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Mrs Laidlaw 10: 4 – 10 November

ML1110aI was going to post something about Halloween this week, but since there were no fireworks, and no trick-or-treaters round our way (unless you count my windscreen wipers dying—but that’s more of an Act of God, and I prefer not to think of God as the sort of deity who plays pranks on non-believers if you don’t give Him chocolate), it was all a bit of an anticlimax.

So instead I shall talk about the two cats next door, Smokey and Gigi, both of them Black Ops cats, trained in stealth and the arts of surveillance. Now that the nights are drawing in they stalk me up the garden path in the darkness like sharks shadowing a boat, then try to slip in between my legs to get inside the house. Their expressions of baffled rage when they discover we have an inner door is better than a play, and the cat-shaped dents their heads leave in the woodwork make for an interesting conversation piece.



Smokey is the good time girl, who in daylight trots along in front of you just out of reach, frequently stopping and looking back over her shoulder like a feline Betty Grable, as if to say, ‘How about it, big boy?’ She drools excessively when stroked (something else she has in common with some actresses), so that sometimes during a hosepipe ban all you have to do is hold her upside down over the plants and tickle her tummy.

ML1110bGigi is a tougher proposition entirely. She usually sits on the wall, looking cold and proud, like Judi Dench discovering she’s been mistakenly booked for a stag night. The one time I made the mistake of patting her on the head my hand was engulfed in a furious ball of whirling claws of teeth, not unlike putting one’s fingers in a blender. I couldn’t shake her off, and for a time had visions of her eating her way up my arm to the elbow, like a cartoon piranha. Eventually she just let go and ran off, snickering like Muttley, while I tried to staunch the bleeding.


Black Ops Cat, or, A Catsicle

Even with bandaged fingers, somewhat to my surprise I’ve almost finished the gansey’s first sleeve: I really must knit more ganseys for petite individuals. I decided to include one tree at the top of the sleeve, and made a border from the same purl half-diamond that acts as a border to the tree pattern, but this time running horizontally round the sleeve, so it’s broader and shallower. Just the cuff to go, and the next sleeve, so I might even finish this one by Christmas.


Gus models the latest in cat hoodies. Made with doubled sock yarn.

In parish notices, I’ve received some splendid pictures which, now that Margaret is back from her holidays, I can finally share—apologies to those concerned for the delay. The first is from David Scholes, of a Staithes gansey in a sort of Lincoln green, which you can see here. The other is a cream Robin Hood’s Bay gansey from the indefatigable Judit, which you can see on her gallery page, here. Both look just the thing for the winter that seems to be in store.

Finally, Lindsey posed an interesting question on the Suppliers page, about modern gansey yarn versus the traditional kind. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to join the discussion.

Oh, and speaking of cats, Margaret’s been knitting winter coats for Faith’s hairless cat Gus, to help keep him warm and help make him look marginally less like the sort of cat the creature from Alien might keep as a pet; well, a girl can dream…

22 comments to Mrs Laidlaw 10: 4 – 10 November

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Hi Gordon,
    Many thanks for the post, the Gansey of David looks fine and I laughed at Gus in his new winter fit.
    By the way I opened “my” gallery page and I found there the blue Humber 16 gansey, unfortunately it was not knitted by humble myself :).
    Happy knitting !

  • Lynne

    Love the cat sweater, Margaret, and Gus even looks grateful for the warmth of it!
    Gordon, did you ever present the Filey sweater? or did you decide to keep it instead? (Couldn’t blame you for that)! The Claret is looking great and you’re certainly on the downhill stretch now.

    • Gordon


      I did hum, and then I hawed for a bit, but I did decide to give the Filey gansey to the Anstruther Museum. But to my shame it is still sitting in the box, along with a navy Mrs Laidler of Whitby gansey, waiting for me to go to the Post Office and send it! Oh, the shame.

      I had resolved ro do it this week, and had already printed off another copy of the letter (with a new date!) and was hoping nobody would notice… But you got me.

      This week without fail!


