Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reelin' Me in a Gansey

I'm reelin' me in a gansey! "Reeling" you ask? Why yes, because reeling in is what you do to fish after you've hooked them and fish because the guys that did the reeling in the UK were the ones who wore Ganseys. Gansey Sweaters (Jumpers) that is. And I'm getting quite an education participating in Liz Lovick's Gansey Workshop on the EZasPi Forum. The above scan is of my second class project, a pillow comprised of stitch patterns used in Gansey sweaters. I am using the authentic, from the UK, spun from pure new wool, 5ply Frangipani Yarn and 3.25mm needles for my pillow. Here's what I've learned thus far:

1. Black dots on the pattern are the bumps on the right/front/public side of the knitting. The bumps are made using purl stitches--but only if you are knitting on the front side. You have to make a knit stitch on the back side to get the bumps to show up in the right place on the right side. Got it? Oh, and you have to be adept at reading from right-to-left and from left-to-right because a pillow is knit flat and you don't want your bumps to end up on the wrong half/side of the pillow. Now I'm sure you've got it!

2. Frangipani yarn is spun differently from most yarns used over here "across the pond". One is "woolen" and the other "worsted" spun. Don't ask me which. It's very tight and *very* twisty. Like tatting cotton tight and twisty. So you have to pull out long lengths of yarn from the ball in order to give the fiber space to twist up on itself and then chill out again before you wrap it around your needles and knit those little bumps. In tatting when the thread is too twisty you just drop your shuttle and let it untwist itself by spinning around in the air. Trying to do this with knitting is not so easy. Hanging on to yarn up near the ball while letting a metal needle with a point and some fabric hanging from it spin in front of you is, well, potentially dangerous. At least when it's going on midnight and I'm in bed with the dog it's dangerous. I decided to leave this untwisting technique to my tatting. You just gotta learn to love the twist in the yarn and somehow, once it's knitted up, everything looks just fine.

3. Stitch markers are your friend. I generally avoid stitch markers as they are more of an annoyance than a help in my lace knitting. In Gansey knitting they are your friend. They help you keep the different stitch patterns in their proper place. And sometimes, in the plain sections, they allow you to just knit across to the next marker without counting like a crazy woman. This is a good thing. That is unless you think you're in a plain section when you really aren't. For that problem see #1 about the bumps.

4. If you are a blue blood with sensitive fingers, do not use Frangipani yarn. It is rough and scratchy. Not icky scratchy. Just scratchy in a rustic kind of way. But then it doesn't take much for this I-don't-have-a-clue-about-fleece-and-spinning-and-wool-except-that-
I-can-go-to-my-LYS-and-buy-something-all-ready-to-knit city slicker girl. While I am hopeful that a shampoo and conditioning treatment will help soften things a bit, I know this is not a fiber I want next to my skin no matter how cold it is outside. I will not knit a sweater from Frangipani. Oh, and a good hand lotion treatment before knitting sessions is helpful :-)

5. Do not decide to cast-on and start knitting a pillow at 11:00PM. You will grab the right yarn, the right needles, cast-on the right number of stitches, and start knitting the wrong pillow pattern. I really intended to knit the one with the anchors on it. You see I'm doing this doctoral dissertation on HOPE and the anchor is one of the symbols linked to HOPE and so I thought it would be timely to knit the pillow with the hearts (love or charity) and the anchors (HOPE) as a part of my adventure in learning. What I learned is to go to bed and turn off the lights and cast-on the next day when I'm awake and lucid.

6. It's a good thing I purchased 2 balls of Frangipani from Pat at the Yarn Barn so I have enough yarn to knit both pillows. Oh, and I also learned that the "Sea Spray" is a perfect shade of aqua blue and the "Crushed Raspberry" is a little dark for my taste. I'm glad I chose to buys 2 balls instead of 1 cone. Hmmm, maybe I should have tried the Herring Girls Pink. Next pillow, next one.
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