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Scottish Fleet, Week 5: 6 September

SF150907-1The world turns, as Michael Tippett so memorably said in his great oratorio A Child of Our Time, on its dark side. And this is certainly true in Caithness, where it’s dark, and cold, and wet. (On Saturday the Met Office forecast was for 9º, but “feels like 7º”.) Summer, which seems to have lasted from about 3.00pm to 4.30pm on August 17th, is well and truly over.

John O’Groats, in 35-mph gusts and horizontal rain, resembled nothing so much as the heaving deck of one of those Deadliest Catch fishing trawlers in a storm (Deadliest Groats, coming soon to a Discovery Channel near you). One by one cars would pull up. After a few minutes a couple would get out, run up to the famous signpost, stand hunched miserably in the rain for as long as it took to have their pictures taken, and then run back to their cars and drive away.


But there were rainbows!

While there we met a very soggy Australian couple: he was in shorts, and she was just a voice of misery hidden under about seventeen layers of gore-tex. She looked around, taking it all in, and then said simply: “This a bad place. Let’s get back to the car.” And, I have to say, she had a point.

SF150907-2Well, and so to ganseys. Here at last is the big reveal, the pattern emerging from the plain knitting of the body like a newly-hatched chick from its shell. You won’t be able to see it properly for another week, of course, but there’s enough to get the idea. It consists of diamond panels alternating with betty martin and cables: it makes for a nicely chunky effect, quilted like Robin Hood’s archer’s jacket. I like it a lot, and it’s not surprising it’s been recorded more than once (there’s also a version from Whitby that has moss stitch diamonds instead).

SF-chartIt also has the advantage of being very regular, and thus easy to keep track of. Every two rows are identical, both for the diamonds and the betty martin, so you always know where you are—indeed, once you’ve laid the foundations, the pattern chart’s not necessary. I’m cabling every 7th row, though, so I do need to keep track of that.

SF150905-1An apology to Suzanne, and to anyone who wanted to comment on her gansey pics last week—a technical glitch shifted things around and wouldn’t let anyone post on her page. Anyway, it’s sorted now.

Finally, on Saturday we dodged the showers and visited the wonderful Neolithic Camster Cairns, hunched and brooding on the secluded hillside. There were a few other visitors there, and some of them were getting down on hands and knees and crawling in for a look at the dark, enclosed interior chambers. As we left we heard one of them call out cheerfully to another of the party who’d just disappeared inside, “Look out! There’s a ghost in this one…!”

13 comments to Scottish Fleet, Week 5: 6 September

  • Sharon in Surrey

    After the longest, driest, hottest summer in our history on the wet coast, the temp suddenly dropped 10 degrees & it rained off & on all week. Brrrrr – it was like late October!!! Although the sun is now trying to shine, it’s no longer summer out there at all. Air-con & fan sales have fallen through the roof overnight. Dead. And I’d forgotten how awful it is to wear anything other than tees & shorts. We are now praying for an Indian Summer. So sorry to hear you’ve had no summer at all.
    But, some good news – it’s sweater knitting time & I love the pattern on your gansey. So simple but so graphic & wonderful. It’s a happy pattern!! Even I, a total novice, could work that one. It makes me want to get my needles out, get off my duff & knit right along with you.

  • Lisa Mitchell

    We had snow in Calgary and surrounds Saturday night/Sunday morning and now the rain’s been turned on… *sigh* Life in Canada… Pattern looks fabulous, Gordon! It’s one I could get even my very macho rancher cum fisherman dad to try on when I get brave enough to cast on a gansey…

  • =Tamar

    Joining the chorus: that pattern appeals to the tactile part of me that likes a chunky design.

  • Ebbie

    I love, love, love the color! Here in Portland, OR we have had one of the hottest summers on record (I have no idea if that’s true, but based on how many days my entire family spent splayed out in front of the one tiny window ac unit we have growling at each other to stop breathing, I would say so). I’m happy to be knitting again myself now that it’s a little cooler. The pattern is beautiful too. Can’t wait to see it next week.

  • Song

    Well, huh. It’s been hot and dry (and hot and dry and hot and dry and hot and …) here in Sunny California, which might sound nice when one is cold and damp, but when there hasn’t been rain in just about a YEAR, most of us here would give several arms and legs (from other people, of course, not our own arms and legs) for some water.

    We’ve been promised the biggest El Nino winter ever and I think Californians might just burn down the meteorologists offices if we don’t get the promised rain. Of course, that amount of rain might just wash us away, but we’ll be happy as we go.

