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Vicar of Morwenstow 10: 21 December

M141221a We were down in Edinburgh last week, seeing old friends and packing a year’s worth of shopping, coffee drinking and culture into just four days. The highlights? The sights and smells of the German market, which was like stepping into an Alpine village nativity play with added gluhwein; and the beautiful concert of Christmas music by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge at the Usher Hall.

Oh, and I caught another cold: it’s lodged in my chest so that I now have a cough like someone starting a motorbike on a frosty morning, and my breathing sounds like a rusty gate swinging in the breeze. (Immune systems are for sissies.)


Imperial Stormtrooper at Waverley. Sort of.

Anyway, here’s the thing. Over the last year or so I’ve been mulling over two questions: do I want to continue writing this blog, and do I only want to knit ganseys to the end of my days?

Let’s take the blog first. We started it back in 2008, and since then I’ve written over 300 posts and knitted a boatload of ganseys; over 100 people a day dial in to look at the site, and this year alone there’ve been some 110,000 web views. So I know it’s worthwhile. On the other hand, as Bob Dylan once said, there are times when a man feels he’s written enough songs—and let’s be honest, the same could be said of blogs about ganseys.


Edinburgh Castle glows in the last rays of the day’s light

But, while there are still plenty of patterns I’ve yet to explore (yes, I have a list), I never intended to knit only ganseys all my life. I’ve heard rumours, myths spoken in whispers by travellers to far-off mystical lands, of jumpers created using —I hardly know how to say this—more than one colour. I know it seems improbable but it is apparently true, and it’s something I’d rather like to try.

Which brings us to the point: if I were to take a break from ganseys to explore something different, what should I do about the blog? Would there be any point in continuing a blog about ganseys when it’s not in fact about ganseys?

Well, after thinking it through carefully, here’s what I’ve decided to do: starting in January, I’m going to try my hand at knitting an Icelandic Lopi sweater from a kit Margaret’s buying me for Christmas. I have no idea how I’ll get on, but it’ll be fun to find out; and, yes, I’ll still carry on with the blog as usual.

M141221bMeanwhile, the old year is still with us, and so is the heather gansey—just the last half-inch cuff to go, and then the darning-in and washing. (By the way, we were going to take a break over Christmas, but under the circumstances we’ll add a short extra post on 29 December to put up photos of the finished garment.)

In parish notices, Judit’s been at it again, this time knitting a lovely collar using gansey patterns which she’s posted on Facebook. Have a look and give it a like; I think it looks as though it should grace the throat of a Lutheran pastor, or someone from a Holbein painting, it’s so elegant.

What else? Oh, yes. My two most popular novels (An Inquisition of Demons and The Cuckoo’s Nest) will be on a free promotion on Amazon until Boxing Day—so if you get a nice new Kindle for Christmas, there’s no excuse now not to download them.

And now it only remains for Margaret and me to wish you all a very happy Christmas, and to thank you for reading, and to so many of you for commenting, or emailing me offline. Happy knitting!

27 comments to Vicar of Morwenstow 10: 21 December

  • Annie

    So glad you will be continuing your blog, and a Navajo Ya’at’eech Keshmish to you, too!

  • Nicki

    Hi Gordon and Margaret,

    A very Merry Christmas to you! I personally am very happy you are continuing the blog AND taking a stab at trying some colorwork. You are the driving force for my plotting and planning to knit a gansey in the New Year, so when you started this post with contemplating stopping the whole thing, I gasped. You can’t leave us greenhorns in the lurch. 🙂

    Anyway, it’ll be fun to see your colorwork, and it may also inspire me to give it another go. (I am woeful at carrying the darn yarns properly).


  • Happy to see you decided to go on blogging! I only found your blog this autumn, so I’ m not through with it. Or your limerics. Wish you a wonderful X-mas and a happy new year.

  • Judit M. / Finland

    Hi Gordon,
    Many thanks for mentioning my collar . I was happy reading that you continue with this blog. Merry Xmas and a happy new year to both of you!

  • Hello all,

    I just wanted to let you know where I am with things—i really wasn’t trying to play the drama queen card, or fishing for compliments, which in retrospect it rather reads like!

    But if you saw me on a Sunday evening, when I’m lying drunk and dishevelled on the living room floor, like a debauched rock star with the concert about to start, and Margaret slapping me about the face, hiding the pills and trying to force coffee down my throat and get me sober enough to slump before the computer and write the blog, and I stare at the ceiling trying to work out which of my various personalities is in the ascendant tonight, and what the hell I’m going to say, you’d understand where I’m coming from…

  • Jane

    Very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you both.

    The gansey is looking great and what an excellent point at which to pause. It has been a joy – and a huge giggle – to read your blog over the last eighteen months so I am totally delighted you are keeping going. I will have a go at knitting almost anything which is the way I am, and I would expect nothing less from any other knitter! So I will follow the new sweater with fascination. Working with colour is very rewarding, the colours almost seem to grow themselves, very gratifying.

