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Week 23: 22 – 28 December

w08week23bAnd so Christmas is over for another year, which is always a sentence tinged with melancholy. I hope you got what you wanted; in my case I got a cold that developed unpleasantly, stopping short of flu but not as far as I’d have liked. (There’s a vile advert on TV at the moment for some cold remedy, in which a wife and mother heroically soldiers on with the benefit of said remedy while her partner selfishly lies in bed succumbing to “man flu” – and the smug, self-righteous smile on her face as she listens to the children pelt the poor bloke with snowballs upstairs in his sickbed is enough to persuade us that yes, indeed, there is such a thing as pure evil and that Satan stalks the earth among us disguised as an advertising executive – and also that some conscienceless women are prepared to act as his handmaidens.)

w08week23cMore positively I also got a wonderful, 37-CD box set of music by one of Britain’s greatest composers, Benjamin Britten, and a talking book of the classic novel Nostromo by Joseph Conrad, or “Mr Chuckles” as he was known to his friends, both of which I’m looking forward to exploring in my new life in Edinburgh next year.

w08week23dMy main treat to myself was finishing the pullover, finally. I didn’t quite manage to get it done by Christmas, but on the Saturday after. (In fact I did cast off the cuff on Christmas Eve, but I have a small confession to make: when I picked up the stitches around the neck, all those weeks ago, I made a mistake – not a big one, hardly noticeable in fact – but I knew it was there and I found that, like Poe’s Tell-tale Heart, it just wouldn’t go away. Plus I always try to follow the rule that I’m only allowed one mistake per gansey, and I’d already used up my allowance. So, with a sigh, out it all had to come, and I re-knit the neck. Looks just the same, doesn’t it? But at least my conscience is clear now.)

w08week23eThe last task before washing and blocking is darning in all the ends – and when I turned it inside out my heart sank: I had no idea there were so many. Nothing fancy here. When I join two balls of wool I knit them together for 4 stitches, using both the end of the old ball and the start of the new ball together. This makes for slightly bulky stitches at first sight, but it disappears when the pullover’s finished. Then I leave 3 or 4 inches from the end of each ball dangling loose and continue with the new ball.

Finally, when it’s all done, I scrounge a needle off Margaret and darn all the loose ends through the backs of adjacent stitches (so they won’t show from the front) – usually for an inch or two, just to prevent any chance of their unravelling – and cut the rest of the end off with scissors. Sometimes I get carried away and darn the ends in zigzags that meander whimsically around the pattern; sometimes – usually around the first couple of stitches of shoulder joins – I find one or two little gaps or holes have appeared because my tension was too slack, so I darn the holes shut at the same time.

w08week23aIt takes about an hour and a half all told, and is about as much fun as doing fractions homework on Saturday morning when you’re twelve, but it’s a great feeling when it’s done and you turn your pullover right side out again and you know that it’s finished – all it needs now is a good wash and a stretch, and who among us can honestly say we’re any different?

Time for some more cold remedy…

Happy New Year!

2 comments to Week 23: 22 – 28 December

  • Suzanne Muir

    Congratulations on finishing the gansey! and on the exciting new job in Edinburgh.

    Aaron, of A Fisherman Knits, supplied the link to your blog and I have been reading the archives with great interest.

    Thus far, I have made only one gansey. There will be more – I love everything about the construction of these extremely useful pullovers. It is such fun to work out the details as one knits.

    On the matters of picking up of stitches for sleeves and weaving in of ends: for the former, I find it more useful to do the pickup based on stitch gauge, rather than row spacing. Multiplying the length of the armscye by the gauge gives me the number of stitches to pick up between gusset and shoulder seam or strap. I might place a couple of markers at mid and quarter points to guide me but, as a general rule, I find that I rarely have to rip back and start over. Having set one’s mind to a specific number within a specific space, the fingers seem to automatically comply. As for the ends, I make a point of weaving any in at the end or beginning of each knitting session. The exception to this might be the shoulder strap or sleeve (where the ends might be hard to get to), but then I make a point of weaving them in when that segment is complete. That way, the last stitch of the second cuff bind-off really is the end of the project and I can put it on at once.

    I wish you many happy adventures in the New Year and look forward to reading about them.

  • Hi Suzanne, thanks for your good wishes, and a happy New Year to you too. I know what you mean about picking up stitches around the armhole – I do calculate the number of stitches I need overall, based on my stitch gauge… but somehow, no matter how hard I try, I find there’s a sort of gravitational pull about the row spacing, and before I know it I have a cluster of picked-up stitches all together! The idea of markers as a guide sounds like a good one for the likes of me, with disobedient fingers.

    As for darning in the ends, I’ve toyed with the idea of doing it as I go along, as each new ball is joined. I can see your point entirely, doing it as you go means you don’t have such a big chore at the end, and casting off the cuff really is The End. But thinking about it, there’s a couple of reasons why I don’t – first of all, on a couple of occasions I’ve had to rip out a pullover that wasn’t working out right, and it seems easier to do that with loose ends; and secondly, and irrationally, it’s become a sort of ritual to mark the end of the gansey for me, my own personal “topping out” ceremony – so much so that I can’t imagine doing it any other way, now!

    Good luck with your knitting in the coming weeks and months and years, and I hope you’ll keep in touch.

    With all good wishes,