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Week 10: 9 – 15 March

9how10aTime this week for some number-crunching, and for a small confession.

First, the numbers. After weeks of “climbing Mount Improbable”, to use Richard Dawkins’ splendid phrase, gradually building up the body row on row I suddenly find I’ve done over 14 inches and it’s time to start the gussets and the yoke pattern. (As a typical gansey to fit me would be 27-28 inches long (welt to shoulder), and my preferred distance from the start of the gusset to the start of the shoulder strap is 12 to 12.5 inches, it’s a simple calculation to start the gussets and yoke at about 14.5 inches. This will give me a 3.5 inch gusset and an 8 inch sleeve, plus an inch for the shoulder strap.)

After many years of trial and error it occurred to me to keep a record of the number of rows this takes, to save me having to work it out each time. So, I know that the 12 inches in my last gansey from gusset to shoulder strap took 145 rows. As this one is going to be 12.5 inches (I want to knit a deeper gusset this time, 3.5 inches instead of 3), I can add an extra 6 rows for the additional half-inch, giving me a total of 151 rows for the yoke, rounded down to 150.

9how10bNow it’s time for the confession. I always knew deep down that it wasn’t going to be possible for me to replicate Henry Freeman’s gansey exactly. As far as I can tell, either he was a very small man (i.e., a dwarf), or his ganseys are knit in a rather larger gauge than mine – perhaps 5 or 6 stitches to the inch instead of my 8 or 9. This means, if I knit his pattern as recorded, instead of that rather nicely textured, spaced effect on his ganseys I will end up with a closely dappled texture, which isn’t really what I want. (You can see what I mean on the yoke of Gavin’s gansey here.)

I put this off as long as possible, but now it’s decision time – what to do? Knit as recorded, dividing the yoke into maybe 4 bands across the chest, and accept that it won’t look the same? (This is more or less what Gladys Thompson records as her Staithes pattern.) Or try something different, maybe a moss stitch variant with alternating blocks of 4 stitches?

9how10cThe solution I’m most minded to try isn’t one I can recall seeing written down anywhere (though I’m willing to stand corrected) – which I guess suggests that it probably won’t work! But I’m thinking of alternating the pattern rows (knit 2, purl 2) with not one, but two, count them, two rows of plain knitting. I’m hoping this will separate out the pattern rows just enough to bring out the pattern without turning it into a sort of moss stitch effect. (The risk is, of course, that at my stitch gauge, 2 stitches of purl alternating with 2 of plain will just not be big enough to make it work.) I’ll aim for 3 bands across the yoke of 50 rows each, which at least has the virtue of simplicity.

Ah well, if it doesn’t work I can always quietly toss it in the garbage and pretend it was eaten by tarantulas, or something. (Or owls, for all Futurama fans out there!) And if this website disappears, blame covert surveillance by the security services, and not a rather desperate attempt to cover up the author’s shame and embarrassment…

2 comments to Week 10: 9 – 15 March

  • Suzanne Muir

    There are many benefits to hanging back while others forge ahead… Had I not been fooling around with owls in a steeked cardigan, I would have blithely cast on for Staithes with Wingham’s 5-ply gansey on a 2.25 – 2.75 mm needle and would most likely have ended up at the same wall. Rats! This is a most unfortunate state of affairs which, once again, points to the merits of swatching (even when you think you know what you are doing) 🙂 I look forward to seeing how the two plain knit rows work as a solution. Perhaps in a wee swatch?

  • Hi Suzanne,

    Ah, yes, Margaret tried to persuade me of the wisdom of knitting a swatch, or “the s-word” as I like to think of it. That’s the way the professionals do it, I know. But (and this is where my inner 12-year-old comes to the fore) I just don’t like doing them. I could come up with reasons which would sound plausible – such as the swatch wouldn’t be large enough to properly see the effect of the pattern, or somehow I can’t replicate the proper stitch gauge in a swatch – but they wouldn’t be entirely true. The real reason is, I just hate knitting swatches. I get all hot and bothered, my shoulders itch and my fingers swell to twice their normal size and get tied up in knots, like a very fat man trying to tie a fly fishing lure. So you might say, in a sense, my swatch is my entire gansey.

    The signs are promising, however – I’m only about 9 rows into the pattern, but so far it looks like it might work (or, at least, might not look too ghastly). Photos next week.