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Week 33: 24 – 30 August

9how33aWith the end in sight I’ve been cranking up the old cd player (still trying to come to terms with the elusive symphonies of Arnold Bax, whom I fear I will never love as a brother) and putting in the hard yarn. Am over halfway through the sleeve now, and it gets easier all the time with every decrease. And plain knitting after a pattern always zips right along.

Under normal circumstances I’d be finished in another week, but we’ve got a friend coming to stay this week and I’m taking a few days off for general slobbing about and coffee drinking purposes, not to mention going to see Wagner’s Flying Dutchman as part of the Festival. So I’ll only get a couple of days’ knitting in this week.

As usual at about this time I’m thinking about my next gansey. I already know it’ll be in cream, as I find the navy colour a bit dull to work with sometimes so I’m alternating light and dark projects. I ordered some British Breeds yarn over a week ago and am starting to wonder where it’s got to. (I’m not quite satisfied with the Frangipani yarn I’ve been using. It’s hard to say exactly what the issue is, but it seems scrawnier than I’m used to, thin and scraggy and a bit uneven. It knits up all right, but I miss the softness and “bounce” of some of the guernsey 5-ply yarn I used to knit with, so I’m trying elsewhere this time. That is, if it arrives…)

9how33bI’ve had a major rethink about the pattern of the next project too. I was going to knit a straight Hebridean gansey, one of those really fancy ones like Tudfil’s in the gallery. Basically, these beautiful jumpers have patterned columns or ribs from the welt to the yoke, a trellis-patterned band across the middle, and then square-ish panels making up the yoke (typically 3 per column) separated by cables, moss stitch, you name it. They’re the only ganseys I’ve seen with”yarnovers”, the decorative lace-like holes. They’re quite something.

At first I thought of doing something I’ve never tried before, but sneakily, and incorporating my own designs into the panels. I thought of replicating something for each of the countries that have significance for me (so a kiwi for New Zealand where I was born, a rose for England, a dragon for Wales and a Saltire for Scotland). But then I started to think: why not design an entire gansey around the native patterns of one country – say, a book of Kells/Lindisfarne gospels design, or (and this is where light bulbs started going off) Maori patterns from NZ? The overall construction would follow the Hebridean arrangement, but the patterns would be adapted from Maori designs.

Of course, there’s always a downside, and to achieve this I’d have to – gulp! – knit quite a few swatches, not to mention play around with a lot of graph paper. But I think I’m onto something here. Watch this space…

Oh, and the answer to last week’s question was that, as far as I’m aware, Tolkien adopted the idea of a “ruling ring”, i.e., the one ring that would give the wearer power to rule the world, from Wagner, who invented it in his 4-part operatic cycle, Der Ring Des Nibelungen (which, at 15 hours, is still longer than Peter Jackson’s film trilogy!).

7 comments to Week 33: 24 – 30 August

  • Suzanne

    I love the idea of a Maori themed gansey, but not in cream… This book might provide some inspiration for your charting and sw—-ing: http://www.amazon.com/Maori-Tattooing-Dover-Pictorial-Archives/dp/0486430928

    Unfortunately, I did not find a link to the book I was looking for. Very stupidly, I passed up a beautiful book on the tattoos of the South Pacific in a secondhand book shop, and I do not remember the title. By the time I came to my senses and returned to the shop, it had sold. The smallish square paperback was composed entirely of black and white engraving-style images of tattoos.

    It is good to hear that your tedious slog through the Freeman gansey has left you ready and willing to tackle another one.

    Enjoy the Festival!

  • Nigel

    Guess who went to the first Twenty20 England v Australia international at Old Trafford? Guess who only saw 20 and a bit overs of play? Guess who felt ripped off?
    Still, it afforded me a weekend with my brother and the chance to see my nieces. And Lancashire’s plans for a new Old Trafford should make it a world class venue once again, which it is isn’t presently. The gansey is looking very good. I wondered if you might do a Leith or Musselburgh pattern next, but I think your Maori idea is very good and somewhat ambitious!

  • Hi Suzanne and Nigel,

    Apologies for the delay in replying.

    Suzanne, thanks for the link to the book. The more I think about it, the more positive I am about the idea of a Maori design, though it’ll take a bit of planning, which isn’t something I’ve ever done before. But why not do it in cream…?

    Nigel, sorry to hear about your Twenty20 experience – no doubt this will reinforce your views on that form of the game! I once attended an England vs. west Indies test match at Old Trafford, hoping to see some great play, but instead had the ghastly pleasure of watching Emburey and Fraser eke out the end of the England innings for an entire Saturday afternoon. And got abused by some locals for daring to ask them to sit down while Ambrose was bowling. Not a lot of fun.

