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Vicar of Morwenstow 1 & 2: 26 October

M141026a  We’re past the autumn solstice, the clocks have gone back and it’s almost Halloween—and outside it’s wild, wet and desolate enough to send one of the Bronte sisters reaching for her pen and racking her brains for something to rhyme with “Byronic”—so it must be time for a new gansey project.

By a stroke of luck, here’s one I prepared earlier: it’s the gansey worn by the vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall. I’ve always liked those simple patterns that rely on contours and texture, and this is one my favourites. It has a plain body and a patterned yoke, and the effect is a little like the Lizard pattern I knitted back in the 1890s for my old friend Ian.

I’m knittimorvicng it in Frangipani heather yarn, which should set off the pattern nicely. (Great sculptors like Michelangelo were said to be able to see the perfect realisation of their sculptures in an uncut block of marble; I have a lesser talent—I can see the pattern of an unknit gansey in a cone of 5-ply.) Besides, I’m feeling unusually patriotic about my adopted country just now, and nothing quite symbolises the Scottish Highlands like heather.

M141026bI’m knitting it for myself. I measure a squishy 42 inches round the chest; I’m aiming for about 46 inches in the round and so, with a stitch gauge of 8 stitches to the inch—and with a little bit of fiddling to finesse the pattern (which we’ll come to in a week or two)—I’m knitting 374 stitches in the round. (I cast on 340 stitches for the welt, and increased by 34 at the body.)

It’s going to be quite long in the body, a real bum-hugger; it will be 27.5 inches from top to bottom. The ribbed welt was 4 inches long, and there will be 9 inches of plain knitting before I can start the pattern, and as I’m on holiday this week, that may not take long.


Totem Poles, Dunnet Forest

We survived ex-hurricane Gonzalo last week, thanks for all the good wishes, though it was pretty wild for a time. I rashly walked to work and found myself almost running at one point as a gust of wind pushed me violently from behind, as though God didn’t want me to be late. It was like being beset by the poltergeists of ex-rugby players. But even though it passed, Scotland’s being battered by wave after wave of wind and rain just now; so all in all I think I’m going to take ‘holidaying at home’ literally this week…

Charlotte’s smile is ironic
As she practices looking sardonic;
But Emily just glares,
Says, “Don’t give yourself Eyres,
Mr Rochester’s far too Byronic”.

13 comments to Vicar of Morwenstow 1 & 2: 26 October

  • Annie

    Great pattern for us beginners, thanks for the idea. (And for the easier link to see the pattern – and Ian and his sweater). Also appreciate understanding how you use your measurements to decided on number of stitches, etc.

    • Gordon

      Hello Annie, I absolutely love these patterns. They’re very simple, and no cables, but make a very effective pattern, like looking down on English fields and hedgerows from an airplane. Stay tuned, for in about 2-3 months when it’s finished I shall try to recreate the rev’s pose and stance (though sometimes it looks as though he was really holding a pistol and coercing his flock to church on Sundays, and someone’s airbrushed it out…)

  • Marilyn

    Hi Gordon, lovely Limerick, have you kissed the Blarney Stone? It’s a skill, to be sure; one that delights and amazes. Not only that, you can knit.
    I love love love the purple heather. I’m looking forward to its progress. Stay cozy and drink lots of tea!

    • Gordon

      Hi Marilyn, and thank you, writing silly poetry is one of my secret delights. (It’s the centenary of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’s birth today, and i like to think the great man would have approved!) But I haven’t kissed the Blarney Stone; I was going to but the guard said “no tongues…”

  • Jane

    Super colour, super pattern, this should be really nice, good looking garment. I look forward to the “Reverend Hawker” photo in due course. How nice to wear the same gansey as such an all round good person. Am I right in thinking he also had a motif, a spear, knitted in?

