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Wick (Cordova): Week 5 – 19 April

I woke up this morning with something of a migraine. How can I tell? Apart from the needle spiking my forehead every time my heart beats, my IQ drops like a stone. How far down does it go, you ask? All the way to the basement. An hour ago I wanted to weigh my cone of yarn to see how much was left, so I took it into the kitchen, along with a used coffee mug. After a time I realised something was wrong. Sitting on the kitchen scales was my coffee mug—it weighed 320 grams—but my yarn was nowhere to be seen. Sure enough I eventually found it on top of the dishwasher, ready to be put inside with the dirty dishes. Some days you really shouldn’t get out of bed.

My personal benchmark for migraine-induced dumbassery occurred many years ago. I was walking down Northampton’s Abingdon Street when my attention was caught by a parking sign that read “Waiting limited to 30 minutes. No return within one hour”. And I thought, if you aren’t allowed to come back to your car for an hour, how could you avoid getting a ticket, as you were only allowed to park there for 30 minutes? It seemed like one of those paradoxes Captain Kirk was always putting to evil robots in Star Trek, causing them to blow up; it was Fermat’s Last Theorem on a stick. (Eventually a kind policeman came along and explained it to me, followed by a number of rather embarrassing personal questions which I, er, won’t go into just now.)

Detail of JN02372 from the Johnston Collection. Used with permission.

And yet sometimes it works the other way, and what passes for my brain goes into overdrive, positively fizzing with ideas like yeast. Though instead of coming up with something useful, like nuclear fusion, I tend to wonder what it would be like if the Head of Personnel was a James Bond supervillain, complete with Persian cat and piranha tank (“Number Seven, I am very disappointed in you for failing to overthrow Lybster Parish Council; also, you can only claim expenses for monster munch flavoured pot noodles if you keep the receipt”), or whether the Tibetan Book of the Dead would work as a musical. Such insights are, alas, rare. On migraine days I may in fact be the only person walking around with an “I’m with stupid” T-shirt pointing at myself…



This gansey isn’t an exact replica of a pattern in the Johnston Collection of old photographs of Caithness fishermen—the gauge in the original is just too fine—but it’s pretty close. The centre panel in the original has two columns of four trees and diamonds (tree, diamond, tree, diamond); but that was just too many rows for me, the yoke would have been 3-4 inches longer; so I decided to lose the topmost diamond and keep the rest. I’ve left the actual patterns exactly as they were in the original, just had fewer of them. (I’m nearing the top of the yoke: I’ll soon find out how good my maths is.)

It would also have been a couple of inches too narrow for me widthways. I could have added a stitch either side of some of the patterns to pad it out, but again, I wanted to keep the patterns I was using as close to the original as possible. So I added a couple of six-stitch single cables, on the basis that everything goes better with cables. (The braided double cable is cabled every fourth row, so I’m cabling the single cable every eighth row to keep the counting simple.)

I hope I’ve captured the spirit of the original, at least. It’s another stunning Wick pattern, and reinforces my idea that Wick is a “missing link” between the ganseys of the southern mainland and the spectacular examples from the Hebrides. And the Cordova yarn shows up the intricacy of the yoke every bit as well as I’d hoped. The pattern is falling nicely into place; or at least it is on days when I don’t mistake the dishwasher for the kitchen scales…


13 comments to Wick (Cordova): Week 5 – 19 April

  • Charlie

    Gordon, Was most chuffed to see your last effort on Instagram. Very impressive. My own long term project is now at least a collarless gilet which in my world is real progress! Best Charlie

    • Gordon

      Hi Charles, I’m afraid Instagram happens to other people; I knew it was a mistake ticking the”no publicity” box when I started knitting ganseys!

      Congratulations on reaching the collar. And remember, the sleeves get easier as you work your way down…

  • Lois

    I can hardly wait to see this one blocked, what a grand selection of patterns!

    Not only is that man in the photo a goodlooker, but notice his hands! They remind me of my grandfather and uncles, who had the same huge paws from years of manual labour, starting as boys. As did all farmers, fishermen and woodsmen at the time. And, in spite of all the labour saving devices today, they still work every bit as hard, in every kind of weather. Bless them!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, the gent has a lovely expression, doesn’t he?

      There are several photos of fishermen accompanied by ladies with a proprietary hand on their shoulder. I am now working up a series of Victorian detective stories in which a unit of female detectives go undercover to catch fishermen criminals, each identified by the pattern of their gansey!

      • Lois

        Fisherman criminals???

        Really, Gordon!!! That’s just going too far!

        Well……. there might be a tad of smuggle ………..

  • Deb

    I’m with you on the migraine front. Had a painless one once .. try squaring that, with the IQ of a plank. In other news we’re acting as if Propagansey ‘21 is going ahead & this year I’d like to feature individuals’ individual Ganseys, so it’d be very nice if you’d consider sending one or two south .. esp. the Cordova. Now, back to the Book of Chiang Zhou ..

    • Gordon

      Hi Deb, sometimes I dream the flashing lights and the pain, and wake up with the tired, washed-out feeling.

      I gave my other Wick ganseys to Wick museum, but you’d be very welcome to this one assuming it works out well. (I have Chiang Zhou on my bedside table; currently listening to Lau Tzu as an audiobook…)

  • =Tamar

    I don’t know if I get less brilliant during migraines. I’ve only recently learned that certain flickery vision moments were probably early versions, after having finally had a full-bore visual migraine (no pain, thank goodness).

    Your moments of inspired brilliance might lead to a short story! I believe there actually are dances associated with the Tibetan Book of the Dead. And Sweeney Todd was a success…

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I superstitiously believe that if I didn’t have the migraines, I wouldn’t have the rest of my inner life, and I enjoy that too much to run the risk of losing it!

      I have written up some of these ideas, but mostly I’m happy to let them go. If I don’t capture them they’re free to roam the universe, and anyway I never liked zoos, even metaphorical zoos of the mind…

  • Meg Macleod

    always certain of a smile when i see your post,tho i do not laugh at your misfortune.tho….it is very entertaining…….. we all have `moments`just not the ability to turn them into comedy……xxx

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, I’m getting to the point where I have the soundtracks of Laurel and Hardy films saved to my phone so I can have an appropriate musical soundtrack to my life! (All I’m missing is encountering two men carrying a giant pane of glass across the road…)

  • Lynne Brock

    What a gorgeous pattern! The cuffs are really interesting but you might have to forego your customary 6″ cuff if you chose to do this patterned cuff, wouldn’t you? I notice that this fisherman has also turned up the welt as indicated on some of the Facebook conversations. This pattern will rate high in my favorites!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne, you’re right, the cuffs will have to be shorter, so I’d better hope I get the body and the sleeves right! Margaret, whose computer and eyesight are capable of higher resolutions than mine, has charted out the cuffs and tells me yarn overs are involved. (And no, before you ask, I’m hardly terrified at all. Honestly!)

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