Saturday, July 07, 2007

Oh Help, I'm In Love With Ganseys!

I should have had more sense. I bought Beth Brown Reinsel's book at Woolfest because I'd heard good things about it. I had not, however, bargained on falling totally, completely and utterly in love with ganseys after reading just the first couple of pages.

I mean, it's not as if I'm a total stranger to the style. I've known ganseys most of my life. Even knitted a few in my time. And some of you may remember an unfinished struggle with Alice Starmore's terrifying Eriskay (perhaps that adjective should be applied to Starmore rather than her design?), which has yet to be resolved - sometime.

Yet reading Reinsel's persuasive seductive text, you get totally carried away with the whole idea. Suddenly life doesn't seem worthwhile without at least one gansey on the needles. The thought of living another year without conquering shoulder straps, underarm gussets, lapover welts is unbearable. You have to make one and now.
And this is where I love this woman. She offers instant gratification (now that I come to think about it, she clearly knew the effect her purple prose would have on fanatical knitters, didn't she?) As by far the best method of playing yourself into the intricacies of gansey-making, she advises that you start immediately on -

A mini gansey!

A tiny, adorable, miniscule supremo design, only a couple of inches wide. Isn't that just sweet? I'm off to make it immediately. I have some fine Cheviot in natural that will be just right. And she is absolutely spot on of course. By the time you've completed this gansey for a lucky leprechaun, a fortunate goblin, a pouting pixie, you'll have tried and worked out all the usual pitfalls. Great idea and what a good way to learn! Peg, didn't you do something small and fun at your Quadra Island retreat like this? I'm totally hooked on the tempting sample notion. Let's have more.
Oi! you cry. How about all those other projects? Do we detect a case of start-itis? No you do not. In the first place (and Dez will, I know, bear me out here), creating miniature sample ganseys comes under swatching, and swatching, as everyone is aware, is Good Practice, To Be Encouraged (see Kashmir Knitting Summit, Report VII(c), Subsection iii, footnote x). In the second place, I'm using a yarn that has been sitting neglected on the shelf for years - so Reducing Stash, see? And in the third place, none of you trust me in the first place!

And - AND -

I've finished the smock-thingy, so there!

Back view -

- and demonstration that it does indeed work well with armfuls of dogs.

I'm pretty pleased with this one. I'll make it again, maybe a tad wider for comfort. Looks like a sweater, you say? Well, yes, except for the really nice wide neck which allows it to be pulled on and off easily. The pockets too are not all that usual on sweaters, although not unknown. But those of you who suggest that the split sides and the yoke patterning are distinctly reminiscent of ganseys - well, you might have a point. Started this before I saw the Reinsel book though, so perhaps I was wandering in that direction all the time and never knew. Oh how have I lived thus far without gansey-going? How can I sit here typing when a baby gansey is crying out to be born? Soon, soon. Who needs to cook meals, do the ironing, write articles, when baby ganseys are crying? Not me.

Now - how is the Summer of Socks going in the Celtic Memory camp? Not very fast is the answer, I'm afraid. One Pomatomus is complete, the other started. Tried to take a picture of the finished one - it really is rather nice - but the camera is refusing to play.
(I should like to express gratitude at this point, nevertheless, to the Ghost of The Lord Crewe Arms who woke me up nice and early that morning last week so I could work on the sock for several hours.)

The gorgeous Knitivity Watermelon lace socks are going very slowly. Very slowly indeed.

I am trying to accept the fact that I probably started with too fine a needle and should go up a size. I don't want to know this. But I'll have to face it soon. I just hope this scrumptious yarn will forgive me for treating it so badly if I have to frog and start again. But it probably will. It's classy through and through. But at the moment it is taking millions of rows to advance even an eighth of an inch. You can't even see progress. At this rate it will be the next millenium before I finish them. The frogpond it will have to be. I'll weep tears over it, but I'll treat the yarn very gently and promise it to be more careful on the next attempt.

And then there are the Birch Leaf socks, Nancy Bush's lovely design from A Gathering of Lace.

