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Week 3: 19 – 25 January

9how3aOh, that’s right, now I remember why I prefer to start my ganseys with a ribbed welt.

It’s Week 3 and I’m a couple of inches into the body, plain knitting in the round: and the garter stitch welt-flaps flop around like sheets hung out to dry on washing day in a strong gale. The thing is, ribbed welts naturally concertina inwards, which makes the stitches easy to manipulate round the needles; but a garter welt remains actual size, and that makes it harder to manage the stitches. So I’m forever stopping to coax them round with both hands to get them distributed evenly.

9how3bAnd then, just to make it more interesting, the plain knitting curls over the tops of the needles like a very frothy head on a freshly-drawn pint of beer… So all in all progress hasn’t been quite as smooth as I could have wished!

9how3dYou’ll see from the pictures that I’ve decided to add my initials to the front of the body, just above the welt close to one of the fake seam stitches. The letters are adapted from those in Rae Compton’s Complete Book of Traditional Guernsey and Jersey Knitting, page 60, which I find work pretty well. Adding your initials is, of course, a high-risk strategy – if you’ve miscalculated and the gansey turns out to be way too big or too small you can’t easily give it away to someone else whom it fits without having to explain yourself, which can be awkward. So this is something of a declaration of intent on my part. But I’ve always wanted one in this pattern, so I figure it’s worth it.

9how3cNow I’m knitting in the round, I’ve also been reminded of another problem of hand knitting directly from these 500g cones – the yarn naturally twists and twists until it’s twisted itself into knots, and keeping it constantly untangled can be a right nuisance. I’ve devised a cunning plan to overcome this, however, which involves placing the cone on the top of our window curtain rails after each session, and letting the knitting dangle freely below. After a very few minutes it’s untangled itself, and you’re ready to go again. (The only thing to remember is to ensure that the stitches on your needles are pushed far away from the points, so they don’t pull off and drop as your knitting spins and untwists. Oh yes – and make sure your cone weighs more than your knitting…)

Finally, here’s a question: has a gansey ever featured in a novel?

7 comments to Week 3: 19 – 25 January

  • =Tamar

    Temporarily sew the welts together at the corners?
    Put the cone on a lazy Susan?
    I don’t know about featured; I wonder whether they were
    even mentioned. Maybe in _Captains Courageous_?

  • Hi =Tamar,

    Thanks for posting. I fear alas that you may be confusing me with someone who, if presented with a real sewing needle, wouldn’t sew their thumb to the welt! And I must admit to total ignorance of lazy Susans (unless you mean a revolving spice rack, which I guess from context you probably don’t!).

    I’m sorry to say I haven’t read Captains Courageous (I reached a halt with Kipling a few years ago after reading some of his terribly sad late short stories, after his son was killed in the First World War, and it felt like intruding on a private grief; should really go back and explore further).

    On the subject of ganseys in fiction, I had high hopes of William Golding’s extraordinary “Pincher Martin”, in which a WW2 naval lieutenant is the sole survivor, all alone in the Atlantic, after his destroyer is sunk by a U-boat. But it only mentions his “jumper” which has a rolled neck. The search continues.

  • Suzanne Muir

    I was going to keep my big mouth shut, for once, but, since Tamar brought up the subject of lazy Susans… I perch cones on top of an old aircraft control cable pulley. It fits neatly inside the wide end of the cone and the wool feeds smoothly and silkily on needle bearings, without jerks or bumps, and no added twist.

    You can see one that I sent to my pal, Stella, at the end of this blog post: http://knitknitfrog.blogspot.com/2008/04/finished-object-mystery-object.html

  • =Tamar

    I was thinking of the platter that revolves so you don’t have to turn the plate. But what I was really thinking of is a cone-holder that I bought as part of a down-home wooden swift; it’s like a lazy Susan but with a wooden pole to hold the cone in place. If you took the upright kind of paper towel holder and attached a lazy Susan gadget to the bottom, that would do it. (The gadgets are available from woodworking places or sometimes from American Science and Surplus.)

    The O.E.D. quotes 1840 R.H.Dana, Before the Mast, referring to Guernsey coats (but they are probably the woven ones) 1848 Dickens (Dombey and Son) mentions guernsey shirts. 1851 London Labour – a reference to sailors in their striped guernseys!

  • Suzanne and =Tamar, thanks for responding. Suzanne, we have a helicopter museum just up the road at Weston super Mare and I now have the wonderful idea of using the rotor blades of a small one to wind the yarn…

    My other gripe is the way a thoughtlessly over-enthusiastic tug of the yarn can knock the cone over and send it rolling across the floor (causing our elderly cat to look up, cock an eyebrow and go, “Nah, maybe ten years ago…” and go back to sleep). Of course, a cone-holder makes sense.

    Thanks for the literary references, Tamar. It’s a while since I read Dombey and Son, have never read Before the Mast. Patrick O’Brian often refers to the sailors wearing “frock shirts”, but he’s a historical novelist, so I doubt he’d count anyway!

  • =Tamar

    I’m told that “frock shirts” are actually woven smocks, also made and worn on Guernsey, which were worn before (or over?) the knitted undershirts. How very annoying of them, to use the same word for two different garments.

  • Aaron Lewis

    If I am in the house, I keep the cone close and knit the yarn before it has a chance to kink, However, I hold my yarn loosely so the extra twist is always carried through my hand and into the knitting. The twist from comming off the end of the cone is only about 5% of the twist in Frangipani. If you ahr holding the yarn so that twist from comming off the end of the yarn is kept out of the knitting, then you may be squeezing other twist out of the yarn. This could be significant and cause rapid kinking.

    You could always put the initials under the arm pits after you have tried the thing on : ) I knit the welt, and a couple of inches, tried it on, and went for the initials. Got them knit, and decided I did not like the stitch I used, so I frogged 5 inches. That is the thing about gansey yarn, it froggs well.

    When, I am going out, I ball the yarn, but since I am very lazy, I lead the yarn off the top of the spool, so that extra twist is in the ball. Depending on which way I lead the yarn out of my center-pull ball, I can increase the twist again or decrease the twist.

    Likewise, twist from knitting in the round gets knit into the project and does not cause kinks.