    I had a look at the Leith and Musselburgh patterns but I regret to say they don’t really inspire me. But maybe they’d look better knitted up – I’m hopeless at visualising patterns on graph paper! I confess I feel I ought to give them a go…


  • Suzanne

    Why not cream? Maori patterning is all about bold contrast. In fact, herself (Alice Starmore), would likely insist that the gansey be done in at least two colours. Perhaps it should have a two colour panel(s) – either centre front yoke, or bands on either side of same.

    I don’t know if you have watched any extreme adventure racing (basically a multi-day triathlon, in a harsh alpine environment). NZ usually does very well in these events. Picture in your mind’s eye: Kathy Lynch and her team of Maori stalwarts, on day 3 of an extreme adventure race, running up a slippery slope of glacial moraine. Cream? I think not.

    My friend, Stella, who teaches fashion design at the Otago Polytechnic, assures me that one can spot newcomers to Dunedin by their garb. New arrivals and tourists wear pastels and bright primaries, and jewel tones. Over time, their attire aligns itself with the local standard: grays, brown and black. I suppose you could describe it as ‘Dunedin drab’.

    If not going the route of bold contrast with two colours, I think I would swatch for this gansey in a greenstone colour or a rich, heathered medium/dark gray. Either should show the bold patterning to advantage without being impossibly dark. Alice Starmore’s Virtual Yarns website might have just the right green.

    It has taken me many years to learn that truly creative stretches in any medium involve a lot of sw—-ing. None of it is a waste of time, and it can be very satisfying. The trick is to not think of the process as a hurdle to be negotiated before beginning the project. Indeed, a really creative project involves swatches throughout, as the ideas for better ways to do things flow freely. Some ideas work out. Some don’t. The end product is always more distinctive than it would have been without the swatches.

  • Ha, and there was me thinking a “Dunedin drab” was a lady of negotiable virtue from the South Island…

    I can’t imagine knitting a two-colour gansey, and of course that position has nothing at all to with the fact that I’ve never knitted a multi-coloured garment in my life and am scared stiff. My starting point is of course how well cream shows off rich patterns in modern gansey wool, whereas I’ve found the darker yarns to be a little less clear-cut. (It could, of course, be my technique – a bad workman, and all that.) And after the navy blue of the Henry Freeman gansey, I have a hankering for something light and airy. All of which sounds a little, er, woolly in the face of your arguments, I admit. Mind you, I am deeply attached to the green colouring of paua shell, and could imagine that working very well – in fact, I was half thinking of trying it in a nice green in future if it worked this time.

    (While i haven’t seen any extreme adventure racing, I take your point, and it’s hard to imagine the All-Blacks performing the haka before an international match wearing cream jumpers, at least the cricket team would wear them, I’m sure.)

    In all seriousness, my first step will be to experiment with the patterns, which I’m (kind of) looking forward to. My starting point was the Maori seamless border patterns, or kowhaiwhai, and the wooden carvings you see on houses, which I think of as less starkly contrasted than the moko, or facial tattoo, though that’s not necessarily the case, of course.

    Either way, it’s got me thinking about my homeland in a way I haven’t felt since…


  • Suzanne

    🙂 Good one!

    There is nothing wrong with cream, and it does show patterning better than anything else…and you had your heart (and tired eyes) set on it…and it is your gansey….

    Send me a virtual smack if you want me to shut up, but if I may continue to think aloud and make suggestions: I have always wondered why AS offers Scottish Fleet 5-ply in this green (I wanted it in red!): http://www.virtualyarns.com/about/fleet.asp
    It might be nice in this application.

    If you look at her Hebridean colour stories, one of the two greens under ‘Moor and Mountain’ might also appeal. One of them appears to have blue flecks; either would show patterning well. http://www.virtualyarns.com/about/fleet.asp
    While at VY, you might as well look at the three other Hebridean colour series. All contain some rich possibilities.

    This is going to be an interesting and unusual gansey. It deserves a special wool.

  • Gordon

    Hi Suzanne,

    The virtual yarns green looks very appealing, though I’d like to see it for real. I always had a soft spot for dear old “conifer” coloured 5-ply, though it doesn’t show the pattern so weel, maybe because it’s got flecks of white in it – unless that was my grey hairs getting in the mix…

    I discovered some ago that I had an incremental brain, one that was seemingly incapable of geteting to checkmate in one move, but which gradually built on each idea until I often ended up a long way from where I started. So it is with this gansey, one which will probably result in my being refused entry to NZ if I ever try to go back there.

    As for the rest, please continue to suggest away. It’s always good to hear a different perspective. Lord knows I need help. Or was that therapy? One or the other. Possibly both.