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Wick Fergus Ferguson Revisited: Week 1 – 21 February

I’ve been contemplating some pretty weighty matters this week. For instance, how did Darth Vader blow his nose? And what happened when he sneezed? In Return of the Jedi, when Luke takes off his helmet, you can see he clearly has a nose. Obi-Wan says that he is “more machine than man”, but I bet his sinuses were organic. Where did he keep his hankie? I’m not seeing a lot of pockets under that cloak—did he have a handbag for his car keys and spare change for when he felt like a packet of crisps from the Death Star vending machine? Maybe that little box in front of his mouth, which I always assumed was a harmonica the Emperor had thoughtfully fitted inside the helmet in case Vader ever felt like joining in a Blues session, was in reality a box of disposable tissues? So many questions; and that’s before you consider “bathroom emergencies”.

Jaunty pied wagtail on the harbour wall

And then there’s Batman, though of course he has a few other problems. For instance, if you look carefully you’ll notice that every incarnation in the role since Michael Keaton wears black eyeliner under the mask, otherwise he’d have a ring of pink around the eyes. But when he takes his mask off, there’s no eyeliner. I assume he keeps a stick on his utility belt along with the shark repellant and grappling hooks, for emergencies or maybe if he just feels like going clubbing. Or consider the Batmobile: it seems to be fitted with a jet engine and afterburner that shoots flames out the back. But imagine innocently pulling up behind Batman at a red light—when it went green and he floored the gas pedal you’d be incinerated.

In parish notices, Lee has finished his “Aran Islands Gansey”, which we featured a few weeks ago. Lee has kindly sent us some pictures of the gansey at rest and also being modelled, next to the celebrated curragh. Many congratulations to Lee on what looks to be a cracking gansey, and may it bring him many happy (and warm!) hours of—what exactly? Paddling? Rowing? Curraghing? (Lord, more questions…)

Waves crashing in on North Head

The Darth Vader/Batman questions also apply to astronauts. Imagine being the first man on the moon and finding yourself unable to appreciate the awe and mystery because you have an itch in your nose you just can’t scratch. Or sneezing and then missing the view because the inside of your helmet was spattered with *stuff*. And as for toiletry considerations, the early pioneers of space flight had to, er, fly by the seat of their pants. Some wore condoms—luckily they were all male—or else just went in their suits. On one test flight the astronaut Alan Shepherd had to do just this, leading to the immortal radio message to Ground Control: “Well… I’m a wetback now…”



Yoke pattern – side panels

This is another gansey inspired by a photograph from the Wick Society’s Johnston Collection of old photographs, that of the fisherman Fergus Ferguson. I say inspired by because it’s not an exact replica. This is for two reasons: because the original, as ever, was knit to a much finer gauge than I can manage with my big, fat archivist fingers, and also because it’s been scaled up to fit me and not a slim Scotsman with the unfair advantage of a waist and Hercule Poirot moustache. Or sometimes it’s matter of preference. For example, on the lower body of the original, the zigzags mirror each other; I prefer the look of having them all running up the same way. I used a three-stitch moss stitch between the zigzags, where the original was slightly different. Anyway, Margaret charted out the pattern, and then we had a bit of back-and-forth to customise it to my tastes.

I’m knitting this one with some of Graeme Bethune’s lovely gansey yarn (or, to use his trading name, Caithness Yarns). It’s very soft. I shouldn’t be surprised, but so far I’m using up about as much as I’d expect to use with Frangipani. White is a great colour for these intricate patterns, especially in winter; because not only does it show them up superbly, but also I can actually see what I’m knitting for a change! I can’t tell you what a difference it makes.

I actually started this way back before Christmas, just a row or two each night, as a break from the darker ganseys I was knitting, and because once it was established the lower body required next to no concentration. I timed it so that I’d start the yoke just as I finished the dark navy project, so alas my slacking days are over now we’ve got to the fiddly bits.

Yoke pattern – centre panel


8 comments to Wick Fergus Ferguson Revisited: Week 1 – 21 February

  • Dave

    Wow, last week you were knitting in navy and suddenly you have half a gansey. Have you filmed your fingers in motion?

    Just thinking out loud, do you suppose Mr Vader had such heavy breathing in order to prevent drips…

    I had always thought your dour scot would have been more Vercingetorix than Poirot.

    • Gordon

      Dave, I knit at the speed of a tarantula crawling up someone’s forearm, if the tarantula is past it’s prime and already tired after running a half-marathon. My secret is, I started this one many months ago. It’s just taken a row or two a night, but as the Welsh proverb has it, many drops wear away the stone…

  • Rebecca

    You have achieved incredible definition in the previous navy sweater and now this one.
    I’ve been resisting changing to Size 2mm knitting needles from Size 2 1/4mm, but perhaps I need to reevaluate – my gauge is 8 stitches per inch and 11 rows per inch (Frangipani yarn). The pattern definition seems to be less noticeable after washing and blocking.
    Then again – just had eye surgery and can see a whole lot better than I could before!!
    Jaunty pied wagtail – love her? him.

  • Gordon

    Hi Rebecca, I knit with 2.25mm needles and average about 8 stitches per inch. Winter is the wrong time to look for definition – go outside with a strong sun above you and it’s amazing how much detail is shown up.

    In my case, you have to consider what a skilled photographer Margaret is, using light cleverly to make the pattern stand out!

  • =Tamar

    Clever timing! and a handsome gansey coming along rapidly now.

    Vader’s breathing was machine-controlled, so he probably couldn’t sneeze.

    Have you read Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries? Some interesting possibilities for ol’ Darth in there.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I like to think that if he felt a sneeze coming on, a robotic thumb and finger would pop out and pinch the tip of his nose till the moment passed!

      No, haven’t come across those – will make a note, thanks!

  • Rebecca

    Oh relief, I’m not switching to a smaller size needle – it takes me a long while to finish a
    sweater on 2.25mm. Margaret is a skilled photographer – I enjoy her artistic
    photographs of surroundings in northern Scotland.

    • Gordon

      I quite agree Rebecca – life is short enough as it is, without dropping to a needle size that requires a jeweller’s magnifying glass to use! And yes, you can tell she’s skilled – she even manages to make Wick look aesthetically appealing!

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