  • Marilyn

    Hi Gordon, this one will be finished in record time! Looking forward to the blocked version.
    Re: scratchy yarns (comment from supplier page) I add some conditioner to the rinse water when washing hard wools and it does soften them.
    Also, re: keeping cats warm (charming hoodie, Margaret)- my geriatric cat sleeps many hours a day on her heating pad and seems to be very happy there. I’ve thought of a wool garment but thought it would just annoy her or that she’d lick the wool fibers.
    Knit on! Marilyn

    • Gordon

      Hi Marilyn,

      From what I remember the best way to keep our cats warm was to sit down. One would materialise on your lap in about 0.01 seconds and go to sleep instantly, pinning you to the chair and forcing you to watch far too much bad television…

  • Gail

    Do I see a trend here? What animal will be immortalized next? Fame has not gone to Annie’s head, although she misses the extra attention she got when you were here.

    • Gordon

      Hi Gail,

      Well, it was originally going to be a joint cats ‘n’ dogs post, but it was too long so I had to split it. I seem to have run out of animals, alas, so until I go to Edinburgh zoo next, the well’s run dry!

      It was very good to see you & Bill & Annie. Glad to hear the concert went well too.

  • Nigel

    In other news … I’ve started knitting back and forth after the gussets; boy,it takes some getting used to again.
    Lovely gansey that Gordon …

    • Gordon

      Afternoon, Nigel: yes, knitting back-and-forth feels strange after so long in the round, but at least it goes twice as fast!

      In fact knitting in the round while increasing the gussets is a bit like going for a walk over a muddy field – the mud clings and gradually slows you down. Then you divide front & back – metaphorically reaching a road and scraping your boots – and suddenly you can sprint. Or at least walk slightly faster.

  • Cathy

    Envy – how do you knit so beautifully & quickly?
    As for stealth cats – after a recent incident here – a brace(?) entered unseen, got locked in and couldn’t get out when they needed to….

    • Gordon


      When I was born, a fairy came to my bedside and offered me a choice between “honour, love, obedience, troops of friends” as Macbeth put it (i.e., a life), or knitting lots of ganseys. In retrospect, I may have ticked the wrong box…

      H’m – trapped cats never ends well, in my experience. Still, that’s why God invented carpet shampoo, after all!


  • Cathy

    Do you have any advice on adding neck gussets? I’ve just finished the back-and-forth and need to join the shoulders. I’ve been using a commercial guernsey as a template (provenance unknown as it came from a charity shop, but probably Channel Is). Unfortunately, as not sure what to do now. It needs something, otherwise the neckhole will be too small, but I can’t now add a shoulder strap (following your instructions) as the armholes would be too big. In the original everything’s been added as separate bits, so no help there. Bad planning, I know.
    P.S. Michael Pearson doesn’t seem to record neck gussets. Perhaps they’re not traditional?

  • Nigel


    Beth Brown Reinsel has a lot of info on neck gussets in her Gansey book if you can find a copy.

    • Cathy


      Cheers. I’ll try her website.

      • Gordon

        Hi again Cathy,

        No, sorry, I’ve no experience of neck gussets. (Not snobbery on my part, just fear—being too much of a wimp to even attempt the traditional Scottish buttoned neck.)

        I second Nigel’s recommendation for Beth B-R, and it might also be worth trying Ravelry to see if anyone there with more experience has any advice?

        Sorry not to be of more (any) help,

      • Lynne

        Cathy, if you don’t have any luck with the website let me know and I can scan those pages and e-mail them to you. I did them on a gansey a couple years ago.

  • Cathy

    Thanks everyone.
    On reflection, I’ve decided that a neck gusset = a V-shaped short shoulder strap. So I’ve looked again at Gordon’s instructions and the Moray Firth videos and am now sitting down with the backs of several old envelopes (thank you junk mail) trying to work the maths out…
    Tamar, glad of that. Was beginning to worry that they were an innovation of the commercial companies. This gansey is my first attempt & I wanted it to follow traditional lines.

  • Nigel

    That’s exactly they way I was thinking of them: triangular shoulder straps. Complicated to work out though. Good luck.
    There is an authentic black gansey knitted in Musselburgh at the People’s Museum near my office in Edinburgh. It has neck gussets and a button neck. It’s lovely and perhaps 60, 70 years old.

  • Ulrike

    Lucky Gus to come over the winter with such a warm and pretty garment.
    You see, there are no strikt rules about colours in a gansey. Perfect looking in coloured yarn also.

    • Gordon


      Sadly Gus doesn’t appreciate the honour, but stares at the world with hatred in his soul, like a street urchin being made to dress up in Little Lord Fauntleroy clothes, and determined to wreak a terrible revenge on society. I fear the worst…


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