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Scottish Fleet, Week 9: 5 October

IMG_3067I got onto the subject of embarrassment in conversation with my next-door neighbour this week, those moments of maximum humiliation that cause you to wake up at four in the morning red-faced with shame and mortification at the recollection.

For me it had been what the aviation industry calls a near miss. You see, I had to get a blood test recently. I rolled up my sleeve and laid my left arm on the desk, my hand open, fingers loosely cupped, at rest. The nurse leaned forward to get the needle into the vein just so, and in the process I felt her right breast slide into the cradle of my upturned palm.

Time seemed to stand still. I froze like someone wired to his seat by explosives, horribly aware that the slightest muscle spasm or sneeze might result in a lawsuit. I tried to think of something neutral but for some reason only giant octopi or bowls of trifle came to mind.IMG_3069

Of course, for some people the right course of action would have been a hearty squeeze and a jovial cry of “Honk honk!” to break the ice—but somehow it just didn’t feel like the right time.

Well. The moment passed—the nurse, a consummate professional, finished the task in hand and leaned back (though she did ask, when taking my blood pressure moments later, if I could think of any reason why it was a little on the high side…).

IMG_3071Moving on, I have this week finished the front and back on the gansey,
joined the shoulders and knit the collar. Also, since the main picture was taken, I did something I’ve always meant to do but never got round to: as I had a little bit of yarn left on one cone I picked up the stitches around one armhole and knit a few rows, then, when the yarn ran out, placed all the stitches on a holder (i.e., more yarn) before starting the other sleeve.
I have a couple of reasons for doing this. Firstly, as you know, I hate picking up stitches, so this way I get it all over with at once, and after one sleeve is done I can just carry on where I left off with the other. Secondly, I always find it hard to get back into the pattern when I start the second sleeve—it always feel like a twice-told tale. So I’m hoping this will make it easier and, if you’ll forgive the expression, seamless.

IMG_3049

Sunset at Wick with added sheep

Oh, and you may be wondering where my next-door neighbour comes into things. Well, after I told him my story, he told me of a time he worked in a bookshop. There was a devastatingly attractive and sophisticated American lass there who all the chaps wanted to impress. One day, she dropped some books. One of her male colleagues at once said, “Allow me!” and bent over to retrieve them… Alas, an unfortunate compression of internal gasses meant that, as he bent down, he emitted an almighty fart.

I don’t know how you get over something like that, if you ever do. Probably changing your name and joining the Foreign Legion is the only course left to you. And at least, the next time 4.00 am comes round and I’m staring hollow-eyed at the wall, I can always think, well, it could have been worse…

19 comments to Scottish Fleet, Week 9: 5 October

  • Gordon

    I must apologise this week, for two reasons. Firstly for lowering the tone so egregiously (you can tell Margaret’s away, can’t you?). But secondly for the fact that some of the images appear on their sides when viewed in some browsers, especially mobile ones like iPads.

    This is apparently because photos taken on iPhones for some incredibly stupid reason retain their original settings, such as which way up they were taken, no matter what you do to them afterwards. So despite all my clever behind-the-scenes manipulations, they appear on their sides. Sigh…

  • Jane

    Ooh er I say, ooh er, what a week! Neutral course I say, keep the middle track and eyes straight ahead in a modest, totally discreet way. This is what I always says to the youngsters, especially when they were teenagers, now they are thirty something, it still hasn’t changed! Know nuffin and worse things happen at sea!! Etc, etc….

    Gansey looks really good, and I know what you mean about the sleeves, just gets it nicely settled. Knitting continues in the South, now much accompanied by Spike who is healing up quite nicely. The nasty tabby cat is still about, but I doubt even he will stay out in this wet. It has now rained solidly all night and all day. The poor little ducklings now only number eight, but at least it isn’t cold for them. I like your autumn colours, very dramatic. Take care.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      Yes, it was a bit Frankie Howerd wasn’t it? I bet embarrassing things even happened to Tolstoy though, he just didn’t write about them in his books.

      We’ve been enjoying an Indian summer up here, 3 or 4 days of one at least, but alas it’s all come crashing down this evening, gale force winds (and i just raked the lawn of leaves, nooooo…) and horrid rain forecast. Any ducklings up here had better get under cover or they’ll be flying like clay pigeons if they’re not careful!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Your gansey just took my breath away today!! What a lovely pattern. It wasn’t until the second shoulder was done that it really wowed me. And, what is it about sleeves, anyway??? I have the same problem. I’ve started making sleeves first – when I can. I really like top-down construction so I can’t always make them first. Right now, I’m knitting Wallabies – that’s sweatshirts, hoodies or kangaroo shirts with the pouch in front, in other languages – for the Riot of small Boys around me. Hoodies seem to have become the North American male jacket/sweater of choice.
    And speaking of Boys – they all degenerate to talk of boobs & bawdy noises when the Supervisor is gone.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, the point to emphasise is, again, what a simple pattern it is. And yet when knitted up, it makes for a quite stunning effect (and it’s distorted somewhat just now by the cables—we’ll have to wait till it’s blocked to see it symmetrically laid out). I decided a few years ago to devote the blog to trying as many different patterns as I could before i ran out of steam: partly because it’s hard to visualise how a pattern will look for real when all you glimpse is a swatch or pattern chart.