    Meanwhile the animals are all doing well, the son-in-law suggested cutting the cats’ rations to give them an incentive to deal with the mouse invasion, but I have ignored this and started banging on the walls a lot, it does seem to work. Happy knitting!

    May I congratulate Margaret on her excellent photos, and say how beautiful Judit’s collar is.

  • Sue

    Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year! So here’s you deciding to try multicolour work just as I am girding my loins to take on another gansey and forsake the Fair Isle for a while 🙂

    Glad you are going to contnue to blog about it though and after all what is a Lopi jumper other than another sort of fisherman’s sweater in its origins? The thing you will definitely notice is just how much quicker it will grow. And the thing that you will curse is the need for accurate calculations re sleeve length. The Gansey technique of working from the shoulder down can make you a bit lazy about this because you can try it on as you go and just keep knitting until it reaches the required length!

    Oh and the third thing you will notice is that you might have to buy longer circular needles? By the time you have both back and front and all the sleeve stitches on a single needle at the start of the circular yoke that’s an awful lot of stitches even with chunky wool. At a rough guess from your photos of you in your magnificent ganseys there will 70 plus inches/175cms of knitting at the beginning of that yoke!

    My all this talk of circular yokes is making me think that perhaps I won’t start that Gsmsey just yet but get another Lopi on the needles instead. After all, I have the wool for one in the stash already 🙂

  • Marilyn

    Hi Gordon, I particularly like “trying to work out which of my various personalities is in the ascendant”, a shared issue.

    I am really sort of amazed that you’ve been able to focus on the one type for so long and think you’ll be refreshed by branching out. I’m looking forward to seeing the new genre.

    Warm regards and Happy Sun Return.

  • Annie

    And to Judit, too, a daughter and I fell in love with not just your beautiful collar, but also delighted in all your projects. And what lucky cats you have.

    • Judit M. / Finland

      Hello Annie,
      Many thanks for your kind remark on my collar. I am sorry to tell, that I have no cats, only a dog, named Oscar. He is a happy red coloured dachshound. We both send you our best wishes for the Christmas season and for the new year.

  • Lynne

    Even though I’ve been with you for a few years now, I’m really glad you’ve decided to continue the blog – and we will also learn something new while you’re learning something new.I agree with Sue, you will definitely be surprised at how quickly your Lopi project will grow in comparison to fingering wool and 2.25mm needles.
    The very best to you and Margaret for Christmas and the New Year.
    Love the Blipfotos, Margaret!

  • Freyalyn

    You’ll be utterly shocked by how quickly you whip through an Icelandic lopi sweater! And you could get addicted. Have you seen Kate Davies’ new Yokes book? Worth a glimpse through…

    And then start looking through all the Icelandic type sweaters and yokes on Ravelry. Through the rabbit hole indeed!

  • And why can’t the Gansey Nation experiment with other sweater incarnations??? I think you’ll get bored with Lopi style sweaters. Once you finish the bit of colorwork, they knit far too quickly. But, why not experiment. You could jump into cables, bobbles, & all things Aran too. I enjoyed knitting them for a while – the more complex the pattern, the better. And then there’s knitted lace. Think of the opportunities. Happy Holidays from Vancouver, BC, Canada.

  • I shall whisper one word in your ear:


  • June

    I’m another knitter who has just found you during this past year. Please don’t leave us. I, for one, have knit several ganseys for my husband plus several aran sweaters and lots of Fair Isle hats. He loves them all, and I enjoy knitting them. I know I will continue enjoying your blog as you discover the pleasures of techniques beyond ganseys. After all, we all continue to knit because, not matter what we are knitting, it brings us and the recipient joy. So thank you for the joy you bring to us.

  • Sue

    I am so pleased you have decided to carry on with the blog as your writing is a joy each week. Inquisition of Demons is an excellent read and The Cuckoo’s Nest is lined up on my Kindle, I hope you get many new readers through your generous offer.
    I will second Marilyn’s comment, I need the variety of different things on my needles. I love cables and lace but the gansey is daunting; so many stitches on small needles. One day I will find the courage and plunge in. I also recommend Kate Davies’ Yokes for inspiration.
    Merry Christmas and a Happy healthy New Year to you both.

  • Sharon

    Just a quickie here – I took advantage of your kind offer & bought up a few more whilst there. Why don’t you offer KOBO versions?? I have to sit at my desktop to read your books, dammit!!! It would’ve been nice to curl up in bed or in a nice big chair to read them instead.

  • Gordon

    Hi everyone – thanks for all the encouragement and support. I should add that I don’t plan to go over to the Dark Side of knitting altogether—though who can touch pitch and not be defiled, I hear you ask?—but if I take to it, it’s another skill I’d like to acquire. But as a pledge of good faith I’ve already cast on my next gansey project, so it’s waiting for me ready on the needles for when I’m finished with “Lopi Lou”, as I like to think of it.

