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Lopi 2: 11 January

L150111a During the early hours of Friday morning wind speeds of 93 miles per hour were recorded in Wick as the storm front passed through. We’d lain awake most of the night, feeling the house shake under us and listening to sleet rattle against the windows. Every now and again there’d be a deafening “Whumpf!”, as though God had left the gas burner on slightly too long before lighting it, followed by a shudder like an African elephant head-butting the bedroom wall.

L150111bTesco’s garage just up the road had part of its roof blown off, trees and branches littered the roads and even by Sunday evening there were still hundreds of homes up here without power. I feared the worst, but luckily we survived more or less unscathed (here a slate missing, there a gate blown over); not that we’re entirely out of the woods yet—more lows are heading our way, rolling across the Atlantic like bowling balls, with us as the pins.

In times like this it’s good to have something to keep you occupied, and I finished the Lopi sweater on Thursday night—just over a fortnight since I started. (You can knit a jumper in two weeks—why didn’t anyone tell me? Did I miss a meeting or something?)

2W150111bSo, what have I learned? First of all, old habits die hard and I struggled to knit as loosely as the pattern called for; as a result, it’s more of a large than an extra large (but that’s fine, as I’m somewhere between the two, depending on how much tablet I got my hands on over Christmas.) Next time I might use a size bigger needles.

I also discovered it really plays havoc with your stitch gauge when you go back to knitting ganseys. First came a certain amount of hilarious confusion when I picked up the ribbing I’d started for my next gansey project (“you mean I used to knit with this? No, seriously, where’s the real yarn?”); followed by stitches so big they looked like I was making a fishing net. Two days on the weirdness is just wearing off.

2W150111aBut, of course, despite everything, the main lesson was, yes, I can knit with two colours, which I have to say is a pretty big deal for me. (The pattern forced me to occasionally knit with three colours on one row, a dirty trick if ever I saw one—but I’d be lying if I said I mastered that, given the hours I spent disentangling balls of yarn that looked like they’d spent an hour in the tumble drier with a family of playful kittens.)

Flushed with success I plan to alternate ganseys with Icelandic and other types of sweater in future, and see how it goes; if the forecast’s anything to go by, as well as more gales and depressions heading our way—as if things weren’t depressing enough already—we have some days of ice and snow to look forward to. So, the more warm jumpers up our sleeves, as it were, the better…

22 comments to Lopi 2: 11 January

  • Annie

    Ah, yes, the change in yarn and needle size…many years with worsted, chunky, even Lopi…and here I am with 5-ply gansey wool so tiny I can’t even count the stitches. Your blogs keep me motivated!

    The winds, yes, to quote a poet: “The house was far out at sea all night.”

    Just hang in there, even if it’s hugging the side rails of the bed.

    • Gordon

      Hello Annie, I think as I get older and my eyesight goes I’ll have more Lopi to look forward to in my dotage than gansey yarn!

      Ah, the late great Ted Hughes.

      “Electric blanket to comfort your bedtime
      The river no longer feels its stones.
      Your windows are steamed by dumpling laughter
      The snowplough’s buried on the drifted moor.
      Carols shake your television
      And nothing moves on the road but the wind

      Hither and thither
      The wind and three
      Starving sheep.”

      From his poem, “Christmas Card” in the collection “Season Songs”

  • Marilyn

    Hello Gordon! Congratulations on a spectacular new Finished Object!
    I too missed the memo about 2 weeks to completion- the fastest I’ve completed a sweater was Thanksgiving to Christmas and I thought I was doing well. My favorite mindless knitting is washcloths from #10 crochet cotton on size 3 needles, so I get the “where’s the real yarn” bit.

    Could the weather be described as a wee bit breezy? Yikes. Glad your roof stayed put, hard to stay dry without one. (93 miles an hour is just under a Category 2 hurricane which is 96 to 110 mph- thank you google). We go to the basement when that kind of wind hits.

    Ah, Gordon, do take care so you can keep cranking out those jumpers and entertaining us in the process.