These are progressing rather gradually too. Part of the problem there is that it's a new chart, I'm unfamiliar with the pattern as yet, and it's tiny. I need to take the chart somewhere to get it enlarged to a point where it can be read without recourse to a powerful microscope. That, or chart it out myself on graph paper. Whatever. They're beautiful socks, inspired by some Estonian designs Nancy Bush saw, and I'm working them with homespun yarn that I bought in the Finnish birch woods, so they ought to be perfect. Once I get happy with the chart.

Some of you observed that I was very restrained at Woolfest. Well, you didn't actually see those cones of merino-tencel I got from Andy Hammand, did you? Let me tell you, getting my strangely bulky cabin bag past the eagle-eyed staff at the airport wasn't easy! But Laurie M, when you observed that you saw dyeing adventures ahead, you were spot on! There have been lots of dyeing adventures chez Celtic Memory over the last few days. Pots boiling, microwaves humming, sinks full, dogs with cherry-coloured paws. The merino-tencel you will see in due course - after a basic dyeing, the skeins are now going to get little paintings of this and that to make them into masterpieces. But in the meantime -

here are some skeins of soft roving, dyed up for a Special Project. A project that may well involve FELTING. Yes, courage has returned and another attempt will be made. Not on the French Market Bag - the wounds are still a bit sensitive there - but on another rather nice project. I'll keep you posted on that one.
Now - baby gansey, baby gansey, I hear you calling me... I'm on my way!


Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

OOHHH baby ganseys:))
Swatching is always allowed Jo and if it just happens to make up into a finished garment then so be it.
Lovely to meet you at Woolfest, been hectic and sore since I came home but getting back to normal now.
When is the next meetup??

Angeluna said...

Help! The Irish lass is off on another tangent!!!!! OK, I should talk, right? Love the smock/thingie. Wonderful shape and color on you. And must have given great satisfaction to finish it so quickly and be done with it. Your design?

Anonymous said...

Your dyeing looks fabulous! And ganseys - happy sigh. I love the smock-thingy, and it looks just perfect. I had the great good fortune to take a class with Beth Brown Reinsel and we made that very baby gansey. Some of the construction details are absolutely brilliant. My poor copy of "Knitting Ganseys" is tattered and worn because every time I Kitchener, I pull out that book - it has actual photographs of the Kitchener stitch instead of paltry diagrams! I was embarrassed to bring my book to class for Beth to sign since it was really in used condition, but she was delighted that the book had been so well loved. I'm so looking forward to seeing your dyeing masterpieces and of course the baby gansey!May your book become as well worn as mine.

Anonymous said...

Your "smock-thingy" turned out really well Jo, and fits you so nicely. You always look like you are having such fun in your pictures.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Yes, Jo, we did knit 'baby' sweaters for Teddy Bears! I love the 'smocky' thing and can you be persuaded to part with the pattern? I love wearing a sweater like that in 'winter' (lets not hope it comes again for many a week) with a turtle neck!
That is a beautiful photo of you in your new gansey with that beautiful big smile. Did you hire a professional photographer? Smile!
Love the beautiful 'watermelon pink' yarn!

MmmYarn said...

I bought that book myself just last week after I took it out of the library several times. I agree, it's fantastic, and it makes me want to cast on that mini-sweater immediately, too. I had the good fortune to take a class from Beth in February at Stitches West. In class we made the Skra-Troje but she had the little gansey there on display, tempting us. I have not given in to the temptation yet, but seeing your post today makes me re-think my "at home" knitting for the next week or two. Perhaps hubby can make dinner tonight...
Your sweater looks great with and without armfuls of dogs. - Kirsten

rho said...

Love the smocky thing - you must come up with an official sounding name for it you know.

I finished my 4th of july socks and they are cool - well warm but cool -- and if I can find the blasted cables for the camera to hook up to the computer I will get pictures up.

Faren said...

The smock thing looks great on you. It looks so nice and comfortable too, that is a sweater I would love to wear!

Lynn said...

Woohoo! on the smock-thingie. Absolutely lovely, and it suits you.

KimK said...