    I’m sorry not to respond more fully just now—I’m more or less confined to bed, as the cold has ascended from my chest to my head, like tiny minion-style bacterial mountaineers, and i think the aches and pains I feel are their tiny crampons and pitons digging into my flesh from the inside while they whoop and giggle and blow raspberries, the little scamps. (Yes, I’ve just taken my medication—how can you tell?) Anyway, I feel pretty second-hand just now, so it’s just as well we’d planned a quiet Christmas at home.

    Oh, and Sharon, sorry about the lack of variety of e-reader formats for my books. It’s just that it’s a real pain to format an e-book so that pages and chapters look all right, and to be honest, I don’t sell enough copies to justify the grief! (That, and I’m basically lazy.) Blame the short-sighted publishing industry for failing to recognise my, er, whatever it is I have… You can get kindle apps for tablets etc. if that helps at all?

    Anyway, happy Christmas everyone! Ah’m awa’ back tae ma beid,

  • June Jones

    You dear man,
    I have followed your blog with interest, enjoyment and envy for a couple of years now. And on the evening I am making my plans for next year you anounce your intention to knit a Lopi sweater! A signal I feel for me to deal with the most expensive element of my yarn stash – all the materials required for a Lopi cardigan, including buttons!

    Thank you for the inspiration and the fine example set by Margaret and yourself – you FINISH things.

  • mary

    hello Gordon,

    And here was I hoping to persuade you to knit the elusive Foula Froke, ….. ah well, I should have spoken sooner.
    If you can be bothered to publish all your tips and knitting blogs into a book you would cheer all your groupies (or should I say bloggies?) I’ve read all the gansey books around, most of the fair-isle ones, and your style is quite simply one of the best. I’ll even offer to proof read it for you !!

    Good luck with multi colours, two at a time is good and plenty for most of us, unless you have three hands of course………

  • Gordon

    Hello again,

    Just another note to thank you all for your comments and support, reading the blog this week has been as nice as the end of the Muppet Christmas Carol, only without Michael Caine’s singing. Thank you—it means a lot.

    Sorry I’ve not been able to respond individually, I’ve actually spent quite a lot of Christmas in or on bed, rotten with cold with the dreaded “flu-like” symptoms, feeling like an extra from the Walking Dead, or in my case, the Lying Down Dead.

    Oh, and Mary, I have started working up the how-to section into a book… (I had hoped to have it ready for Christmas, but as ever life got in the way!)

    All the best, and tune in after tomorrow for pictures of the heather gansey in all its glory,

  • Helen Edwards

    Hi Gordon

    Don’t you dare stop blogging – my late-Sunday-morning favourite decaff coffee would not be the same without it!

    Have you considered taking up the bagpipes/clarinet to strengthen your lungs/distract you from catching yet another bed rest inducing cold?

    Best wishes to you and Margaret for Hogmanay and 2015.


  • Nigel

    Go for the Lopi! It will be fun.

  • Kersti

    As an occasional visitor (though I read a lot in one go when I do visit), I’d like to add to the chorus saying ‘Don’t give up!’ At the same time, I shouldn’t want to be party to keeping the butterfly squished up as soup inside the chrysalis when it’s time for it to be bursting out.
    So in addition to branching out into Lopi, why not alter your routine as well, so you don’t *have* to grind out an entry every week without fail? Come to that, why not rotate between personalities as well (don’t tell me, you already do…), with different names? See how many you can accumulate (hm, maybe better consult with Margaret on that one). If you take a ‘more the merrier’ approach, perhaps it’ll feel liberating rather than restrictive (‘which one should I tie myself down to today?’). Come on, there has to be a term in modern literary theory for the – decentred, shall we say? – blog?
    I mean, you’re a damn good blogger. It would be a shame for us to lose you unless There Is No Other Way.
    Looking forwarding to reading the results of the blog experiment as well as the knitting one.

    • Gordon

      Hi Kersti, and thanks for the comment.

      I think I have a horror of repeating myself, and of boring not only my readers, but also myself! Once or twice I’ve thought of a ripe, juicy anecdote to tell, only for some sixth sense to lead me to do a quick search of the website and, sure enough, it turns out I’ve already used it in 2010, or whenever. The prospect of turning into the club bore who wearies all the young folk with his old stories, is not an attractive one!

      Having said that, as Terry Pratchett said, writing is the most fun anyone can have by themselves. The enthusiasm of people who drop by, many of whom will never knit a gansey but who just find this an interesting space to spend time in, is very gratifying. I guess I’ll know when it’s time to hang up my needles and move on. Till then, well, there’s a whole new year to explore!

      As to my personalities, well, when it get too bad Margaret can always lock me in the cellar until the fit passes, and it’s no longer a full moon…

      All the best,

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