    • Gordon

      Hi Marilyn,

      Yes, chunky sweaters – who knew? And with the weather plunging into a sequence of weather bombs, drawing down winds from the Arctic, not before time by the look of it!

      I’ve never tried a washcloth, but it feel like I’m knitting waistcoats for dormice just now, or clothing for creatures that featured in Beatrice Potter’s little-known classic, Peter Rabbit Takes Acid And Wakes Up Three Weeks Later On A Grimsby Trawler With Nothing But A Gansey and An Unmentionable Disease.

      They’re forecasting 80-mph winds for Wednesday-Thursday, so who knows. I started to build an emergency shelter but it looked disconcertingly like a shallow grave and I was, I must admit, rather discouraged…

  • Jane

    I thought of you and Margaret as the wind whirled round the South Coast, we only managed sixty or seventy miles an hour so it hardly counts! Very pleased you and Margaret are through this round of winter storms! Down our way anything that could move did last year, not got much left to go, but the electricity supply is struggling!

    The expensive car transporter is still out there in the Solent, still listing but two miles nearer to Portsmouth where all the ship mending seems to go on these days.

    The Lopi sweater looks super, and Cowichan sounds interesting as well. I think the switching between different yarns and needles and their tensions is something that our hands and brains come in time to get used to, a little bit like different mental sections for the different garments.

    Some good news, finally I have bought a copy of Rae Compton’s excellent book on ganseys. Take care and stay dry!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, last post before bed. Incredibly, there are still 900 homes up here without power, and this is from Friday morning. Which tells you how bad things have been. But I don’t want to play “my wind is stronger than yours” – 60-70mph can do a lot of damage, and is no fun however you look at it.

      I know what you mean about adjusting to different sizes – by the time I come to start my next Lopi jumper I’ll be so used to gansey yarn again it’ll be like knitting with tree trunks.

      Hope you enjoy the Rae Compton, one of my “holy trinity” of UK-wide knitting books (along with Thompson and Pearson). Great photographs, meticulous pattern graphs, and a world of common sense!

  • Lynne

    The Lopi looks great – and I thought it would take you three weeks, but you really showed us! I know what you mean when you talk about untangling the yarn when knitting with colors; I once knitted a huge, graphed, horse head on the back of a sweater and it had 22 colors in it, most were on bobbins, but there were a couple times I just wanted to chuck the whole thing.
    On the other hand, I went to a ‘miniature’ show last year – these are mainly for people who furnish doll houses, and I bought a dress for a 2″ miniature, fully jointed, teddy bear I had made. The dress is hand knitted – on piano wire! and measures a length of 1″, has little puffed sleeves and a ruffled collar! So, whenever I get discouraged with the progress of my 2.25mm needles, I just look at that little dress . . .
    and enjoy the journey.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne,

      Well, I don’t know which is more impressive – the teddy bear or the dress! I think one day we should all club together and make a miniature trawler with 2-inch high crew members, each with a tiny hand-knitted gansey…

      Your horse head sounds scary. Three colours felt like I was sitting in on a Stephen Hawking lecture on the maths underpinning black holes—22 colours and my brains would have been leaking out of my nose!

  • =Tamar

    Oh, the size shift. Years ago I knitted a tiny pouch on 1mm (US size 00000) dpns, in stranded knitting, using perle cotton at 16 sts/inch, just to prove I could (and to find out what the texture was really like). Then I went back to sock needles, and they did indeed feel like telephone poles. Now I’m more likely to knit a hat from Lopi on 9mm (US size 13) dpns, and sock needles look tiny. I doubt that I could do the size shift between projects.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I’ll be interested to see if I can keep on switching back and forth. So far the transitions has been clumsy and strange, but I’m hoping that if i do more of it my fingers will retain some folk memory. Mind you, since all the rest of my memory seems to have forsaken me along with my hair, I guess that’s a long shot!

      A Lopi hat sounds. well, I was going to say cool, but of course I really mean warm!

  • Nigel

    Let’s see it on!

  • Dave

    Hello Gordon,

    Multiple colours ! From you ! I’m getting worried that your next project might involve Santa and snowmen.

