I set the book aside for a little while yesterday, and spent a little time away from the narcoleptic glow of my computer screen. I realized that I was starting to get a little weird with so much working and tried to balance things out a little before I blew a mental gasket and ended up typing just pages and pages of “All work and no knitting makes Steph a dull girl”. I thought that was the creepiest moment in The Shining. When Jack Nicholson has been working on his book for months and months and months and Shelley Duval finally goes into his study and reads his manuscript and there is no manuscript, he’s just been typing that one sentence over and over for hundreds of pages, (His didn’t have knitting in it) and all of a sudden Shelley realizes that Jack isn’t really swimming in the deep end of the sanity pool anymore. In that movie it’s supposed to some kind of evil presence in the hotel that’s making him crazy and dangerous, but I think it was just that he was trying to write a book. Like I said, I started thinking about ol’ Jack and decided that maybe I’d have me a little knitting break and get the top of the gansey designed and started. I hauled out the reference books that I thought would have the best bets and started in.
and the book that is currently within arms reach at all times: Knitting Ganseys, by Beth Brown-Reinsel. (This is a great book. I’m completely in love with Beth Brown-Reinsel. There is not one question I’ve had that she’s not answered in this book. It’s only because I’ve got this that I feel like I can knit a gansey by the seat of my pants this way. The woman is brilliant. Last night I was trying to figure something out about the armhole and just when I thought I was going to give up because Joe wasn’t around to measure, I found a table of measurements in the book. Beth’s got my back.)
Since I am not your planning ahead kind of knitter, all I’d done until now was take Joe’s measurements and start knitting. I figured that I would make whatever I chose for the top simply fit when I got there. (There are about a thousand better ways to do that. I admit that.)
My process went like this.
1. Determine how many stitches I had to play with.
2. Find patterns that I liked.
3. Try to make the patterns fit with the stitches that I had.
4. Realize that they don’t fit and I’m a dumbass.
5. Try again.
This involves graph paper, maths and a great deal of time. In the end it took a little longer than I thought because I was really hung up on using only traditional gansey patterns, so all applicants had to be carefully screened. (Traditional choices include patterns based on knit/purl combinations and simple rope cables. Remember, Ganseys were built for speed, warmth and ease of knitting. Getting stupid complex cables going on was counter-productive.) Extra time was also added because I forgot for a moment that cables take up extra width. I like to increase a few stitches in the bottom of a cable to account for this, since I think it makes a nicer start and keeps the cable from pulling in too much in that spot and making the knitting seem oddly flared at the base of the cable. I’ll chart only four stitches for a six stitch cable, work the first row of the cable with four stitches, increase in the second row to six stitches, then cable on the third. Works nicely, though is a tad obsessive and can really mess up your charts.
In the end I came up with this pattern…
which I swear is totally enough to knit a gansey from. I know it looks dodgy, but nobody has to understand it but me. (I bet Beth Brown-Reinsel just lost it somewhere. You should see how well the sweaters are planned in her books. These scraps of scribbles I’m doing this from must make her nauseous. I hope she doesn’t find this blog.) I knit a “Definition ridge” another characteristic of a gansey. It’s a ridge of garter, purl, seed or moss stitch that divides the plain stockinette work from the fancier top.
and I started in on my pattern. I placed a marker for each different area of work so that I there would be any possibility at all that I could manage to keep it all straight, (this is a fools game) and I started the gussets at the same time.
The underarm gussets are probably the defining feature of the gansey. It’s a diamond shaped piece of knitting worked in as you go, with half being worked in the body and the other half worked into the arm. Imagine where you put deodorant in the morning. That’s the part of your sweater where the gusset goes. The gusset gives additional room for the arm to move without needing sweater that’s looser overall. That’s a good thing, since a tighter sweater is easier to work in and saves on knitting time and yarn. Ganseys are traditionally worn pretty tight with only about 2 inches of ease.
When I’ve knit around and around until the gussets are done (about 3 or 4 inches from now) I’ll put the gussets on threads to save for later and split the work into front and back to be knit flat. (I love knitting flat. I’m really looking forward to that part.)
For now, I’m going to go wish my buddy Sandy a Happy Birthday, and do the same for Joe’s Mum. (Only the best sort of people are born on this day apparently.) and throw myself back into the salt mines. While all work and no knitting might make Steph a dull girl, all knitting and no work will make Steph miss a book deadline.