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Scotland, Week 2: 21 August

I might, I sometimes think, have made a passable stage actor; but not, with so much importance laid on the perfect take, a television or screen one. This feeling was reinforced when a film crew came to visit on Tuesday (the building I work in has been nominated for several awards, and so a promotional video had to be made). I watched it all with a sort of detached amusement right up to the moment when a mic was pinned to my lapel, a camera the size of an anti-tank gun was pointed squarely at me, and someone started asking me questions.

My first takes are usually pretty eloquent. Phrases such as “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, “April is the cruellest month” and “counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor” simply trip from my tongue, intoxicated as I am by the exuberance of my own verbosity. Then come the dreaded words, “That was great—but can we just do that again? There was someone moving behind you.”

PG Wodehouse memorably described someone who’d received a shock, “whose demeanour was now rather like that of one who, picking daisies on the railway, has just caught the down express in the small of the back”—and that is the effect those words have on me. My brain empties completely. My mouth just hangs open like the flap on an American letterbox, with a tendency to drool, until the director thoughtfully reaches out and closes it for me; for a time the only sounds I can make resemble someone trying to learn how to play the didgeridoo; and instead of coruscating flashes of lightning wit I hear myself saying, “Er… weeble weeble schlip?”—until someone kindly leads me away and gives me coffee.

Far better to avert our gaze from the tragic spectacle, and focus instead on the new gansey. I’d thought of making it a Wick-Hebrides hybrid, but now I’ve sat down and worked out the pattern(s) I want to include elements from other parts of Scotland too—so I’m just calling it “Scotland”, like the mongrel nation we call home. The Frangipani pistachio colour really brings out the zigzags. The body is adapted from a classic Wick body pattern, distinctive but not so bold that it should detract from the fancy stuff higher up. And in another week it might even be time to think about gussets—not that it’s easy to stop oneself thinking about gussets at the best of times, of course.

Anyway, I’ll have more to say next week about patterns, but for now I have to go: I think they’re ready for my close-up…


As I said, this is a classic Wick pattern for the lower body of a gansey. The zigzags are single stitches, which give a sort of bas-relief texture, while the alternating plain panels add a nice contrast, but also help to give the gansey a flow and drape and softness. The panels can be made larger or smaller depending on the width of the body. The 3-stitch border panels are found in many Scottish patterns, as well as in northern England (e.g., the Mrs Laidler gansey from Whitby I just finished).

16 comments to Scotland, Week 2: 21 August

  • Helen Koehler

    So, where can we see your video debut? Say hi to Margaret for me.

    • Gordon

      Hello Helen, alas, I fear you’ll have to wait for the director’s cut for that pleasure! (Margaret reads the comments too and will I’m sure wish to say hi in return…)

  • Julie

    The pattern, fit, and workmanship of Mrs. Laidler are perfect.
    A challenge for Margaret: Please take a portrait of your hands which create such enviable work.
    VIctoria, BC, Canada

  • Dave

    The blue looks great and, if I’m not mistaken you’ve lost some weight.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, thanks and yes, you’re right. I’ve been on the anxiety depression diet, and while I must admit it is effective, I’m not sure I can really recommend it…!

  • Linda Abraham

    The Mrs. Laidler is a work of art! Am impressed with the shoulder straps, every part dovetails into the next!! Beautiful knitting and also kudos to Margaret for her work making it up into a proper jumper!!!

  • =Tamar

    I like the “Scotland” gansey idea. Congratulations on your rapid rise to fame in film. To think, we knew you when…

  • No one in their right mind thinks they do well on video. Ergo if you think you do not do well, you are sane. I’m sure you did fine BTW but thought a zig zaggy syllogism was in order for an homage to lovely gansey stripes. I, too, love the idea, of a Scotland pattern. A nation always re-inventing itself. Now, alas, a nit pick–it is American mailboxes–letter slots hang the same way in America as here–gravity works the same on both sides of the pond.

    • Gordon

      Well, there are many kinds of truth, of course. There’s the literal truth, and there’s poetic truth revealing the platonic ideal that lies behind all material objects. And there’s the truth that obtains round about 4pm when I’ve got a deadline looming…!

  • Davena

    Hope they didn’t use too much mascara – it can make one look so cheap. When will this opus be televised? Anyway, may I say I LOVE your new gansey? The colour is stunning and the design is absolutely beautiful. I may even ask for another for Gavin in exactly that colour and pattern. But you’d better have a break from that one before I do!

    • Gordon

      Perhaps when I was in makeup, and they asked me what look I’d like to go with, in retrospect I probably shouldn’t have gone with “platinum hooker”…!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    You do look awesome in Navy, especially in Mrs Laidler’s pattern!! I love the look of those zigzags in the new gansey, for something so simple, they are very dramatic. Someone told me once that knitting lowers the Blood Pressure, regulates the Heart Beat & calms the Nerves.

    • Gordon

      I call that look, A La Recherche de Yarn Perdu, or alternatively Where Did I Put My Keys?

      Knitting is a very soothing and relaxing occupation, much like stroking a cat, although in the case of knitting you don’t end up covered in car hair with puncture wounds in your thighs, unless I’ve been doing it wrong…

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