And so we begin the yoke, the point at which the gansey ceases to be the plaything of an idle hour and becomes serious business. Of course, even the simplest pattern can be tremendously effective, but the north of Scotland ganseys were celebrated for their high levels of decoration—so it’s time to, as it were, push the boat out and get all twiddly.
I’m using a combination of Hebridean patterns from Michael Pearson’s book. The main features are the three 25-stitch, 39-row panels (two flanking trees and a central anchor); each panel will have three alternating pattern sections going up the yoke like little totem poles. There are also two “horseshoe” panels of 15 stitches each, consisting of chevrons made of yarnovers. And at either side of the yoke are two little 10-stitch ladders. Separating the pattern panels are my ubiquitous cables. The cables themselves consist of 6 stitches cabled every 6 rows; but in deference to the north-of-Scotland theme, instead of my usual two purl stitches either side, this time I’ve gone for four stitches of moss stitch.
I’m well into revising my sequel to The Wraiths of Elfael, which clocks in at around 80,000 words. If you open the window and listen carefully you’ll hear the reproachful screams of several of my characters being killed off, despite surviving the first draft. Ah, the godlike power. (I sometimes wonder if God’s a novelist and we’re all just characters in his book—if so, I personally intend to demand a rewrite. And, of course, a happy ending.)
Unfortunately both knitting and writing require the use of one’s eyes, which is starting to become something of a challenge for me, what with the secondary cataracts and all. My superpower is a sense of unease, and it made me phone the doctor’s last week—could they just confirm that they really had passed on the hospital referral nine days ago? Ominous pause, followed by being put on hold (never a good sign): actually no, they hadn’t, because ‘no one had passed it for typing…’ (‘Are you all right, Mr Reid? It sounds like you were caught in an earthquake.’ ‘No, that’s just my teeth grinding…’)
Now, my feelings towards John o’Groats have always resembled those of God towards Sodom—except that God wanted to destroy the town because it was wicked, not because it was desolate, bleak and boring. But just as Abraham persuaded Him not to destroy Sodom if just one righteous man was living there, so I have relented in my wrath for the sake of one decent coffee franchise (one of several important ways in which I differ from the creator of the universe): for John o’Groats now serves Starbucks coffee, and is now one of my favourite places in Caithness. (Assumes Miss Piggy voice: ‘Shallow? Moi?’)
By the way, the Caithness Archive Centre now has its very own Facebook page, run by my colleague Fiona and me, where we’re going to put up lots of fun facts about Caithness history and images from the archives. (Not that I’m begging or anything, but you should totally “like” it.)
So there we are. Tune in next week to see the gussets halfway and the ceremonial dividing of the front and back.