      Sleeves are a joy to knit, I find—but a real drag to start! Once I’ve got the first row or two on my needles I’m usually fine, but picking up stitches round the armhole is about as much fun as going to the dentist…

  • Lynne

    Hmmm, I wonder if your phlebotomist reads your blog?!
    In regards to picking up stitches – it’s never been a dreaded task to me, but I pick them up a bit differently than others in my knitting group. I section the area off with T-pins so that I’m not picking up more than about 15 stitches between pins. Then I pick them up with a crochet hook that is one size smaller than the knitting needle I’m using and then slip them onto the knitting needle each 15 stitches or so. The smaller crochet hook keeps the picked up stitch tighter than picking the stitch up with the knitting needle.

    • Gordon

      Lynne, I’m pretty sure it’s just the two of us on here so I think I’m in the clear…

      To be honest, one of the reasons I struggle with picking up stitches is my eyesight, which has always had difficulty focusing really close up. Ordinary knitting is fine, but dropped stitches or picking them up is occasionally slightly trickier.

      I’m not too bad in bright sunshine, but in dim light it’s not always easy to make out just where in the stitches I need to insert the needle to pick up the stitch! Sometimes I just jab the needle in the general direction and hope, which is of course another reason why medicine was never a serious career option for me.

      In retrospect, perhaps picking a type of knitting with such a small stitch gauge was a schoolboy error…

    • Judit M/ Finland

      Hello Lynne,
      It was fine to read about your way of picking up stitches for the arms. Imagine, I have the same method- far away from you, in Finland 🙂 Happy knitting !

  • Jane

    Nah, Gordon, the world of ganseys fits you brilliantly! I am with Lynne on the crochet hook bit. It is a very, very useful and neat way of picking up stitches for sleeves and necks and a whole other mass of things that begin “pick up….”. My Mum does it with the knitting needles, but I have meandered my way to the hook! It is quite quick and you get a very tidy wrong side and, if you feel the whole spacing bit is awry, it is easy to backtrack and redo. I am still smiling, hope you don’t meet nursie in Tesco for a while! Some thirty years ago, when the younger gal was about three, often she used to don her little white hat and apron and crunch, yes crunch, through the scattered toys muttering “Me am nursie”, priceless!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, well, yes, ganseys are woven into my DNA, along with Scotch tablet and Bob Dylan’s music. But I fear I’m wedded to needles rather than crochet hooks, too old to change now. As Martin Luther said to the Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 when urged to switch to a crochet hook for picking up stitches around the armhole, “Here I stand; I can do no other. Plus they remind me of those hooks the Egyptian embalmers used to insert up the noses of their dead subjects and I’m, like, eww! Gross!”

  • =Tamar

    This Scottish Fleet design is beautiful, both color and design, and workmanship of course, because without that the design would fail.

    Once in a while, looking at your pre-blocking gansey pictures, I wonder whether the gansey knitters were sneakily using the “blank” background for a secondary effect. I know the official design is the diamonds, but I’m seeing butterflies.

  • =Tamar

    P.S. I like pretty pink sunsets. The window filled with autumn leaf colors is beautiful, too. Where was it taken?

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, and thank you. I’m sorry if the window picture displays sideways. It’s actually one of the front windows downstairs in Wick Library overgrown with vegetation, and when the sun shines—not that often this year, to be fair—it radiates golden light and colour like a stained glass window for a harvest festival.

      I like your butterflies image! Mind you, any butterflies in Caithness had better watch out just now or the jet stream will deposit them in Denmark before you can say “fritillary”. In fact, I’m often surprised that natural selection hasn’t evolved a new species of butterfly with very heavy feet to act as a counterweight to the constant wind—really I’m surprised creatures so light and airy manage to stay still long enough to perpetuate the species up here…

  • dianna rubidge

    I started reading your wonderful blog because of my admiration of ganseys. I continue to read because of your way with words as well as with needles.

    You spread wisdom and laughter far and wide (I am writing from Saskatchewan, Canada.

    Thank you.

    • Gordon

      Hello Dianna, and thank you for your kind words! Wisdom is not something I get accused of often—falling asleep by 3pm and mis-spelling “Massachusetts”, yes, wisdom not so much. So very nice to hear from you and I hope you can stay with us.

      All the best, Gordon

  • Sharon in Surrey

    I like the crochet hook too but now that I have the removable tip circular needles, I just throw on the little crochet hook end & make it really easy!! But, doesn’t work for sock heels. I had to learn a whole new way to do the heels because I couldn’t SEE to pick up those stitches!! Gordon, I also recommend a DAYLIGHT bulb in your lamp where you knit – it makes a real difference.

    • Gordon

      Yes, but a daylight bulb in Caithness after this summer now produces a dim, grey light to replicate the clouds and you get periodically sprayed with water!

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