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Week 7: 16 – 22 February

9how7aNow, I’m not saying I’m proud of it, but every now and again I seem to shed some forty of my almost fifty years, and revert to my inner eight-year-old. It happened again recently when I picked up a copy of Thomas Hardy’s early novel “A Pair of Blue Eyes” and discovered that chapter 18 is entitled “He Heard Her Musical Pants”. This has cheered me up through some difficult days recently, and has popped into my mind at odd moments – when I’ve been introduced to the Keeper of the National Archives of Scotland, say – and the thought of what sounds they made has made stuff come out of my nose at the most inappropriate times.

9how7bAh well. You’ll see from this week’s pictures that progress is still slow. I spent most of last week in Edinburgh, right enough, and a fair portion of it was spent in my hotel room, listening to the streets below being dug up in preparation for a new tramway for the city. But I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, partly because I had homework to do most nights (and how unfair is that?) but also because I was usually just too tired. In fact, some nights it was as much as I could do to slump on the bed and watch the cricket test match between England and the West Indies unfold (5 days and it still ended in a draw – what a great game cricket is!).

This is, once again, the time in the life of a gansey when I run the risk of putting it down and finding several months have elapsed before I take it up again. Of course, writing this blog helps enormously, as I now have an incentive to keep going or look like, to quote someone else I met from the National Archives of Scotland in a different context, a “namby-pamby Southern jessie”. (I’m not exactly sure what that means, but from the context it didn’t sound like something I wanted to be…) But I aim to do at least a row a night at the very least, usually more, and it’s accruing like a stromatolyte pillar in Australia (I’m now thinking in geological timescales, you’ll notice).

The good news is, I’ve found us a flat to rent in Edinburgh. Of course, being close to the centre it costs as much as the gross domestic product of Denmark each month, but that’s a small price to pay for being able to walk to work, I feel. One step forward…

4 comments to Week 7: 16 – 22 February

  • Nigel

    I have discovered a textile company in Yorkshire that is selling 30cm long DPNs. Texere Yarns in Bradford. I have just bought two sets as well as two circulars. They are old stock rediscovered.


    The page with details of the needles is here:


  • Hi Nigel,

    Thanks for the tip! We will shortly be staging a smash-and-grab raid and clearing them out of all available dpns… Hurry while stocks last, I guess is the advice.


  • Ian

    Hello from Devon. These beautiful yet practical garments have fascinated me for a long time. My particular challenge is that I don’t know how to knit. D’you have any particular advice re learning to knit these? Did you spend much time knitting easier stuff or did you just jump in at the deep end? Are there special skills you need for ganseys? Interested to hear of your experiences. best, Ian

  • Hi Ian,

    Nice to hear from you! I was taught to knit by Margaret my wife – with thicker wool on larger needles than you’d use for ganseys to start with, your basic knit and purl stitches. I’d never heard of ganseys at the time, but I liked pullovers, so was just curious to see how it went.

    Once I’d got the hang of these, knitting back and forth on straight needles for a bit, we thought it was time to try a simple pullover. We went to a shop and there I found a pattern for a simplified gansey (also for thicker wool and needles), which I fell in love with instantly. It was a simpler version of the gansey I’m knitting now, nothing fancy. When I finished it (it wasn’t very good, as you’d expect) Margaret showed me Gladys Thompson’s book of the originals, and after that I only wanted to knit the “real thing”.

    It took a few attempts before I had a measure of control, and some patient friends and family prepared to humour me, but basically it was just a question of practice.

    The advantage of ganseys is that they’re all in one colour, so you don’t have to blend together different colours into your patterns. And much of the time it’s still just good, simple knit and purl stitches to make the patterns. The only “techniques” I use normally are increases and decreases, and cables (to which I am addicted). That’s it. But because the needles and yarn are so fine it looks tremendously impressive (in other words, you can’t see the mistakes or the uneven knitting because it’s so small!).

    It helps having someone to turn to to ask questions, or unpick mistakes, no question. But most of the time it’s just practice. And there are bound to be knitters in Devon who’d be only too pleased to help you out I’m sure.

    Best wishes,