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Week X+4

It’s not often I compare myself to St Paul. But when he says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things,” then I think he’s describing my situation pretty closely. Not in all ways, of course – I mean, I still read Stephen King novels and laugh at the fart jokes in Family Guy – but certainly when it comes to picking up stitches round the neck and armhole, you just have to be grown up about it and get the job done.

The technique is laughably simple, and (for new readers) is described in some detail in the “How To…” section. But you have to concentrate, always a challenge for me (attention deficit whatever…), plus I sometimes find it hard to see the stitches I’m knitting through (eyesight issues). It takes me about an hour to pick up all the stitches round an armhole, and all in all it’s about as much fun as asking a friend to pluck your nose hairs with a tweezer.

The armhole on this gansey is 8.5 inches per side, which at 9 stitches per inch equates to 76 stitches (or 152 stitches in the round). Because the armhole covers approximately 2 pattern bands on the yoke plus the ridge and furrow shoulder strap, I made sure I picked up about 33 stitches for each pattern band, leaving me 10 for the shoulder strap as far as the central cast-off ridge. Then the same again working down the other side. (This sort of spread is important to make sure you get an even distribution of stitches all round.) As usual, I decreased on the first row of the gusset, which coincided with the pick-up row, so that the row count for the gusset and the pattern will be in sync as I progress down the sleeve.

The neckline isn’t shaped, unlike most of the ganseys I knit. Instead, I divided for the neck a few rows earlier on the front than I did on the back, to give a marginally deeper neckline on the front. But the shape of the collar is a straight rectangle in the traditional style, with the traditional crinkly edge “clam” effect. The collar itself is in a conventional knit 2/purl 2 rib to a height of just under 1.5 inches.

I didn’t manage quite as much knitting this week as I’d hoped – partly because I had to psych myself up to pick up all those stitches, and that takes time, what with all the blubbing and all, and partly because I was sort of working. I went to a conference on how local authorities in Scotland are preparing to meet the coming public spending cuts: the sobering fact is that most cultural services are expecting an average 30% cut over the next 3 years. How many museums, libraries, and archives will survive in this sort of climate? Not enough, I fear.

Finally, this week’s bread, a basic ciabatta, the Italian slipper bread. The secret of ciabatta is a very moist, runny dough – it should really be kneaded by a machine (which I can’t afford right now), so I use a recipe that’s a little drier. It’s very easy to make, though, and has a crisp, crunchy, crackly crust and a soft, chewy crumb. This week’s tip: be very careful if you eat this bread with runny honey… Unless you plan on changing your shirt soon after.

6 comments to Week X+4

  • Leigh

    Hmmm, grown-up knitting issues – I can certainly relate. I have a button-hole side of the button band to finish up. It has been staring at me in the face for many weeks. I have to do some major psyching up to approach that. Dont know why, it looks pretty simple, gotten how-to instructions, so I do not know what is stopping me. I think it is the issue of making sure the button hole is lined up properly for button placement on the other side.

    You gusset and neck pick up looks so precise, I challenge anyone to say a computer-directed knitting machine could meet or surpass.

    Honey, shmunney…I will take some now please!

  • Gordon

    Why, thank you Leigh. That’s the advantage of knitting small – my knitting is like the human skin, sometimes not un attractive when seen at a distance, but pretty ugly when you get the pores up close!

    I guess all tasks have parts of it that are fun and enjoyable, and others that you have to accept as part of the overall package. Like cooking, when there’s always the washing up to do eventually… (If I win the lottery I will employ a rota of knitters who will be on call every time I drop a stitch or 20, or have to pick up stitches, or do a swatch… in fact, come to think of it, I may end up watching tv and just letting them get on with it.)

    Gordon

  • Leigh

    I just got a look at B.B-R’s Knitting Ganseys book yesterday. Alright, I admit, I am definitely intimidated. It is written for the working-yarn-in-the-left-hand knitting, but I hold mine in the right (and not the proper way). There are so many new stitch techniques that I do not think I am going to be able to self-teach. I must say that the book does a very good job instruction wise; I just find it difficult to follow along in the pictures. I need someone sitting next to me actually doing the movement.

    I am definitely going to be looking for her class next year. Needless to say, I guess I need to work on proper yarn-needle position techniques before then.

  • Gordon

    Leigh, la belle Margaret knits with the left-handed technique, though she can use either hand. She tried to teach me how to do it once, which unfortunately coincided with my only attempt at Fair Isle – my brains leaked out of my ears and made a mess on my shirt so I had to give it up. I just couldn’t get my head – or my fingers – round it. (Like my only attempts at driving a stick-shift car in the States.)

    One of the reasons why I haven’t done any You Tube videos to go with the instructions on this site is I know I don’t have proper yarn-needle technique as you call it! But while I’m happy to muddle along, I know Margaret can knit much faster, and more evenly, than I can so I’m all in favour of the technique.

    Good luck!
    Gordon

  • Leigh

    LOL Leaking brains. Thanks so much for that visual!

    Re: Stick shift. I found that if I held my tongue just right and breathed through my ears, I would do quite well!

  • Gordon

    Leigh, I’ve discovered down the years that hand-eye coordination and I will always be distant acquaintances, never friends. To be honest, I’m enough of a danger driving in Britain, let alone on the other side of the road abroad (I tend to know when to stop when parking when the front bumper bounces off the guide rail/wall/passer-by). Your experience may differ…

    Gordon