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Scottish Fleet, Week 12: 25 October

SF151026-1Well, here we are, back in dear old Caithness after our recent holiday in the States. The temperature is a brisk 8ºC, compared with the 23ºC we left behind us on Cape Cod. And now the clocks have gone back (words to be spoken in the tone of weary dismay of Gandalf recognising he’s up against a balrog). Can woolly socks be far away? I think not.

But, Lord, I’d forgotten just how ghastly travel is. Heathrow Terminal 5 seems to’ve been remodelled using a CIA manual for breaking the resistance of terrorists by bombarding them with bright lights and noise; while the legroom on aircraft has been reduced to such an extent that when I got off the plane at Boston I was so bent and hunched a travelling party of anthropologists excitedly tried to claim me as a hitherto undiscovered species of hominid.


The line for Jenny the Potter

While we were there we spent part of a day at the Sheep and Wool Festival at Rhinebeck, New York. The site appeared relatively empty until you went inside one of the craft vendors’ sheds, where crowds of people heaved and jostled and struggled to get near the stalls and samples. (Imagine the Tokyo underground at rush hour, with craft stalls along both sides of the carriage and a game of rugby being played up the middle, and you’ll get the idea.)

SF151017-3It was obviously a place to be seen as much as to see, and everyone was dressed in their finest knittery. Forget the stands, you could spend all day just watching people in fancy jumpers, and if there had been seating for fainthearted spouses I probably would’ve. (Special mention goes to the guy with the orange knitted shorts, a stark challenge to the view that humanity represents nature’s last word; in fact, I’ll never look at a chocolate orange in the same way again…)


Gordon & Ginny

A highlight for me was meeting Ginny, who recognised us from the blog pictures and came over and introduced herself. As many of you will know, I occasionally wrestle with existential dilemmas about continuing this blog, and it’s always gratifying to be told that it’s worthwhile. So, Ginny, thank you for taking the trouble to say hello, it was a pleasure to meet you and apologies that you found me still jet lagged and (more) incoherent (than usual). I hope I got your name right!


We also stayed with Annie.

Anyway, sincere thanks to Bill and Gail for everything. If, as Benjamin Franklin said, house guests are like fish and begin to smell after three days, then you deserve some sort of medal for putting up with us for ten—it was much appreciated.

I didn’t take my knitting with me, so not there’s not much progress to report this week. But in between bouts of jet lag I’ve done a little more knitting down the sleeve, and with luck will finish the rest of the jumper well before Christmas.

Christmas? It’ll be here soon enough – and this weekend it’s Halloween (time to oil the traps and freshen the leaves concealing the tiger pit in the driveway). I was going to say that now the nights are drawing in—but since this is Caithness, it’s the afternoons that are getting shorter, dagnabbit. Oh, well—I tell myself to hang in there; after all, it’ll soon be March…

12 comments to Scottish Fleet, Week 12: 25 October

  • Ginny

    It was my pleasure to meet you, Margaret, and her sister. I am impressed that you remembered my name. Clearly I don’t remember names because I am sure that I was introduced to Margaret’s sister and her name was not Sister. You astutely identified me as a long time lurker and a first time stalker. Sorry, but your gansey did deserve a closer look. I really enjoy your blog and some day I will knit a gansey. I have the yarn and I think a gansey will be a fun project. I am just paralyzed by all the possible patterns. I do like the looks and texture of your current project. Thank you for writing the blog. You provide a great service to fellow knitters.

    • Gordon

      Hi Ginny, you know, that stalker line has haunted me ever since! Me and my mouth, I don’t seem to have the inhibition chip other people do that stops me saying whatever comes into my mind at the time… Well, anyway, thank you for taking it in good part. I hope you enjoyed the rest of your time at Rhinebeck – Margaret restricted herself to sock yarn as it all had to fit in a suitcase for the return trip, and I saw some tempting sheepskin mittens, but of course no gansey yarn. (But I must admit I felt a bit like a hermit abducted from his pillar in the desert and suddenly dropped in the middle of Time Square in rush hour…)

  • Jane

    Quite right too, Ginny. Nice to see you back Gordon. Lovely, lovely work on the gansey, and the colour is just so wonderful. I have read about the Rhinebeck Festival and the jumpers, quite awesome!

    What I have noticed over the years, being subject to the terrible itch of wool, unfortunately, is the clever and satisfying colours of woollen yarns. They are deep and subtle in tone, acrylics are good, but often the colours are a tad “strong”. I think the current gansey colour is super and totally bears out my thought, sadly.

    Still knitting, detoured into a substantial Cossack type hat for the garden which I decided my soon to be ninety year old uncle might enjoy more than me! Take care.

  • Hi Jane, There’s of plenty of wool I find itchy against the skin, alas—fair isle bonnets for instance. (Oh, Lord—I just imagined the skin rash from knitted shorts and my eyes watered so much I couldn’t type…) One of these days I’ll try my hand at a gansey cardigan and line it with some soft-but-thick fabric, so I can wear it like a tweed coat.

    Seaspray is turning out to be one of my favourite Frangipani colours – but then as that list stretches to about a dozen colours that’s perhaps not much of a distinction!

  • =Tamar

    I’ve read of several causes of wool itch, including of course actual wool sensitivity (or species-specific, since mohair is always bad for me, while some sheep’s wool can be all right). For some people it’s the chemicals used to process it. For others it’s the lanolin. For a lucky few, it’s the fineness of the fiber, with the best merino being non-itchy for them (so, no blended wools for them). Some find a tight knit is less itchy than a loose knit. I don’t know; some wools I can wear, others will make me itch even when separated from me by several layers of cotton.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, it’s weird, isn’t it? Some things are very uncomfortable, and others are fine. I understand the old hairy tweed skirts used to be very itchy where they touched bare skin around the knee/thigh area, but they’ve been making new fabrics that are a lot easier on the skin. Not that I plan to expose my knees to the public gaze – or the Caithness wind! – any time soon…

  • Jane

    Regarding the knitted shorts scenario, you will like this Gordon. When told, my husband, with his memories of holidays by the seaside in the 1950s with his knitted trunks, had just one word, “sag”. Well, quite….

    • Gordon

      Ah, yes, “sag” – something with which my entire body has increasingly become familiar down the years, alas – but which, who coupled with the mental image of chaps’ swimming trunks, means I’ll never order a sag aloo side dish from an Indian restaurant again…

  • Kate

    Gordon, I enjoy your blog enormously and do hope you continue to write it. It is both entertaining and informative. Many thanks from Kate.

    • Gordon

      Why thank you, Kate! That’s very kind of you to say so. The blog is safe for another year at least, as I’m committed to knitting 3 more ganseys in the coming months (none of them for me, which in retrospect seems like a schoolboy error); after that, who knows? As the late, great Terry Pratchett would say, the world is my mollusc…

  • Dianna Rubidge

    Your blog is wonderful. The recent one on embarrassment made me cry laughing.

    You are a fine knitter and a perfect blogger. If you get the urge to quit posting, just think of a little old lady in the depths of the Saskatchewan wilds who would miss you.

    Thank you.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dianna, that might be the nicest comment I’ve ever received! Thank you. As I say above, we’re all safe for another year at least—sooner or later I’ll run out of ganseys patterns to try, but the supply shows no signs of running out just yet…

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