    The gansey looks great – but I had a baffled moment when you said the OTHER pattern has moss stitch diamonds as THIS one clearly does … and then I remembered that you Brits named SEED stitch MOSS stitch. Sheesh. Knitting can be so confusing.


  • Jane

    Lovely work, the pattern has such a nice stand out nature to it, and the colour is wonderful. I think those patterns would be highly approved of by Gladys.

    I am so sorry your summer has slipped away. It hasn’t been a lot better in the South. It has stopped raining, and we are bathed in the old solar rays, pretty blue skies and all the rest, but no warmth, at least only in the afternoon and only for about two hours. It’s winter clothes already.

    On a happier note Gladys’s cardigan is still growing, and Spike has returned to sleeping in his beloved cardboard box in the glass porch. The other cardboard box, the one that stops the Bad Cat looking in, is still in place. Early days yet.

  • Gordon

    Hi everyone, and thank you for the comments. I decided a few years back that I would use the blog to have a go at as many different gansey patterns and colours as I could before debility, decay, death or indifference took over, and so I;m working through some of the ones I’ve always wanted to try. (I have a short list of about a dozen, so there’s no danger of me running out just yet; in fact they should take me nicely to my 60th birthday in 5 years’ time—if I’m spared.)

    This one should be nice and warm – look at all those chunky air pockets! (In fact, it’s not widely known that the decline of the gansey is only incidentally associated with the end of the fishing industry; really it came about when customs officials tightened up the regulations against smuggling illicit narcotics in all those little nooks and crevices. (It all came to a head when Henry “Sniffer” Fanshawe sneezed while going through immigration at Boston Logan airport and was at one engulfed in cloud of white dust that made him look as if someone had tipped a bag of flour over him, which rather gave the game away.)

    All the best to you, whatever your weather. And autumn in the Highlands is usually the best time of year, so fingers crossed!


  • Lynne

    Ditto on the wonderful pattern elements! But one question, Gordon: when you say you’re cabling on every 7th row, won’t that leave you occasionally doing a cable on the purl side of the work? I’m trying to envision that but it twists my brain neurons a bit!
    I drove back to Canada today after five days in Washington State and was surprised that the fire crews are still actively working the devastating fires around here. I drove through miles of burned forest and brush, some still smoldering even right along the highway edge, and I had a chat with some fire crews when I stopped for gas. They look tired but optimistic now that the weather has cooled a bit and most of the fires are at least 60% contained. There were still a couple dozen smoke swirls in the fire that is 20 miles south of where I live but that one is now 80% contained. It was a bad year in the Pacific Northwest and we’re not complaining about summer ending a little early.

    • Gordon

      Hello Lynne,

      Yes, you’re right. In fact, I usually cable on the 7th row – 6 rows seems too tight, as though the gansey is always under tension like a coiled spring, just waiting to unravel if I ever get a tear, leaving me enmeshed in a spaghetti-tangle of flailing yarn; but 8 rows feels too loose, the slacker version of a gansey for people who’ve dropped out of college to explore a gap lifetime of narcotics…

      I don’t understand how it works, but basically you just cable in exactly the same way as you would on a regular row, and it seems to work. I’ll try to remember to post some pictures as I go so you can see it in action. But it does my head in trying to think about it.

      Just because we’ve had a terrible summer, a grey, windswept washout, I know doesn’t mean that thing have been great in the rest of the world either – I’ve read reports of droughts in the western USA and fires and record heat in Australia too. (Though I don’t really ask for much – occasionally being able to wait a t-shirt would be nice.) Sorry to hear about your fires – hope they’re sorted out soon.

  • Cathy

    Sorry to hear about your summer – we had 3 whole days – or was it 3 and a half? – keeping myself warm by listening to the news from California.
    Your Ganseys remain stunning.

    • Gordon

      Hi Cathy, and thank you. I almost feel guilty today, since it’s a bright, dear, sunny day – but then it is only 12º, and there’s a wind blowing outside that would strip paint! Sigh…

  • Lisa Mitchell

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I think that because ganseys are usually knit in the round cabling would be done as per normal. I’m thinking that there wouldn’t be a right side or a wrong side so you could cable on any row that works for the pattern.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lisa, I do know that if you cable on the row the pattern calls for, whether you’re on a front-facing or back-facing row after you’ve divided after the gussets, you do what you normally would do to cable regardless—and it works. If I try to think about it hurts my brain, much as when I used to try to trim my beard in the mirror with scissors and left the mirror-me in real danger of slicing open a nostril with an ill-aimed jab… So the short answer is, everything comes out all right, but I’d need a NASA scientist to explain it to me!

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