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Navy Gansey, Week 2: 24 September

Here’s a milestone for you: this is my 500th post on this blog. It’s statistics like this that make me feel that it would—if I were, say, an elderly, hard-working sheepdog—be about time for pa, surreptitiously slipping the family shotgun under his coat, to regretfully announce to ma and the kids that it’s time I took a trip to “sheepdog hospital”. (And à propos of nothing, this raises an interesting question: do insomniac sheepdogs count sheep to relax, or is that too much like work?)

Space Stations

Sheep and dogs have been much on my mind this week, ever since I came across an interesting insult in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Sir Toby Belch—winner of the 1602 BAFTA for Most Subtly Named Character in a Play—exasperated by the uptight steward Malvolio’s arrogant airs and graces, exclaims, “Wouldst thou not be glad to have the niggardly rascally sheep-biter come by some notable shame?” And I thought: you what?

Seaweed and Stones, Nybster

Turns out a sheep-biter refers to a dog that, well, you’re ahead of me already, bites sheep; and by extension, someone who persecutes the innocent. Isn’t that great? For Malvolio is a humourless killjoy, clamping down on the drunken revels of Sir Toby and his cronies; and so “niggardly rascally sheep-biter” manages to be both witty and insulting at the same time. I plan to use it at my next appraisal. English is so versatile, for all that Joseph Conrad once complained that writing in it, compared with French, “was like throwing mud at a wall”. He meant it as an insult; I take it as a compliment.

Noss Head

In gansey news I am well embarked on the body of my navy project. But I’m two balls in and the yarn is still periodically thick and unwieldy, as if someone had misunderstood the idea behind lace knitting and was using the cocoons instead of the thread. Although I cast on my standard number of stitches—336—for the welt, I decided to only increase this by 16 stitches for the body, as I was concerned it would knit up too big. This is starting to look like a good decision; we’re talking seriously chunky here.

And so we leave the world of Shakespearian insults for now. There are so many to chose from: “Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon”; “I’ll beat thee, but I would infect my hands”; and “I scorn you, scurvy companion”, the latter always useful when someone asks for a lift home from work when it’s raining. But that will have to wait for another time.

For now I have a new motto: Gansey Nation: throwing mud at a wall 500 hundred words at a time

16 comments to Navy Gansey, Week 2: 24 September

  • Dee

    Congratulations on your 500th post! The photos are just beautiful. Talking of sheep and sheepdogs, I couldn’t help picturing last week’s wonderful joke as an exchange between Bitzer and The Farmer, with Shaun snickering in the background. Even though that really makes no sense, as Shaun the Sheep has no dialogue.

  • meg

    congratulations!! on the 500..and staying with the lumpy yarn, that would drive me crazy unless intended….xxmeg

  • Lois

    Congratulations on your mud anniversary!

    But lumpy yarn would drive me to distraction. Or throwing the gansey at the wall.

  • =Tamar

    “Periodically” lumpy? Not even regularly the same thickness? I wonder whether Wendy’s had a bad batch from the spinnery.* Was it suspiciously low-price, I wonder. If it’s lumpy at reasonably regular intervals, perhaps it was a kind of art yarn. Congratulations for making something good out of it, anyway.

    *It happens. I once got a skein of very pretty Lopi that had so many thorns in it (yes, actual thorns) that I had to rewind it inch by inch, three times, to remove them. There were some very thin spots once the extraneous matter was removed. It still knitted up into a good hat.

    I thought Malvolio was done out of the BAFTA. Surely his name is subtler than Sir Toby’s. Though I do wonder how Sir Toby’s patronymic was pronounced in some of the rougher productions.

  • Patrick

    Congrats Gordon! Just as a chimpanzee will write Hamlet given enough time, a knitter who slings mud at a wall 500 times is bound to write a successful blog (though it’s been a hit for years, if you ask me).

  • Joan

    I’m pretty new to your blog but I enjoy it immensely! Congratulations on number 500! Here’s to many more!

  • Gordon

    Hello everyone and thank you (again!) for all the good wishes. I’m not going to be foolish enough to commit to another 500 – at my advanced age and general decrepitude another 50 might be pushing it – but let’s take it one week at a time and see how far we get!

  • Jane

    500 is an awesome number, and many congratulations. I look forward to the next one and the next and the ….!

    I love the navy blue one that is shaping up. The stitch colour against the pale needle strikes me as a very good arrangement.

    The inconsistency of the yarn thickness might well be, as Tamar suggested, a spinning issue. Not really nice to pass it along even at a sale price. Take care!

  • Judit M./Finland

    Congratulations to the number 500 ! Keep on writing, we all are waiting for the letters and the news of Gansey world. I personally – being not a native English speaker – enjoy the language , the jokes and the lessons of English literature.
    Best regards and thanks !

  • Simon

    Congratulations on 500 posts! A great achievement and evidence of a great deal of determination.

    I have enjoyed many of those posts!


  • Simon

    Can I ask the community a technical question? How long do your bodies & gussets tend to be before you divide for front & back? Also, if my body is looking a bit short can I keep going up without increasing my gusset? Sounds a bit random I know.

    • Gordon

      Hi Simon, I’m 5 feet 10 inches tall, and a standard 46-inches-in-the-round when it comes to ganseys. My usual total length from bottom to top is in the region of 28 inches, or just under.

      This works out at roughly 4 inches for the bottom welt ribbing. Then I knit the body for 12 inches. Then I knit the gusset for 3 inches. Then I divide front and back and knit for 8 inches. Then I knit the shoulder strap for 1 inch. (This adds up to 28 inches in all.)

      And yes, no reason I can see why you can’t knit the body a little longer if that’s what you prefer.


  • Gordon

    Hi Jane, Judit and Simon! And thanks to you too. Post number 501 is now going through post-production ready for tomorrow afternoon, just adding sound effects and special effects and then we’ll do some test screenings and then we’re hopefully good to go…

  • Annie

    Finally remembered the answer to, “Did you hear the one about the dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac?”

    Well, he would lie awake all night thinking about the existence of Dog.


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