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Wick 1: 2 – 8 December

WK131208aAfter all the excitement of last week’s Escape From The Doctors Of Doom, this time it’s the rather more staid Tale of Two Museums.

The first is the Wick Heritage Museum, here in town. I understand that, although they have a collection of those miniature samplers of patterns, they don’t have any actual ganseys. So I thought I’d knit them one, especially since their museum is bursting with stuff relating to the fishing industry. (Wick was the greatest herring port in the country a century ago; it was even known as “herringopolis” – which sounds like a classic German silent film of the 1920s, about a mad scientist planning to overthrow capitalism by means of an army of robot fish.)

Anyway, I plan to knit them a classic Wick pattern from Rae Compton’s book co-written with Henrietta (Hetty) Munro of Thurso, “They Lived By The Sea” (1983). It’s a plain body with a yoked pattern, but I’ll say more about the pattern when I get to it in due course.

IWKReaperan the meantime, I’ve cast on 380 stitches in Frangipani Navy yarn, knitted a welt of 3 inches, and then increased by 20 to 400 stitches for the body. Now it’s just a question of clocking up the rows until I reach the gussets and the yoke.

The other museum is the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther, Fife. You may remember me talking about it last year when their educational fishing boat The Reaper came up for the Wick Harbour Festival and I met the skipper, Ian Murray: he mentioned in passing that they were always on the lookout for ganseys for the crew, so I decided to knit them one.

Well, I finally got round to sending them a couple of ganseys a few weeks ago: the Filey seaspray gansey which I had made with them in mind, and the navy gansey based on Mrs Laidler of Whitby‘s pattern, which was languishing in a drawer at home.


Ian Murray, Joan Paton, Coull Deas

Anyway, I got back a handsome acknowledgement and some splendid photographs of the ganseys being modelled, a couple of which are included here. Pictured are Joan Paton, Vice Chair of the Scottish Fisheries Museum Boats Club; Ian Murray, retired skipper; and Coull Deas MBE, and I’m very grateful to them for sending me the photographs.

So, there we are, another week survived – 90 mph winds, blizzards and sub-freezing temperatures, as well as medical concern over my imminent demise notwithstanding. Perhaps to avoid awkward misunderstandings in future, like Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax, I should just attach a note to my identity card at work, saying, “I Aten’t Dead…”

15 comments to Wick 1: 2 – 8 December

  • Jane

    Lovely ganseys. I particularly liked the claret colour, with of course matching sunset. Really good to see the others in context. Glad to see you are still breathing!

  • Laura

    Very handsome Ganseys indeed Gordon! The seaspray color I find unexpectedly charming on the old gentleman. Perhaps its his white hair that sets the color off so well.
    On the home front – I’m glad I chose navy for my first gansey. It is still in production after a 3 month lay off and has a few errors which the color is hiding, the largest of which is the fact that I had to slice off the bottom and add more length. That’s what caused me to “down needles” for a length of time until I got over the wailing and gnashing of teeth the re-knit caused. Its truly a labor of love for my brother. I’m already planning the next gansey which will not be nearly as complicated as this one (P. G-R’S WHITE GANSEY) – perhaps the Filey pattern.
    Good knitting!

  • Marilyn

    Hello Gordon, I’d wondered about you when I heard the Gale of Scotland had hit. Did you batten down the hatches and make a cuppa? These two fine fellows look perfectly at home in their new ganseys, don’t they. Excellent work, you are famed far and wide for knitting, puns and spooky books.
    Good knitting, Marilyn

  • Gordon

    Hello all,

    The models do give the photos an authentic look, don’t they? If they’d been in grainy black-and-white I get the feeling they could have featured in one of the standard texts and wouldn’t look out of place. We soft, southern (hemisphere), namby-pamby archivists can’t compete with that!

    The storm was pretty grim, Marilyn. The winds were severe enough—I don’t suppose we actually got 90 mph, but some of the gusts can’t have been far off. Mind you, the houses of Caithness are built to withstand this sort of weather. But it was the sudden blizzards that caught me out: one minute it would be still, almost blue sky, and then suddenly the trees would be bent over like a yoga student, it would be end-of-the-world, veil-of-the-temple-rent-in-twain sort of darkness and then it would snow so hard you couldn’t see across the street. Which is why the Lord in his bounty created Russian army surplus hats!


  • Judit /Finland

    Congratulations Gordon ! The pullovers look great, I like especially the seaspry of Filey, once upon a time I knitted one in about the same colour – it is in readers gallery.
    By the way: Where do I find ganseys for children? I have only the Beth B-R book with a few samples. Have you ever knitted a gansey for a child?
    Best regards,

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit,

      The only child’s gansey pattern I can remember seeing is in Rae Compton’s “Complete Book of Traditional Guernsey and Jersey Knitting”, pp.109-114, which is for a Bridlington gansey (it resembles the Flamborough patterns) and has moss stitch panels, hearts and diamonds. It even has a picture of two fresh-faced grinning young scamps in their ganseys, taken in the 1970s by the haircuts, both of whom are probably grandparents by now…


  • Gail Donkin

    Judit, I have knit quasi-ganseys for my grandson. Because I could not see putting a huge amount of effort in for a person who would outgrow it almost immediately, perhaps even before I finished knitting, I use an acrylic, worsted weight, size 8 needles, knit in one-piece gansey style, and use some of Gordon’s patterns and his excellent directions on how to properly do all the maths required. My latest is for Owen, age 8, and he wanted a zipped-up cardigan with a hood. Hardly traditional, but gansey-esque. I have finished the knitting, blocked, and will follow Margaret’s directions for the steeling and finishing with a zipper.

  • Judit/Finland

    Many thanks Gail! I am waiting to see this gansey-esque quasi-gansey in readers gallery :).

  • Nigel

    Pictures please Gail! I have two daughters, six and eight, who are requesting ganseys in that seaspray colour.

  • Veronica

    One of the things I like about the pictures of the two sailors is that they show how varied ganseys are. Darker, it looks classic; lighter color and it is a modern interpretation. Make the pattern denser and it looks lush, warm and cozy. Choose a sparser (is that a word?) pattern and we have minimalist elegance.

    Congratulations Gordon on two beautiful pieces of art.

    • Gordon

      Hi Veronica, and thank you. It just goes to show, the best way to get your ganseys modelled is to find some authentic seamen to do it for you! I got told off the other day by an artist for suggesting that “art” and “craft” were really just different words for the same thing (one being Latin, the other Anglo Saxon)—her argument being, of course, that art is always superior than mere craft.

      Words—upsetting people (and divinities) since the Tower of Babel…

      • Veronica

        When people say that art is superior to craft, I always ask why useless is superior to useful. I mention that I am trained in business and from a business perspective useless is inferior, so I am quite interested to hear how it can be otherwise. Still waiting for someone to take up the discussion.

  • Laura

    Can you tell me what size this Gansey will be? I am looking for an XL for my husband.

    • Hi Laura,

      It came out in the region of a 46-48 inch chest by the time it was washed and blocked (but not stretched). In other words, it was a nice fit for me, even though I gave it away! But it could have been blocked a little wider if needed.

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