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Wick III – Fergus Ferguson: 8 May

3W160509-1It was Margaret’s turn to have a birthday last week, so we packed up our troubles (that’s the great thing about psychological trauma, it’s portable) and went down to Inverness for the weekend: Inverness being our closest big town not in Scandinavia.


Cleistocactus straussii

We went for a stroll round the botanical gardens, where we saw some of the strangest plants from across the globe. Strangest of all—and a little disturbing—was the cactus house, which seemed to have be hosting the advance guard for an alien invasion of earth. (Indeed, I set about explaining this to an attendant, but from her glassy-eyed stare as I developed my thesis over the course of an hour I can only suppose that they’d already gotten to her.)

Then we took a scenic drive all the way round Loch Ness. It’s some 23 miles long, not as big in terms of surface water as Loch Lomond but deeper, and—fun fact ahead—contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. It’s most famous of course for the elusive monster; despite keeping a close lookout, alas, we didn’t see any sign of it (in person, that is: not that I’m entirely convinced that the portraits we saw on numerous tea towels in Fort Augustus were actually drawn from life…)

3W160507-1-2Most of the tourist traffic goes down the main road along the north side of the loch, whereas the south road meanders into pine woods and the stunningly beautiful uplands and is far less busy. We stopped the car at one point to stand upon the pinnacle of creation, all the kingdoms of the world at our feet, so that if the devil had appeared to tempt us with lordship of them I shouldn’t have been altogether surprised (luckily he’s otherwise engaged just now meddling with US politics). It’s every bit as lovely as the Scottish Tourist Board would have you believe: as the poet Burns so memorably said, my heart’s in the Highlands… (Unfortunately it’s also suffering from fatty degeneration after all that tablet; but that’s a small price to pay, I feel.)


Just a minute – I thought he said he wasn’t going to do this again…

Wrenching our gaze from the choppy waters of the loch for a moment, we notice that I’ve almost finished the front of the gansey. All that remains to do to complete the body is to divide for the shoulders, knit and join them, and then do the collar. If I apply myself I should get that done this week.

Finally this week, parish notices: no less than two ganseys to share with you, each of them very impressive. First of all, Jenny has completed a version of Gladys Thompson’s Hebridean gansey: the body is I believe pretty much as Gladys describes, but Jenny’s been creative with the welt and sleeves—it’s a stunner. Secondly Julie’s designed her own jacket using gansey techniques but her own patterns, with a steeked zip front fastening. These two garments show I think the vitality of the gansey tradition: the one shows how much life there is still in traditional patterns, the other how versatile the gansey can be as a garment. Congratulations to both!

13 comments to Wick III – Fergus Ferguson: 8 May

  • At the first glimpse, I thought the cactii were yarn grafiti!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lillemor, when cacti learn to knit then I know I’m in trouble! Apparently unwary visitors think the spines are soft, go to stroke them and then get a flesh wound that stings for days…

      • Nancy

        Indeed. Glochids are forever. Or until you grow them out.
        Happy returns, Margaret, and beautiful work, Jenny and Julie!
        Thank you, Gordon, for years of happy gansey-reading. Carry on

        • Gordon

          Hello Nancy, and thank you! (Of course, now i have “Glochids are forever” sung by Shirley Bassey like a James Bond theme running through my head…

          “Glochids are forever,
          They are lying in wait to prick me,
          They will lacerate and sting me,
          Just one jab on the thumb,
          And the ambulance comes
          to get me…”)

  • Linda Abraham

    Jenny’s and Julie’s ganseys are stunning! Thank you for including them along with the updates of your beautiful work!

    • Gordon

      Hello Linda, well, we at Gansey Nation are a broad church; and it’s great to see so many different approaches, isn’t it?

  • Jenny

    Thank you for featuring Julie’s ganseys and mine. Your website has been invaluable to me in completing this gansey. You inspired me to think “outside the box” and make up my own traditional gansey. I’ll be going through your library of finished ganseys to whet my appetite for my next one. Lastly, Happy Birthday to Margaret.
    Victoria BC

    • Gordon

      You’re very welcome, Jenny. It’s great that so many people are taking the tradition forward – when I started knitting ganseys 30 years I felt like i was the only person on the planet, sole survivor in a post-gansey-apocolypse world!

      And Margaret’s only just started on her birthday cake…

  • Jane

    Super work, Gordon, really good. I do like how the flowers on the cactus echo the damson of the gansey! And birthday congratulations to Margaret!

    • Gordon

      Hello Jane, my next project will probably be knitting cactus-cosies—like tea cosies only with built-in irrigation…

      This has been quite a challenging gansey for me, partly trying to replicate Fergus’s gansey, which is hard, but also i think because my last few projects have been fairly repetitive patterns, ones that follow a logical sequence; but here I have to check the pattern chart several times per row. It’s good for, me, no doubt, but might go some way to explaining the migraines!

  • Julie

    Do I spy a second gansey in progress concurrently? Is there no justice for the rest of us?

    • Gordon

      Hi Julie, (*hangs head in shame, looks up from under lowered brow, giggles in an embarrassed yet curiously winning manner*) yes, it is indeed another gansey. You see, Fergus’s gansey is pretty intricate, and i have to concentrate—so I can’t knit while, say, watching tv, as I occasionally do. So I’ve started this one, just do a row or two a night, as a sort of light relief. (I found an old gansey I knit years ago, ridiculously big—what was i thinking?—so Margaret ripped it out, washed and de-kinked the yarn, and i’m reusing it now. The body is plain, the pattern will be—well, we’ll see. All will be revealed in about a month’s time. Or possibly not!)

  • Lois

    Aha! The secret is out, looking forward to the unveiling.

    Still don’t have my gansey started, just having too much fun playing around with beaded lace shawls. Not traditional shawls, but odd shaped “thingies” that can be draped around the neck in various avantgarde ways.

    I’m using lace weight long gradient dyed yarn which really emphasizes the shapes and very simple traditional eyelet patterns alternating with plain stocking stitch and a bit of ribbing here and there, with the whole thing knit on the bias to form a “sorta kinda” crescent shape. Beads along the edges to make it drape well.

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