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Thurso: 12 July

ThTh150713-1Summer has come to Caithness; at least I think it has. Certainly the tourists have started to arrive—they’re the ones you see huddled under awnings, peering out through curtains of rainwater, watching their hats, snatched off their heads by a playful tornado, vanishing somewhere in the direction of Siberia, and wishing they’d brought a jumper, or a coat, or a return ticket.

It’s all a bit disappointing. While the rest of the country has been basting like a turkey in the heat, with people shedding clothes like autumn leaves, we’ve still got the central heating on; whenever the weather map of the country has sprouted yellow suns like a field of daffodils, Wick’s been permanently hidden under a dark cloud, like Mordor. (This, of course, adds weight to my theory that the reason orcs are bandy-legged is not genetic but due to rickets, caused by not getting enough Vitamin D from sunlight.)


At the Jardin du Canal du Midi

Oh, well. Margaret’s been off enjoying la bonne vie in the south of France (see her Blipfoto link for pictures to make you jealous), while I, a Cinderella who never got invited to the ball—not that I fancy a glass slipper, mind you: think of the damage you’d do if you stubbed your toe and it broke, it’d be like strapping a steak knife to your foot and going skating—have been knitting; and rather a lot, at that.

I’ve finished the back; finished the front; knit the shoulders together; completed the collar; and started the first sleeve, even managing to get the upper arm pattern band done. Altogether, this has been one of the easiest ganseys I’ve ever knit, which may be the reason it’s gone so quickly. Everything’s just clicked (something of a relief after having to abandon the last one halfway).

I decided to make the sleeve chevron the same size as its counterpart on the body—it is quite large, and I wondered if it might be a bit overpowering on a sleeve, but it seems to fit in so far.


Quaint? Yup! And there’s wifi at the cafe!

In parish notices, there are some more baby pictures from Den, whose Filey gansey is entering the home straight in fine racing form, and Judit, who’s started a new project, which also happens to be one of the many Filey patterns that’ve come down to us.

I was talking to someone this week, and he mentioned an acquaintance, an old fisherman, who had once had several ganseys his mother had knitted for him—but who had thrown them out years ago, for what was the use of keeping the old things? So when I think of the numerous patterns that we have for Filey (and Flamborough and Polperro, and all the rest) I thank heavens for Rae, and Gladys, and Michael, and Mary et al.

Finally, in a few days the St Fergus Gallery next door to us is holding its annual exhibition of old photographs from the wonderful Johnston Collection. This year one of the themes will be fishermen in their jumpers, and I’m loaning them two or three of mine so they can show visitors what ganseys looked like in the flesh, as it were. Fame at last! (Though you never know—unless the weather improves soon I might be nipping next door and “liberating” one, just to stay warm…)

8 comments to Thurso: 12 July

  • Lynne

    I know you had a sleeve once that was far too roomy for your liking – how many stitches did you pick up for this sleeve? I love how this pattern is working up – simple but looks complicated, and ever so stylish!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne,

      I’m relatively confident that this one will work because I’m keeping a close watch on the stitch and row count, and I’ve done the math.

      My sleeve (excluding gusset) is 9 inches per side (8 inches for the body armhole plus 1 inch for the shoulder strap). At 8 stitches per inch, 18 x 8 = 144 stitches in the round. A quick check of the pattern revealed that I could have a centre diamond flanked by two double cables, flanked by two chevrons, flanked by 2 more double cables, plus a couple of border stitches, for a total of 147 stitches. So that’s what I picked up around the armhole.

      My sleeve will be 21 inches long: 3 inches of gusset, 15 inches of sleeve, and 3 inches of cuff.

      My wrist is about 8 inches round (yeah, I’m kinda feeble); so I’ve calculated for a 9-inch cuff to give a bit of room, or about 72 stitches. If I decrease at a rate of 2 stitches every 5th row I should end up after 15 inches from the gusset with something in that ballpark number. (I’m fairly easygoing about the exact count.) It’s going to be interesting to see how it turns out…

      Very impressed with the pattern, how it looks in the brownish-purple yarn, and its adaptability!


  • Jane

    Nice to see you back and lovely work on the gansey. You might say it is one of the “easier” ganseys, but to me it looks good and complicated and rich. And fame too, it is turning into a remarkable summer for you, and so important for people to see the real article translated into yarn from the grey image!

    The record of people’s work is so important. Gladys knew what she was going, in searching out and recording the ganseys, she writes about it in the introduction to her book. Reading between the lines I think publication was not straightforward, the War got in the way, but she never gave up. I find the work of all the collectors of patterns totally impressive.

    On the domestic front, the heat has subsided, breezy, cool and cloudy today. Poor Spike continues to get beaten up, and now he and Daisy stay in almost all the time. Vigilance and a very vigorous shoo. Take care, lovely pictures of France.

    • Gordon

      Hello Jane, and thank you. I think of this as an almost “definitive” gansey pattern, as it’s easy to knit and keep track of, but the overall effect is, as you say, rich. (The colour, of course, helps.) And the fact that the original was worn by a fisherman from 20 miles away in Thurso is a bonus!

      Curious how collecting information on ganseys has gone, in a generation or so, from living history to a sort of archaeology.

      All the best,

  • Lisa Mitchell

    Gasp! Throw away a gansey! Sacrilege! Any of us that know anything about ganseys know better! Current one looks a treat as always, Gordon.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lisa, it’s funny to look back at it now, isn’t it? What wouldn’t we give for a genuine Victorian gansey?

      But I suppose if they were just a working garment that got worn out, or you stopped working, and everybody wore them, you wouldn’t think twice about it, any more than I do when I convert my Marks and Spencer t-shirts into cloths for everyday cleaning. (i imagine one day the Regius Professor of T-Shirt Semiotics at Cambridge University will give me a hard time, but so far I’ve got away with it!)

  • Ebbie

    With weeks of 90 F days, a city overrun with tourists willingly supporting $8 ice cream cones, and an old house whose only insulation is probably the newspaper the mice have dragged behind the walls, AND neighbors who complain about the “noise” our puny ac window unit makes, knitting a gansey in Wick sounds downright lovely. Well, it always sounds lovely, but even more so now. I’m jealous. And I love both the color and pattern of this one. Beautiful!

    • Gordon

      Hi Ebbie,

      Yes, I know what you mean, and can sympathise. (One of the main USPs of Caithness is that it generally avoids 90F days, thank heaven!) But I don’t ask for much – just the odd day of sunshine, or not having to wear three layers, or even being able to eat an ice cream out of doors.

      On the other hand, I haven’t been able to wear my shorts so far this summer, so you’d have to say the world has dodged a bullet there…!

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