    Even we have a little snow now here in West Wales but nothing to match your storm battering – I miss the weather in the solent, balmy and just a little salty.

    Good luck with the size shifting.


    • Hi Dave – I think you have some strong winds coming, so I don’t think any of us are out of the woods yet. (Even I must admit I’m beginning to understand why so many people retire to the south coast, maybe St Ives or Falmouth in Cornwall, and not to the far north of Scotland!)

      Don’t know about snowmen, but I think Santa and elves would be appropriate for an Icelandic sweater, don’t you…?

  • Jane

    Weather in the Solent at mid morning, sunny with clear blue skies, bare trees all silvery grey, very, very muddy. 4 degrees Centigrade, slight breeze from South-West, the promise of nasty to come. Cold, but not harsh, a gentle touch of the coast six miles inland. Even here, I heard the huge, deep, metallic scrape of the Hoegh Osaka as it lifted from the sand bank. For Dave, I hope that’s all right, Gordon.

    Meanwhile, I hear the siren call of the needles. I have a queue of unfinished bits to pick over including the infamous Lamb Chop glove puppet which I promised ages ago, DK on 4mm, very pleasant apart from some loopy bits which I have done my best with. Stay warm!

    • Hi Jane,

      Oh, anything that might give cause to homesickness in my old friend Dave is fine by me! The south coast is definitely warmer, of course, but mind you, I remember when we were living near Taunton in Somerset and our fence got blown down more than once, something that has yet to happen up here.

      The world needs more glove puppets. Have at it!

  • Ellen

    Bravo! What a beautiful sweater!

    I have a couple of questions. Did you wet block this sweater per your usual custom? (I always worry about wool yarn felting).

    How did you handle the long strands behind your work? Did you just let them float, or did you catch them behind a working stitch? I have done both ways with pros and cons for each method.

    Thanks in advance for answering my questions! Love the blog and best wishes for the new year!

    Ellen. Indiana. USA

    • Hello Ellen and thank you—Margaret should really answer this, as she is the “aftercare suprema” around here, but yes, we threw it in the washing machine on super-gentle wool wash and with a delicates detergent. There’s a little bit of fluffery as a result, but no felting. (Though as I have to say, your experience may differ.)

      As for the loose ends, these were mostly darned behind the loops of yarn of spare colour where there was a two- or three-colour row, and a short tail left to dangle free. As I say, this was the first time I’ve ever knit with more than one colour, so I didn’t find this at all easy – mostly because the yarn ends all came at the same place, i.e. the start of a row, so I’d have lots of ends to thread in, and very little space! I’m sure this is something that I’ll get better at with practice. (Maybe we could turn it inside out and you can see the full horror next time?)

      All the best,

  • Ellen

    Hi Gordon,

    Thanks for the speedy reply!

    No need to show the wrong side of the sweater! What happens on the wrong side, stays on the wrong side!

    The outside is simply gorgeous!

    All the best…Ellen

  • Sue

    The lopi looks superb! Hows about combining two colour work and finer yarn next time by trying out a Fair Isle sweater in traditional 2-ply Shetland Yarn? Unlike Icelandic and Nordic patterns in general, more than 2 colours on the same row is very rare in traditional Shetland Fair Isle. They look to be more complex but that is because the colours are changed more frequently between rows not because there are more colours per row if you get me? And you can get away with fewer loose ends to darn in if you also strand colours vertically when they are going to be used again in a few rows later,

    • Gordon

      Hi Sue, that sounds like a very interesting idea. I would like to move on to Fair Isle patterns, which I’ve always loved, and that sounds like a cunning plan—I think Margaret suggested something similar as a way of dipping my toe in the waters of Fair Isle (I think – she certainly promised me no more than 2 colours in a row!).

      I’m going to stick with Lopi for now, because it’s all still new to me and i want to get more confidence in handling colours in a style and gauge I sort of know—and also build up my stock! But I was planning to move on to other things either next Christmas or early next year, depending on how long everything takes: so watch this space. Any other suggestions, keep ’em coming…


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