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Scarborough “Ragamuffin” Gansey: 27 December

As regular readers will know by now, occasionally I have more than one gansey on the needles at one time—especially if the main gansey is very ornate or in a dark colour, when it’s relaxing to alternate with something simpler, or lighter. This is a gansey I’ve been working on for several months. It is, of course, the classic Scarborough pattern. But what makes this one a little special is that it’s made out of a variety of leftover yarns I’ve accumulated down the years: a mixture of Frangipani (about 60%, five separate dye lots), British Breeds, Wendy’s, Classic Elite Yarns and Island on the Edge. And here’s the thing: as I was knitting it, the assorted dye lots and yarns stood out “like a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake” (in Raymond Chandler’s wonderful simile), but as soon as it was washed and blocked, they virtually disappeared. You’d hardly know it wasn’t all the same yarn and dye lot. It’s a sort of alchemy. It fits me perfectly too, and somehow the fact that it was, in a sense, free, only makes it more fun to wear. Next week we’ll start the year by revisiting some familiar Caithness patterns.

Northamptonshire lane

And now it’s time for the traditional Gansey Nation Christmas Singalong (stop sobbing at the back). We’re not featuring a carol this year, since Christmas is so last week, but instead turn our minds to Gilbert & Sullivan, and their overlooked operetta, The Knitters of Knaresborough:

Oh, I am the very model of
     a modern gansey knitter
A finished gansey jumper sets
     the knitting world a-twitter,
Short of going jogging there
     is nothing makes you fitter,
Oh, I am the very model of
     a modern gansey knitter.

I knit patterns from the Hebrides,
     old Whitby town and Flamborough,
From Filey and from Eyemouth and the
     Lizard and from Musselburgh,
From Thurso and Seahouses, Wick,
     Robin Hood’s Bay and Scarborough,
(My shoulder straps are quite ornate
     or else they’re ridge and furrow).

Christmas Cosmos

The fishermen when out at sea
     would don a plainish gansey,
But those they wore on Sundays were
     spectacularly fancy,
A fisher lass went overboard
     knitting for her fiancé;
The patterns are so intricate
     they look like necromancy.

There’s marriage lines and heapies,
     chevrons, diamonds and cables,
Print o’ the hoof and anchors, and
     yarn-overs if you’re able,
There’s moss stitch, ladders, tree of life,
     there’s zigzags and there’s herringbone,
(The yarn is guernsey five-ply, there’s
     500 grams on every cone).

The patterns on the front and on
     the back are quite identical,
So you can wear them backwards and
     be smart for the conventicle,
The Humber keel men had a star with
     five points in a pentacle,
Some disagree that necks were shaped
     (the question’s ecumenical).

Foggy Dew

Oh, I am the very model of
     a modern gansey knitter,
It helps you keep your temper cool
     and stops you getting bitter,
If your sister wore one in the dock
     the jury would acquit her,
You’ll end up getting tons of likes
     when posting pics on Twitter,
But make sure that it’s genuine,
     not from a counterfeiter,
You can sparkle in the sunshine if
     you sprinkle it with glitter,
Ohhh… I am the very model of
     a modern gansey knitter!

[With apologies to, well, just about everybody, really]

Wishing all our readers a very Happy (and safe) New Year!

10 comments to Scarborough “Ragamuffin” Gansey: 27 December

  • Not sure which is lovelier–the gansey or the verse!

  • Lynne Bilton

    I’m going to humming that all blooming night now!!
    Love your merry mixture gansey too, worked out really well.
    I’m just plucking up the courage to start my second gansey. The first was a complete marathon so I need the right frame of mind to kick this one off.
    Take care & happy new year to everyone

  • meg

    Happy new year to both
    Love your version of g&s

  • =Tamar

    I like it. Both gansey and song. I supposed at first that the changes of color were to simulate repairs, but the using up scraps method is even better. (Even though it really drives home how many ganseys you have knitted, to have enough _white_ scraps to make another one!)

  • Rebecca W.

    Gordon, Ingenious to use up the extra yarn – I wouldn’t have believed that washing the
    sweater could make all the difference in uniformity! I’ve been thinking about knitting a
    Fair Isle sweater to use up extra yarn. I love the Miss Garricks’ Patterns (of Shetland) in Michael Pearson, Traditional Knitting, page 207, sweater on the right. The pattern is less horizontal than some, and less seasonal. I’ve been looking at pattern designs, thinking I might be able to graph something similar, with a similar pattern to go by, ALTHOUGH, I very well might be getting in over my skill level!! Just remembered you wrote about enlarging
    vintage photographs on the computer to decipher the stitch sequence. Yep, perhaps over my head, photograph is quite dark. This seaworthy gansey hat is interesting. https://www.churchmouseyarns.com/products/seaworthy-gansey-cap-pattern

  • Kevin Bass

    Lovely gansey and looking forward to faithless patterns. Quite right about spare yarns, I have a lab our of love with Alice Starmore design all in left over wool from many years. Have a good new year.

  • Andrea Atkinson

    I grew up in Knaresborough and now live less than two miles from Knaresborough market place. Although we do have the River Nidd there isn’t much call for ganseys around here. I love your poem though.

  • Lois

    Confound it! Now I catch myself humming that tune at all odd hours.
    Most ingenious, both the verses and the gansey! I would never have thought that various leftovers would blend so well. But undoubtedly the frugal knitters of the past did exactly the same. And, what with sun, salt water and mending, no doubt you have caught the authentic appearance of a well worn gansey.

  • Judit Mäkinen

    Gordon and Margaret, many thanks for all the posts of this year. Have a healthy new year ! Best regards from Finland

  • Gordon

    Hello everyone, and a very happy new year to all. We’re back in Wick after a week away south (back for more tests, not exactly how I wanted to spend the festive season).

    Thanks for all the comments and good wishes. I’d planned on camouflaging the changes in yarns/dye lots around the yoke and sleeve pattern bands, but in the end reserved enough yarn to knit each sleeve in yarn from a different supplier, or the gauge went askew (i had to re-knit half a sleeve for that reason). But I think the eye is drawn to the pattern, with its contours and shading, and you don’t notice the slight differences elsewhere so much. I’m really happy with it, and I always wanted a “white” gansey for winter.

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