Back at work today after a week’s holiday, so I’m in a fairly sombre mood. The weather’s put on mourning grey in sympathy, summer’s over, now there’s nothing for it but to see the nights grow shorter to Christmas, like a marooned sailor slowly watching the tide come in and submerge his tiny atoll. Did I mention the sombreness? (Or is that sombriety? In Spanish, of course, sombrero.)
We had a good break, though, hosting a visit by our friends Vincent and Derek in a mini-Indian summer. Highlights included a visit to the exposed headland of Dunnet Head in gale-force winds, which was bracing, albeit uncomfortably like standing in a wind tunnel (I learned I am not as aerodynamic as I thought), and a visit to the Castle of Mey.
This was the late Queen Mother’s private retreat, a charming little castle overlooking the ocean, now run by a trust and open to the public. It’s well worth a visit, even for republicans like me, as you can both admire the architecture and pick up gossip about the royal family at the same time. (Sometimes the devil takes over my mouth, though, as when I suggested, when the assistant pointed out the mysterious red legs of a heraldic creature on a tapestry, that it probably reflected the fact that they’d ‘waded through blood to the throne.’ Ahem.) My favourite story? The guest who thought her bedroom was haunted after seeing strange lights in the night, only to have the lighthouse up the coast pointed out next day.
Anyway, I’m slowly working through my pipeline of gansey projects, and here’s the next. It’s going to be a north of Scotland gansey, possibly another Hebridean pattern (I haven’t decided yet), in Frangipani cream. It has to be light – with my eyesight, any dark colour and I might as well knit blindfold. It’s going to be a cardigan, so it has a steek of 20 stitches running up the front centre. And after the repetitive multi-cabled Filey gansey, when I found myself so in the groove I even found myself cabling my spaghetti at dinnertime, this one won’t have any cables until the yoke.
It’s for a 45-inch chest in the round, so I cast on 420 stitches for the gansey, plus the 20 for the steek, a total of 440. Unusually for me, the welt is in garter stitch, alternating knit and purl rows. This isn’t as easy as ribbing, I find (ribbing sits more comfortably on my needles), but it doesn’t draw in so much on the hips for the wearer, and anyway I rather like the look, which reminds me of the curved wall of an Iron age broch. To keep the welt nice and loose it’s the same size as the body, so no increases this time (I usually increase 10% from ribbed welt to body).
The downside to garter stitch, I have discovered – and I share this nugget with you for free – is that it concertinas, like pleats on a skirt. So you think, aha, that’s 24 rows completed, that must equate to a whopping two inches; only to find that when placed next to a ruler it wilts like last week’s lettuce and you barely scrape an inch and a half. How unfair is that? Garter stitch is the Catch-22 or Zeno’s paradox of knitting.
I’ve been trying to think of something cheerful to end on, and the best I can come up with is this: there’s just 106 sleeps till Christmas. Time to start sketching out that list…