    Glad to hear you weathered the hurricane all right. It still seems awful in the North. We have a touch of warmth in the South, while enjoying it, we all seem to view it with deep suspicion, is it the lull before the storm. The peasants are all still knocking round the garden and, after a brief absence, the four deer have returned to tidy up the bird table. I talk to them all about Staying Safe. Keep warm and dry in the North.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, I read that he had a red cross woven on the side of his gansey to show where the spear that pierced Christ’s side went in; a good man, as you say, and his custom of giving shipwrecked sailors a Christian burial was wholly admirable. I see he also began the custom of celebrating harvest festivals in churches in Britain.

      But also lovably eccentric, though it’s possible some of the stories about him were exaggerated—but any vicar who encourages his 9 cats into his church and even the pulpit, dressing up as a mermaid, and excommunicating his cat for mousing on a Sunday is all right by me!

      For a minute there i thought you were teaching your deer how to avoid the complications of unwanted pregnancies! (Well, it’s about time someone did, I thought.) But all is now clear…

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Good Morning Gordon,
    Congrats to the new pattern and to the fine colour. I admire your patience, as the pattern begins so high up above the flat part of the pullover. I am always eager to see the pattern as soon as possible :).
    You probably will have this sweater ready for Xmas I think.Happy knitting and best regards!

    • Gordon

      Good morning Judit, I know what you mean about the amount of plain knitting—but after the last one, which was so fiddly I had to iron my fingers each night just to straighten them out, it’s actually rather nice to just knit inch after inch of plain stitches.

      I might get it finished around Christmas if I really go for it—but I have a couple of weeks’ holiday at Christmas time and if Santa doesn’t bring me a social life for Christmas, think of all the free time I’ll have!

  • Russell pettit

    Hello Gordon
    I’ve just started this as my second gansey. Ive chosen this pattern as morewenstow is a place we visit every year on our holidays.
    Right opposite the vicarage that’s hawker lived in is the most wonderful tea rooms that serve a cracking cream tea. So I’m hoping to wear it there next year ,just hope I don’t get clotted cream all down the front of it .
    Merry Christmas

    • Gordon

      Hi Russ,

      Well, I can certainly testify that the pattern is a breeze to knit, very low maintenance, so I hope it goes well for you. As for the cream tea, well, that’s why God invented the wool cycle on the washing machine! I hope when it’s done you’ll send us a picture of you posing outside the Rev Hawker’s church, and if I ever find myself back in Cornwall when you’re on your holidays – a long shot at the moment, since it’s kind of a long way from Wick – we can meet in Morwenstow wear our ganseys together and stun the locals.

      With all good wishes,

      • Russell

        Hi Gordon
        If you are ever down in Cornwall or Devon give me a shout . I live in Devon and North Cornwall isn’t far to go for a good cream tea.
        Maybe one day I’ll manage to get up to your neck of the woods, it’s on my list

  • Alexander Kronsteiner

    Hi Gordon,

    I used this pattern on one of my first Gansey’s I knitted. I used Falmouth Navy from Frangipani. It was also the first attempt to knit with a knitting belt and DP steel pins size 2 1/4mm and I was very pleased with the result. I know you dont’ like tackling the steel spider, but for me that has proven to be my preferred method of knitting. I made several other Ganseys over time which has turned in to a part time business in Ireland. I also started spinning my own 5ply Gansey wool, which is much better quality you will ever be able to buy. Much more supple and nice to wear, and it can be knitted with very fine pins without turning int card board 🙂

    All the best,

    • Gordon

      Good evening Alexander,

      How nice to hear from you! My mother made me swear on the family bible many years ago that I’d never try to knit with something the Chinese could use as a martial arts weapon, hence my reluctance to go near knitting sheaths and dpns! But I am rather in awe of those who’ve mastered the technique, or who can, at least, knit ganseys without giving themselves multiple stab wounds…

      I was contacted recently by a lady from Canada who was interested in spinning her own 5-ply. Would you give me your permission to pass on to her your email address in case she wants to get in touch with you directly?

      I understood that 5-ply was very fiddly to spin, but I see more and more people are doing this. I’m interested in your comment about suppleness—I’ve started knitting more loosely precisely because the results of knitting tightly with 5-ply produces a garment that could deflect arrows, but would make aerobics rather tricky!

      With all good wishes,

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