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Wick II: 8 February

2W150208a There’s an inlet just south of Wick on the old maps with the wonderful name of Dog’s Haven. Legend has it the place got its name when a ship was wrecked there ages back—all the crew were lost, but the dog alone survived.

I was trying to think what this reminded me of, and then it struck me—when Dracula reached England he came by ship, to Whitby. In the story the ship ran aground, all the crew were dead, the captain’s body lashed to the helm, and a great dog (i.e., Dracula) sprang ashore and disappeared towards the ruined abbey.

2W150208bAnd just for a moment I wondered… Suppose there had been another vampire on a second vessel, one who was hard of hearing, and who’d misheard Whitby as Wick. I like to imagine this vampire—Eric, I think his name was—stranded, wandering disconsolately round Caithness, doing odd jobs, unable to fly south to rejoin Dracula in bat form because of the winds.

2W150208eHe tried his hand at the fishing but kept getting sacked when they found he could only kill herring one at a time (and then they came back to life, vampire herring escaping the barrels by dead of night to go and bite other fish). In the end he married a local girl and settled down, but perished on the morning after his wedding when she innocently flung open the curtains to let the sun in and he crumbled to dust.

Meanwhile on the gansey I’ve started the yoke pattern and the gussets, always a red-letter day. (I’ll post the pattern next week when I’m a little further on, so you can compare the theory with the practice.)


Half the shawl. Photographing the whole thing means getting the stepladder out.

I had to re-do a couple of rows when I discovered I’d miscalculated the number of stitches I needed (something that happens more often than my biographers let on). But here’s the strange thing: I only found out in the second pattern row. Somehow I’d made two separate mistakes on the first row, each of which made it seem as though I’d the requisite number of stitches by the half-row end, so I never noticed.

Margaret’s been busy too, finishing another of her lacy-shawly things, the kind of garment I imagine an elf superhero would wear for a cape while keeping the branches of Lothlorien safe for decent people to walk (“down these mean twigs an elf must go…”).



Julie’s been in touch to ask what I do with my leftover gansey yarn stash (mittens, scarves, etc.). I’ve mentioned before that I’m saving mine up till I have enough to knit a multi-coloured gansey, the kind of thing a clown fisherman might wear. I know Judit’s knitted some dashing cellphone covers; but what do you use yours for? Any examples, ideas, please let us know.

Finally this week, Jan and Russ of Frangipani have sent me samples of two new colours in their already impressive range, both shades of grey, viz. pewter and cinder. Grey is my favourite colour (it matches my hair), and I’m particularly taken with the lighter shade, pewter: it has the same sort of sheen I associate with some of the old Scots ganseys, and I think I know just the pattern for it…

18 comments to Wick II: 8 February

  • James

    I’m in love with that shawl! Is it a published pattern?

  • Lynne

    The shawl is stunning, Margaret – I’ll bet it’s your own pattern! Have you incorporated bead work with your shawls before?
    I saw those two new colors on the Frangipani website last week and the grays are great. I also noticed they’ve discontinued the Deep Ocean color that I worked with a few years ago, it must not have been a popular color for them.

    • Hello Lynne, we have definitely not discontinued ‘Ocean Deep’ in fact the last of only two shades we have ever discontinued was ‘sand’ and that was in 1998. Ocean Deep is one of our most popular shades and I would love to know why you thought we had discontinued it!!

      • Lynne

        Oh, sorry, Russell, I must have scanned through those colors too quickly and just missed seeing the Deep Ocean, and I’m glad it’s still popular because I never tired of working with it and it worked up beautifully. I live in Canada and have ordered three times from you when I visit my cousin in Elton, Peterborough. Thanks so much for your reply – and thanks to you, too, Gordon, I just got back from Washington State and haven’t read the blog for a bit. Lots of catching up to do!

  • Margaret Reid

    Hi James & Lynne – firstly, thank you very much!
    Secondly, it is a published pattern, and not my own. It’s ‘Mystic Desire’ from Anna Dalvi’s Mystic Shawls.

    I have used beads in my knitting before, but in this case, they’re ‘nupps’: knit 7 loose stitches into one stitch, and on the return row knit them all together.

  • Jane

    The stitch definition on your yarn is lovely, I look forward to hearing about the pattern! Very nice. I too like the pewter colour yarn, it is a good mid grey, a shade so difficult to find and so useful.

    Margaret’s shawl is absolutely beautiful. I very much like the change of shade where the yarn is concentrated in the little bobbly bits, if I might call them so.

    I am still dipping into Gladys Thompson’s book, I find the stories as fascinating as the patterns! I too have often wondered what becomes of the works that don’t fit in the books. Rae Compton wrote quite a number of books so I suppose there were other homes for them. Gladys Thompson seems to have only produced the one, albeit a wonderful one. I would love to find out more! An initial trawl of the Internet has proved fruitless, but I am still thinking.

