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Humber 9: 21 – 27 November

You may recall that I have had occasion – just now and then – to mention the wind up here in Caithness, strong enough to snatch an umbrella out of your hand and twist it into weird and disturbing shapes as easily as you might bend a paperclip, even on a normal autumn day. What did I know? Over the weekend I experienced a genuine Caithness gale.

I was woken up around 3 a.m. by the wind – well, I say wind, but that doesn’t adequately cover it: a gale was battering and shaking the house,  pounding the double glazing and even squeezing puddles of water through. (I heard that winds around 80 mph were recorded in the Highlands in the night – I don’t know if this was as strong as that, but it can’t have been far off.) At one point I decided that as I was awake I’d turn on my bedside radio to take my mind off it all. After a couple of minutes I had to check it was actually on – the wind was so loud it drowned out the sound, for all the world like a 747 revving its engines prior to takeoff just outside my bedroom window. (Now I know what the Three Little Pigs must have felt like.)

Anyway, this is supposed to be a blog about knitting, so it is with some relief that I’m able to turn aside from the delights of Caithness meteorology to actually talk about knitting for a change, rather than the “cut and paste” of my slow progress up the body in recent weeks. For I have, at last – wonderful to relate – started the gussets and the yoke.

But before I get into that, I have a (gulp) shameful confession to make. You see, I’ve never knit a pattern like this before, with a patterned strip up the seams and the rest plain – the bodies of my ganseys have either been all plain, or all patterned. Now I’ve discovered a worrying flaw in my technique: after 10 inches of body, the plain central panel measures almost an inch longer than the patterned strips.

I wonder why this is? I thought I knit plain stitches tighter than patterns with lots of knits and purls – in fact, I know this is the case, from ganseys I’ve knitted before. Yet here the reverse is true. Have I been subconsciously knitting the seed stitch tighter to make sure it doesn’t end up as full of holes as a string vest? Have I been correspondingly relaxing in the plain stretches? Or is this merely an optical illusion, and it will all look the same once it’s washed and blocked?

I’d be interested to hear from the more experienced knitters out there, especially if this is a recognised phenomenon.

Anyway, back to the pattern. I’ve made a start on the gussets – just a few rows so far – increasing one stitch either side of the gusset every 4 rows (my standard rate of increase). It looks a bit ugly, as it always does at first, but it will settle down as it widens and grows.

Now, I’ve already hinted that this is an unusual sort of pattern. Not only does it have the patterned strips up the body seams, it has a sort of “pre-yoke”, triangular shapes that sit immediately below the start of the yoke proper, hanging like bats, or fat icicles from the start of the pattern. I don’t know if you can make them out from the photos – Margaret has fled back to the city lights of Edinburgh and taken her camera with her, so you’ll have to bear with me for a bit – but they’re about half done, so they sort of float in mid-air as if I was trying to knit a Space Invaders game pattern (now there’s a thought…).

I should finish them over the next few days, and then it’ll be time for the big reveal, the yoke pattern proper. Always assuming the big bad wolf hasn’t blown my house down in the meantime, of course…

11 comments to Humber 9: 21 – 27 November

  • My theory, FWIW, is that because garter stitch spreads sideways and shrinks lengthwise, if you add a lot of garter (purl) stitches into the fabric it will shrink lengthwise. And yes, a good blocking will sort it out.

  • Lynne

    I agree that blocking will take care of difference, and I love the triangular seed stitch. Living in the wine valley of the Okanagan in British Columbia, it reminds me of the grape clusters ready for harvest.

  • =Tamar

    The triangles do show in the photo. Yes, blocking will sort it out; wool is amazing material and with a bit of steam and pressure you can make dry flat woven wool stretch and shrink into curlicues and back to flat. A Space Invaders-inspired cardigan sounds interesting to me, but then, I once knitted a cardigan covered with intarsia designs of my own, all related to a newsgroup I enjoyed.

  • Sue

    Absolutely – washing and blocking will sort it out no problem. It’s exactly the same when knitting FairIsle – it doesn’t matter how carefully you try and make sure that you don’t pull the stranded threads across the wrong side too tight it still looks puckered until you wash and block the garment out. Interestingly, I find that with both textured knits like ganseys as well as Fair Isles it’s almost as if that first ‘wash & block’ sets the stitches and it never needs quite so much manipulation to get into shape when washed subsequently.

  • Lisa Mitchell

    We had 150 kph (92 mph) blow through Calgary yesterday so I can fully understand a Caithness gale…

  • Well, I’d say that blocking would work, but I see that everyone has already said so. So.

    Wind? That’s sort of scary – what if you’d been out walking or something? Should you start wearing lead weights in your boots or something?


  • Gordon

    Hi everyone, and thanks for the comments. I’ve come across the stretching qualities of wool, and Margaret’s got me out of a few scrapes that way, but I’ve never had to shrink it before.

    It was 80 mph winds up here on Saturday night apparently – though 92 mph trumps that, I hope never to experience it! I was fine until I looked out the window and saw a cackling woman dressed in black on a broomstick flying past…


  • Sue

    I think that you’ll find that both will happen! The tighter section will stretch a bit but if patted down well the slacker bit will also compress. Or at least that is the way it works for me. It does mean that it’s not possible to be absolutely accurate when measuring up work in progress but isn’t that part of the fun of handknitting 🙂

  • Gordon

    Hi Sue, it’s not a precise science – well, it never has been for me! But my philosophy has always been of the “close enough for jazz” kind, with some built-in flexibility. And if it really doesn’t work I can always claim the cat ate it…


  • Veronica

    The sweater is looking great. Can’t wait to see more.

    80mph and it’s not even winter yet! Sounds like the lead weights in your boots is a very smart idea.

    When you get a chance, tell us how the job is going too. I’m finding myself quite interested in hearing what is involved when an archivist starts a new job.

  • Gordon

    Hi Veronica,

    It’s only taken me one weekend of gales force winds for me to ignore the normal gusts – so quickly do you acclimatise! Sadly my hat collection won’t get much of an airing up here, the wind just snatches them off – beanie or ushanka hats only, alas.

    I’ll give more archive info, if you like – though it’s not very exciting, I warn you – apart from the fast cars and the yacht parties, some of it is even rather dull…