It’s a disappointment, though unlike the Hebrides themselves, I can honestly say it’s not the end of the world – since there were enough complications to make me a bit ambivalent. It would, for example, have meant relocating yet again for a temporary job, it’s a very long away from my parents who are in their eighties, and then there’s the wind, rain and the endless winters to consider. I imagine it would be like living in an Ingmar Bergman movie. Plus I very much doubt there’s a Starbucks on the islands.
And, as ever in these situations, I tend to feel that somewhere out there is something more exciting than the job I didn’t get. So – I’ve just turned 50, I’m unemployed, and we’re in the biggest recession and public spending squeeze for 70 years – the world, as Terry Pratchett would say, is my mollusc. How bad can it be?
In the meantime, I’m free to indulge my three great passions (or the ones I’m prepared to discuss in public anyway – and I’ve always maintained, like PG Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred, that a more enlightened judge would have let me off with just a caution): namely, baking bread, listening to Wagner – and, of course, knitting ganseys.
After last week’s herculean effort picking up the stitches for the sleeve, all I had to do next was get the pattern to fit. I wanted to use the same pattern elements as the body, so the gansey would look all of a piece. I’ve replicated the yoke pattern at the top of the sleeve (diamonds flanked with inverted yarn-over chevrons), with below that a narrow band of the diagonal trellis pattern as a border, while the rest of the sleeve will comprise the tree and starfish patterns all the way down to the cuff. Each pattern element is exactly the same as it was on the main body of the gansey (I know some patterns traditionally were knitted smaller on the sleeves, but I’ve decided to keep this one big and chunky). I’ve only made the sleeve “yoke” one panel row deep (the body yoke was 3 panels deep), because I reckon the main patterned part of the sleeve should end above the elbow – or at least I think it looks better that way.
The gusset decrease was 2 stitches every fourth row, to match the previous rate of increase. Now that I’ve finished the gusset, I’ve switched to a rate of decrease of 2 stitches every 5 rows, so as not to run out of sleeve too soon.
So at the moment I’m doing quite a bit of knitting – as you can tell by how much of the sleeve’s been done – while listening to Wagner and waiting for the dough to rise. Now I’ve got used to baking with fresh yeast I’m getting ready for the next great trial: preparing a sourdough starter with wild yeast and keeping that alive indefinitely to bake with. (I already keep back some of each batch of dough to use in the next loaf, but it’s not the same.) And then my final challenge – a harvest loaf (Google it if you don’t know what they look like) – and then a gansey made out of bread…