    Meanwhile, weather in South grim, dull nearly all the time, dry and cold with a horrible little north-easterly breeze. The big chunks of ice don’t seem to melt. All the wild animal life looks a bit sorry for itself. It can only get better! Restorative peanuts are called for.

  • Love your ganseys and the stories attached to them as they “grow”.
    Oh, Margaret…your shawl is a work of lace and nupps! Beautiful!

  • Peter In Alice Springs

    Margaret, your shawl is stunning & you have done a beautiful job 😀 Those nupps are to die for.

    And I love both greys. I am on a Frozen Sheep yarn diet, but once I have a tub empty, I might need to reward myself with one of those greys. Yummo

  • Sue C

    Margaret, your shawl is a real beauty.
    I would be drooling over the Frangipani yarn but I made the mistake of letting the other-half see my Ravelry page and he has put me on a yarn diet!

  • Jane

    In my search for Gladys Thompson, I have just come upon an excerpt on Google Books from Michael Pearson’s new edition of his wonderful book. I am sure you are aware that the recommendations on the back cover include your words. How lovely and how very pleasing! Like being in the presence of knitting celebrity, I mean yourself as well as Michael Pearson!! Oh my word.

  • Uses for “left overs” – socks with random stripes, likewise fingerless mitts [take about 50 Gm], a wonderful shawl or wrap [see Deby Lake on Ravelry – Mitered Square Wrap & Shawl]. The ideas are endless.

  • Margaret – I am a shawl person, lost count of how many I’ve done, but love your lace. I’m actually a fan of faroese shawls, as I wear them a lot because they are so easy to wear when going about the dreaded task of housework – I’d much rather be knitting, and being in my seventies, I resent spending time doing things I don’t like!

  • Gordon

    Hi everyone, and thanks for the kind comments. Margaret’s shawl is rather amazing, isn’t it? When it was washed it resembled a giant squid dredged up from the deep ocean hanging from a crane, or something Moby Dick would use to blow his nose, but when it was blocked it transformed into this translucent gossamer dragonfly wing. (Galadriel’s smalls, basically, the little minx.)

    Jane, I was approached to provide a few words for the black cover of Michael’s book, and was of course honoured, like one of the minor disciples if they were reprinting the Old Testament and Ezekiel, say, had asked him for an endorsement.

    By an amazing coincidence, if I’d ever had a son I was going to name him Restorative Peanut Reid. Perhaps on reflection it’s just as well.

  • Marilyn

    Dear Margaret- I’m gasping with admiration, what a lovely accomplishment. Kudos to you!
    Hey Gordon, I use leftover bits to knit toys because it amuses me, others find them quite too fussy for words. Pippa’s first comment is quite useful, also, in a last ditch effort to waste not, you can use wool to stuff toys and cushions.
    That pewter grey is very nice.
    Good knitting!

  • Annie

    Continued beautiful work here, thanks, thanks for sharing.

    Never one for tiny needles or thin wool, nevertheless, Gordon, I ordered wool from Frangipani for a first gansey. Much practice to get an even, packed-to-the-inch-gauge, only to realize perhaps I need a bit of advice.

    Would you happen to know of a support group for American gansey knitters? Or a pity party group? Maybe someone who would knit it but I could tell my Canadian son-in-law it was my idea?

    Perhaps you could tell me how long a person needs to practice to have the welt even, not growing in width after the Channel Island cast-on? Even after using a larger needle for the cast-on?

    You sure do knit fast.

    • Judit M. / Finland

      Hello Annie,
      I think you should write to Beth Brown-Reinsel who is a knitting instructor and author of the book:
      Knitting ganseys. This is her home page: http://www.knittingtraditions.com/ She has several knitting courses around the US and may give you practical advice.
      And this is her address : Beth Brown-Reinsel
      Knitting Traditions
      PO Box 124
      Putney, VT 05346

      Best regards: Judit

  • Gordon

    Hello all, sorry, it’s been a very hectic week—normal service hopefully resumed next week. I see while we’ve had a lovely week of almost spring-like sunshine and light winds, the East Coast of America is drowning in snow (sorry). Hope you all stay warm and safe.

    Annie, I can’t even find a gansey self-help group in Caithness—I’m afraid you’re your own there! But it does get easier over time, honest.

    My current gansey project started very ropily—after the Lopi jumper my gauge was all over the place and the welt has holes in it a medium-sized bumblebee could fly through; but gradually I’ve zeroed in on a decent gauge, and it’s got less uneven over time. In my experience the washing and blocking process covers a multitude of (knitting) sins, and once it’s blocked and dried, and snugly adorning one’s hips, it looks fine. this is especially true because once you start the pattern no one has eyes for any other part of the garment!

  • TorchyBlane

    Hi Annie–here’s another American knitter working on her first gansey. You are not alone. Do you know about the Ravelry group? Many expert gansey knitters from all over the world there. They answer questions so clearly and quickly, and offer encouragement so generously. I’m traveling to Maryland the end of April for Beth Brown-Reinsel’s gansey workshop at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. See ya there?

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