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Wick V – Donald Murray 4: 19 December

It’s the week before Christmas, and I’ve been signed off from work till the new year. The infection has pretty much cleared up but I’m still not fully recovered from the stress-cum-overwork, so the advice is to rest up and come back refreshed for 2017.

Well, knitting is about as relaxing an occupation as I know, so that’s mostly what I’ve been doing—as you can see by the progress I’ve made over the last week. I won’t quite manage seven ganseys during the calendar year of 2016 but I won’t be far off it at this rate.

You can see the pattern more clearly now, what I think of as the distinctive Wick gansey: a wide central panel divided into two or three horizontal bands, and flanked by three or more narrower side panels, including zigzags and moss stitch.

Tonight’s sunset

I’m finding that using Wendy’s yarn has had an effect on my row and stitch gauge; so that I am knitting at 7.7 stitches to the inch instead of 8, and 11½ rows to the inch instead of 12.75. So it’s definitely going to be roomy (which should still be fine—I have broad shoulders, so that although my chest size is 42 inches, I’m most comfortable in jumpers with a 48-inch chest).

In parish notices, Elizabeth has sent me pictures of a vibrant Fair Isle tam she’s knitted as a gift, which offers a welcome splash of colour in what has been a pretty monochrome season. (I do love Fair Isle, and at times think of one day giving up ganseys when I retire and just switching codes, like Sherlock Holmes giving up detecting and deciding to keep bees.) Many congratulations to Elizabeth: finding one of those in your stocking would be even better than a chocolate orange.

Waves at Thurso

It doesn’t look as though we’ll get a white Christmas this year: so far December’s been dreary, grey, wet and mild. (As the old song says, “I’m dreaming of a Wick Christmas / When all the skies are dreary grey / And the weather’s boring / And the rain comes pouring / And the wind blows Santa’s sled astray…”) 

Evening light by the harbour

I think Christmas is still, for me, the most wonderful time of the year. There are a whole jumble of reasons for this, partly tied up with childhood memories and the strangeness of snow, the way it alters a landscape and makes it unfamiliar and unsafe; and partly because it is one of the few times of year when I can make the emotional, imaginative leap to something like religious belief.

This is best summed up for me by Vaughan Williams’ Christmas cantata Hodie. In it, he sets Thomas Hardy’s poem The Oxen to hushed, mystical, magical music. The poem is all about the old legend that at midnight on Christmas Eve all cattle, descendants of those at the original Nativity, would kneel in reverence in their stable. Well, the narrator believed this when he was a child; but he’s older now. And yet, he says, if someone should say to him at midnight on Christmas Eve, “Come, see the oxen kneel”, he would still go, “hoping it might be so.”

And that is Christmas for me. For one night and day of the year, in spite of everything—and let’s be honest, 2016 can jolly well go to gosh-darned heck—I too would go. Hoping it might be so.

Happy Christmas, everyone.

14 comments to Wick V – Donald Murray 4: 19 December

  • Nicki Miller

    Wishing you and Margaret a very Happy Christmas! Thank you, Gordon, for yet another year of gansey love, information, humor, and for me, a peek into Scotland from afar.

    Yes, Christmas is a magical time, and I think it’s because of all the lights, candles, decorations and general good will that people muster up in spite of what else is going on in their lives. My childhood Christmases were happy, and we usually had a lot of snow, which added such a sparkle to everything else.


  • Julie

    You haven’t taken Donald Murray out behind the barn, but could it be that each stitch reduces your stress level a little? Imagine how well you will feel when you’ve darned in the final end. Looking lovely.
    Have a happy Christmas, Gordon and Margaret. 🎄
    Victoria, BC, Canada

  • Lois

    My, my, that’s an impressive pattern on the gansey. Lovely work, Gordon.

    I’m working on last minute gifts – double knit mittens, traditional Canadian Maritime provinces items. The patterns have been passed down by word of mouth over the generations and only recently written down. I’m doing them in a traditional red and white in Jacob’s Ladder pattern, one that my grandmother often used. I was lucky enough to get a pair of mittens from her every Christmas, made with wool from her own sheep. Sadly unappreciated by a teenager at the time. The last pair she made me is now one of my treasures.

    The other gift is a man’s scarf for a very special friend. It’s charcoal grey in a baby llama and silk blend. And with the bitter cold lately, I think he will need it.

    Wishing you and Margaret a very Happy Christmas, and may your needles never grow cold.

  • Sharon in Surrey

    A Great pattern Gordon!! So nice to see something very different again!!! And I think you’ll have this one finished enough by the 31rst that we can call it a 2016 sweater!!! A Merry Christmas to you & yours while I dig out the drive once again this year. Just another unusual snow fall again before Christmas – I think I have 13″ in the yard – & we’re in the deep freeze as well. Usually, the Wet Coast is wet, windy, above freezing, moldy, boggy, grey & dull in the winter except for those wild, wonderful days when the sun comes out & we throw on our shorts. Mostly we wear heavy sweaters & jeans.

  • Lynne

    Wonderful job putting that pattern together Margaret and Gordon, it’s very pleasing to the eye and the white just makes those stitches define all the more. Thanks, again, for a wonderful year of sharing your talents and instructions that, in turn, inspires us all to test our own designing and knitting skills.
    Wishes to you and all the readers for a Joyous Christmas season and a fruitful and healthy New Year.

  • That’s a wonderful gansey Gordon! It really brings me a few steps closer to the decision of kntting one for my man. He is some size bigger than you so I’ve hesitating.
    A Merry X-mas and A Happy New Knitting Year to you! And thanks for the wonderful pictures of Scotland.

  • Lorraine

    Gordon- Happy Christmas to you and Margaret. I am intrigued by the panels in this gansey. It is very different.

    Looking forward to seeing what gansies 2017 has in store.

  • Karen Fretwell

    Gordon – Merry Christmas to you, with thanks for all the extremely useful information about Gansey’s ( I have now made 2!) and am very tempted to make another one in the New Year.

    I particularly like the pattern in the one you are knitting at the moment, and someone says earlier, the white shows up the pattern well.

    I thoroughly enjoy reading your weekly posts, and like the variety of topics, hope 2017 is a more healthier one for you, Happy New Year, Karen

  • Annie

    I can only repeat the appreciation and best wishes, so I won’t, but you might enjoy this comment:

    Your sky is close to what we call in New Mexico a Sangre de Cristo sky, often seen in the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rockies, meaning blood of Christ.

    Somehow this can make one look twice at such a sky, so watch your step!

  • =Tamar

    Happy Christmas! That is a very suitable pattern for the time, too, with all those trees.

  • Gordon

    Hello everyone, and thanks for all the comments, kind words and good wishes.

    Tell you what, let’s do it all again next year!

    Happy Christmas from Gordon and Margaret

  • Jane

    Happy Christmas to you and Margaret, and thank you so much for all the knitting and the chat this year, it has been wonderful. This gansey is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Take care!

  • Judit M./Finland

    Many thanks Gordon and Margaret for this blog !

    May this holiday season be so special and the magic of Christmas fill your hearts all year long.

  • Gordon

    Hello again. As ever, Charles Dickens said it best:

    “[Scrooge] had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!

    And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”

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