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Wick V – Donald Murray 6: 2 January

Well, here we are in 2017, so let me begin by wishing everyone a very happy New Year; and a special welcome to any new readers who found a do-it-yourself gansey kit in their Christmas stockings only to realise that batteries were not included… Here’s to another year of bunting and frolic, though not necessarily in that order.

It’s been another pretty good year for this blog: we’re currently averaging over 100 visits per day to the site, and overall last year we had over 30,000 visits. So if you thought you were the only one, nursing in solitude your secret shame, be comforted: you are not alone. (Our name is Legion, for we have many cones of 5-ply.)

I knit more ganseys in 2016 than ever before—five complete and two half-ganseys (one finished off, the other—this one—begun). It’s quite impressive, of course, but it’s a record I don’t plan to match anytime soon. As I’ve been knitting to help manage stress at work, the sensible plan is to have rather less of both.

I think of the current project as alchemy in wool: bad stuff came in, and by the magic of knit and purl stitches it was transformed into something positive, all the poison drawn out. I think there’s a good story to be written of all the thoughts and feelings that have been knitted into a gansey, all the hopes and dreams and aspirations that went into each stitch and pattern; for nobody knits something like a gansey with anything other than good intent. It’s like an arrow of hope loosed into the future.

This particular arrow is almost finished—I reckon another fortnight will see it done (I’ll slow down now as it’s back to work this week). As I’ve mentioned before, the switch to Wendy yarn has distorted my stitch and row gauges somewhat, so that instead of knitting a large / extra large gansey, I’ve got an extra-extra large on my hands. It’ll come in handy if I ever put on another three or four stone in weight, or if my knees get cold…

Because it’s a bit larger, the armholes are slightly deeper than usual, 9.5 inches per side. On the other hand, the stitch gauge is only 7.7 stitches per inch, so I’ve picked up 147 stitches in the round. I’m decreasing down the sleeve at a rate of 2 stitches every 5th row.

And so we bid farewell to 2016, and raise a glass of soluble aspirin to 2017, in the hope that it really has to be an improvement. Still, let’s look on the bright side: it probably all depends on how you look at things. To quote Hamlet, “there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. And things worked out pretty well for him, I believe…

What? Oh.

8 comments to Wick V – Donald Murray 6: 2 January

  • Annie

    Gordon, I always enjoy and appreciate you writing and I want to respond to your “…thoughts and feelings that have been knitted into a gansey…”

    Yes, my first gansey efforts now, for a son-in-law, and the hopes…

    But one time many years ago now, I started a sweater for my then husband and finally started becoming aware of the stabbing and anger that was going into each stitch. Needless to say, that item was never finished but the marriage eventually was.

    A pleasure to read about your thoughts and to recognize the change in mine – long may we knit in pleasure, eh?

    • Gordon

      Hi Annie,

      Well, yes, I guess spending over 100 hours on a gansey for someone would definitely focus the mind on how you felt about that person! (In place of the phrase, “I’d take a bullet for you” you could have, “I’d knit a gansey for you”…)

      Of course, there’s a whole other thread it’s probably best not to get into just now, The Ganseys of Revenge, taking inspiration from the shirt stained with the poisoned blood of the centaur Nessus which Hercules’ wife gave him to wear, which killed him. Not so easy these days, when centaurs are rather hard to come by, though…

  • Lynne

    Happy New Year Gordon and Margaret – I hope it’s a healthier one for you, I love all the knitting when you’re ill but I also love the photos of your excursions when you’re feeling well! This gansey is another one of my favorites, I know you say it’s a Wick pattern but it looks so Hebridean and I find those patterns so fascinating. I still can’t figure out the stitch you did in that first middle diamond, the top and bottom segments, is it four purl stitches?

    • Gordon

      Hello, Lynne, and thank you. You can see what I mean when I say the Wick patterns are a sort of missing link between the “Scottish fleet” patterns and the Hebridean ones. They’re not quite as intricate as the Hebridean designs, but there’s a definite resemblance there, no doubt explained by the fact that so many Hebridean fishermen and gutters came to Wick to follow the herring each year. My current mission is to try to bring some of these wonderful designs to life, for the first time in decades.

      The motif in the top and bottom segments of the lower centre diamond are indeed 4 purl stitches in a cross, with a plain knit stitch in the centre of the cross. It’s not easy to make out, but this is our best guess from the original photo.

  • Jane

    Happy New Year to you both, and here is to no colds all round! This gansey is a really lovely piece of knitting, and the way the pattern stands out is very satisfying. It will be wonderful when blocked! Speaking for myself regarding gauge, such issues just happen, all yarns handle differently, I would just see how it turns out! Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, and season’s greetings to you too! I too look forward to seeing it blocked, though I fear it will be about a size Extra Large for a Polar Bear! But we live and learn. I shall just have to roll it up from the bottom like they did in the old photos, start smoking and wearing my cap at a jaunty angle and I’ll look right at home!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Hi there Gordon, I hope the New Year finds you feeling better at last. This gansey is beautiful – too bad it will be too big for you. Maybe you’ll just have to wear an extra layer under it or use it as a display in the Museum until it finds a home.

    • Gordon

      Hello Sharon, thank you—so far so good.

      My latest plan to make the gansey fit is just to not worry about the length, and deal with the width by becoming very fat. Luckily, after Christmas this is less of a problem than it may sound…

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