I'll second (or third, or fourth) the smocky-thing approval! It looks like the perfect extra layer -- really nice work!

Dez Crawford said...

You do realize that you now need to write up the smock pattern, in a variety of sizes, and think of a proper Celtic name for your lovely smock ... it looks perfect for a walk in your magickal woods. Gougane Woods Smock? Blasket Island Smock?

Seriously, you could sell that pattern quite easily. It's lovely. I want to make one.

Yup, the elvin gansey definitely counts as a swatch. Not to mention as a gift for the tree sprite when you bring in your Christmas tree this year (you DO place a thimble of whiskey and a tiny gift for the tree sprite amongst the gifts on Christmas Eve, don't you?)

And isn't that a wonderful gansey book? I have long had a special addiction for ganseys. They are the perfect sweater.

I can't wait to see what you do with Ray's wool. His stuff is wonderful.

Very eager to see the next step in the dyeing process!

Lion's Paw said...

I just love the smocky-thingy sweater. Looks like something I could just live in all winter long. I agree you should write up the pattern.

Fiberjoy said...

Smock Pattern, Please! What a smashing smock/pullover, I want one. :-)
The little gansey is adorable.

You have been busy!

LaurieM said...

You sound like a mid-wife, the way you tend to your knits Jo.

I really like what you did with the smock thing. It suits you to a T and I'm sure you'll get a lot of love from it.

I knit my husband a large gauge gansey I designed myself and he wears it all winter long. It's a very practical garment and I've got plans to do him another one day, only at a smaller gauge.

Have fun, you creative witch, you! :-)

SueJ said...

What an interesting idea -bit like the class sock in 'Sensational Socks'. The finished project would look good framed in a deep frame -an knitting sampler.Like the smock thing!

Anonymous said...

Lovely smock-thingy, I wish I'd had something like that when we lived on a farm! Currently I need to layer while inside during winter, due to an anemic heater in the larger section of the apartment (i.e., everything but the bedrooms). A smock-thingy looks like just the thing.

And now I have to go look a prices on the gansey book. Oh, gee. What a horror. ;)

Ms. Knitingale said...

Smocky thing is really perfect on you...I'm jealous because I rarely fit things that perfectly, even though you'd think I'd know what I'm shaped like by now. Can't wait to see the baby gansey....and I hate to bring this up, but the Harry Potter knitting book has little tiny sweaters in it (in house colors, naturally) to knit and hang on your Christmas tree. I'm just saying....

Artis-Anne said...

Well I think we all love your 'smocky thing' and its far too lovely not to have a name :)
It looks great on you too

Anonymous said...

I bought the knitivity Watermelon yarn as well - love the colors - but notice that it isn't very tightly twisted. I'm concerned that it might need to be knitted very tightly to make durable socks. What sort of tension are you aiming for?

Love your smock!

Marianne said...

Love love the smock-thingie! Isn't that a wonderful feeling...designing, knitting it up and...finishing it! It looks great on you!

Tania said...

Love the smock thingy. Is there a pattern for it, or did you make it up as you went along?

I learned all about ganseys when I first started attending my knitting workshop. I made the sample and it's still up on my bulletin board. If you want to use it for a Teddy or a doll, leave one shoulder open and close with buttons, as the neck ends up too small to go over any head, real or stuffed.

pacalaga said...

Who has time for ironing ever?
Lovely smock, it looks very nice.
Can you switch needles at the bottom of the ribbing on that pinkish sock and not rip?
And finally, can your lovely photographer husband take a picture of your chart and blow it up on the computer to whatever size you'd like? Then you wouldn't have to go anywhere.
Enabling lazies everywhere,


Roggey said...

The smock thingy looks lovely, dearheart! Good job!

Oh, I do wish you had mentioned about getting that book earlier. The SnB I run is hosting workshop and Beth is our instructor. I'll be sure to send you plenty of photos!

Denise said...

My goodness, how busy you've been!

I adore the new sweater and it looks simply fantastic on you, both with and without the dog accessories!

Sorry to come to the party so late, I have fallen a bit behind on my blog reading.