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Week 16: 3 – 9 November

Right, yes, well, the cuff, also known as the sleeve’s draft-excluder.

First of all, the technical stuff. After decreasing down the sleeve by 2 stitches in every 5 rows after the gusset, I ended up with 118 stitches round the wrist. The rule of thumb is to decrease by 1 in 10 into the cuff, which I’ve found usually seems to work OK. My suggestion is that it looks better if you can arrange to decrease on the purl stitches: i.e., knit 2/purl-2-&-decrease. That way you get nice unbroken columns of knit stitches from the sleeve to form the cuff ribs.

The other thing to bear in mind, of course, is that you have to end up with a multiple of 4 (so you end up with an even spread of k2/p2 ribs). So in this case I decreased by 10 stitches to leave me with 108, or 9 ribs of 4 stitches on each of three needles I’m knitting on, which is very neat. Now it’s just been a question of staying sane while knitting a long tubular cuff, probably about 6 inches in all, so it can be rolled back to suit the arm-length of whoever ends up wearing it.

Oh yes, and some books insist that the fake seam stitch should continue down the cuffs independently of the ribbing pattern (the same books say the same thing about the body seams in relation to the ribbing too). Well, nuts to that I say! It may or may not be authentic (whatever that means), but I much prefer the seam to disappear and merge into the purl stitches of the cuff – I just think it looks better that way, and besides, the seam is a fake, after all.

I promised last week to return to the matter of just how waterproof is a gansey. Now, I’m really not convinced. Certainly the ones I knit aren’t exactly waterproof (as exhaustive trials with a bathtub, a bucket and several unwitting volunteers have shown), but that proves nothing, as I dare say mine aren’t knitted in a properly authentic way. But I think they’re tight enough to keep out a light sea spray, or drizzle; and I can’t help thinking that’s what people mean when they say that ganseys are good at repelling water.

As the knitting bishop, Richard Rutt, points out in his book “A History of Hand Knitting” (more of which anon), fishermen usually wear oilskins and waders in high seas and heavy rain; and old photographs show us that trawlermen were no exception. After all, one of the reasons why so many ganseys were left plain until the yoke was because the fishermen wore those great big waders (like clown trousers) that came up to their rib cages and were held in place over the shoulders with braces (which were often knitted, and not made of elastic, so the waders were unlikely to bounce up and down like clown trousers normally do); so it’s not exactly as if they were unprotected from the elements.

Let’s just say the jury’s out on this one. Next week – were drowned fishermen really identified by the patterns on their ganseys?

3 comments to Week 16: 3 – 9 November

  • Jinx

    This just looks gorgeous. I can’t wait to see it finished!

  • Nigel

    Thanks for the science, the whole thing is unravelling nicely… the mystery of it, not the gansey!

  • Aaron Lewis

    Correct! No knitted wool, no matter how tightly knit, or how heavily oiled can be “water proof.”

    However, an oiled, tightly knit gansey can be worn in the rain without the sensation of getting wet and cold.

    The rain does not penetrate to the skin when it strikes the outer surface of the garment, and since wool does not wick moisture, the inner surface of the garment stays relatively dry. Body heat keeps the inner surface of the garment quite warm and dry, and tends to cause moisture in the body of the garment to vaporize and move outward, where it may condense on the outer surface of the garment. The blue color tends to absorb whatever light is available to warm and dry the outer surface. The advantage of blue over cream colored amounts to a couple of watts per m^2/hour. This is large enough that it can be easily felt, on a foggy day.

    Frangipani knit on 2.35 mm needles and then oiled produces a fabric that is OK for drizzle, but I would NOT consider it adequate protection for a seaman. Yesterday, I was knitting in the Plaza wearing the Filey, and I could feel distinct rain drops.