work like Pinocchio on his way to school, and singing a merry tune – after all, there’s only one more sleep to C-a-i-t-h-n-e-s-s…





16 comments to Humber 3: 10 – 16 October

  • =Tamar

    You appear to have reinvented early filksinging, except that filk is the folk music of the science fiction fan community, so it has to have some fantastic element. Today I was (honest!) singing the Godzilla carols (“It Came Upon A Midnight Queer”, “Look, Godzilla’s Come Again”). You can tell it’s almost Halloween; the stores are beginning to bring out the Christmas decorations.

    Seed stitch is the work of Stan. I just finished a hat that was four-fifths seed stitch and one fifth stockinette. I don’t want to remember how many times I had to tink back and rework.

  • Dave

    =Tamar, you’ve just scared me away from the pattern that I was considering for my nearly-a-gansey. I was leaning toward a Flamborough, but with your commentary and Gordon calling it “a little fiddly to knit,” I may have to cast my yarn elsewhere. You’ve also scared me away from Godzilla carols, but I can live with that . . .

  • Freyalyn

    Hope the first day at work went well. Humber looks lovely. Bit of flaring at the bottom of the rib, which will presumably go on blocking/washing?

  • So, how was the first day of work? Did you remember to bring lunch? Did you remember how to … archive? (I assume there’s more than just filing needed – you’d be wasted in a Just Filing job.)

    Do tell!


  • Gordon

    Hi guys,

    So far so good! I still don’t have a proper internet connection (British Telecom have let me down) so am riding piggyback on a wifi hotspot that comes and goes. So I’ll be quick.

    Tamar – I reckon most folk songs are variants of each other, or were rewritten by the singers to suit the situation. So I have a lot of fun making up my own (another variant of the Muppets song goes, “It’s in the fishes slowly rotting in the harbour / It’s in the midges that will bite you in the arbor…”). I don’t know the Godzilla songs – are they available on iTunes?! – but they sound fun.

    Dave – don’t be too put off. After all, just about all gansey patterns are a mixture of knit and purl stitches, so you can’t really escape them. And they do look effective – no pain, no gain, the gansey knitters’ motto!

    Freyalin – the flaring at the bottom is part of my “signature” look, because I knit a couple of purl rows immediately after casting on, which rather balloons out the bottom. It mostly disappears with blocking and in any case, the eye has plenty of other things to look at. I think I picked it up from one of the books – Pearson, perhaps. I just kinda like it!

    SongBird – work has been pretty exhausting – spent part of today carting heavy boxes in a howling gale and rain which turned into tracer-bullet-like hail. Just filing would be a blessing at this stage!

    Thanks as ever for all the good wishes. Apologies for the truncated reply – will post more if and when BT connect me to the world…


  • Lynne

    Encouragement to Dave regarding one of the Flamborough patterns – my first gansey 18 years ago was one of their very detailed patterns and I took the pattern to a full tunic length. It was easy to follow and impressive to look at and the sead stitch really sets the patterns apart. Never fear.

  • =Tamar

    Gosh, it really wasn’t that seed stitch is so fiddly, it was the pattern as a whole. The stockinette went up one side of the rectangle, so in every row, I had to get into the swing of seed stitch and then out of it and into plain knitting, and then reverse it on the next row. It was at the point where I had to change from seed stitch to stockinette that I kept forgetting to change. Also at each edge I had to start with a knit stitch, but in one direction I kept on with knitting and in the other direction I had to remember to work seed stitch, and sometimes I’d just forget which side I was on.

    The Godzilla carols were made up on a hot summer night (sing carols to cool off) by some people who never bothered to record them, just sang them at conventions. To the tune of Ode to Joy: “Look, Godzilla’s come again,/ he’s gonna stomp on Tokyo./ Why’d you move back to that burg?/ You stupid jerk, I told you so./ Monsters only trash three cities/ London, New York, and Tokyo/ I’ve heard of Urban Renewal/ but this is ridiculous.”

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne and Tamar,

    Yes, seed stitch is just too effective a tool in your locker to ignore, and even though it can be fiddly, once you get going you can see immediately if you’ve made a mistake. (As opposed to the other patterns when you only notice several rows later…)

    There used to be a great folk parody act called The Kipper Family (sending up the Copper Family, a traditional family folk ensemble). Among their many classics were “Arrest These Merry Gentlemen”, “Since Time Immoral”, “Like A Rhinestone Ploughboy”, “Bored of the Dance” and, ahem, “My Grandfather’s Cock”. You can still get their albums second hand, I think.

    Ah, those were the days.

  • I just tried to email you but the deciphering code didn’t work.

    I have a dog named Gansey! I love your work and I love ganseys, of course.

    Where can I purchase a knitting sheath?

  • Dave

    I’ll put the Flamborough back into consideration, but I can’t help but think it’s a trap . . .

    Elizabeth, follow the link (on the right side of the page) to “A Fisherman Knits.” Aaron has several blog posts on how to make your own sheath (you may have to dig around in the archives,) and a link to his presence on Etsy, where he sometimes has sheaths for sale.

  • Gordon

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Great to hear from you! (And I love the name of your blog – filed under “Things I wish I’d thought of”.)

    To add to Dave’s helpful comment, Jamieson and Smith sell a knitting belt, which may also be worth checking out.

    Gansey is a great name for a dog! In retrospect I must admit I regret naming my children Chevron, Tree Of Life and Zig-Zag.

    Best wishes

  • Gordon

    Hi Dave,

    Would I lie to you? You can trust me, I’m an archivist, we’re renowned for our integrity (as well as our tedious small talk at dinner parties, but that’s another – and very long, though not entirely devoid of interest – story).


  • Lisa Mitchell

    Had a surreal experience at church this morning that echoed your “replace a word” except it was in philosophy not Christmas carols…

  • Gordon

    Hi Lisa,

    Philosophy, eh? Many years ago I studied medieval philosophy and the regular philosophy students showed us a ditty to the tune of Auld Lang Syne using philosophers’ names. I can’t remember it now, bu it began

    Should old Aquiinas be forgot
    And never brought to Mind
    (de drum de dum dum de dum)
    For the sake of Wittgenstein.

    I guess you had to be there…

  • =Tamar

    I love the philosophers’ carol! I think I know some other people who would like it. Perhaps I should do a websearch- it’s probably out there somewhere.

  • Lisa Mitchell

    My philosopher friend will, no doubt, be amused since he’s a Thomist! Thanks!