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To another room came they,

Where children were in poor array,

And everyone sate picking wool,

The finest from the coarse to cull…’

[Visit to Winchcombe’s 16thC factory, quoted in ‘The Spinner’s Workshop’ by John Mercer].

My dad was a Leeds man. Leeds men of his generation – even those not connected to the wool industry – knew a bit about wool.  He’d just feel a suit for a few seconds, and announce with disgust:

“Shoddy!”

Meaning it was made from a mixture of virgin wool and waste recycled woollen rags.  His father owned a dairy – nothing to do with wool!

Leeds people (‘Loiners’) could do that, spot shoddy on sight. Touch a coat and know instantly if it was wool or something masquerading as.

Here’s grandma, dad and grandad in a Bridlington walking shot on one of their rare days off from the business:

Dad eating chips, Bridlington, 1930s

Over the 27 years or so I’ve been spinning and dyeing, I didn’t realise it til recently, but I’ve probably developed a similar instinctive knowledge when it comes to my sense of touch and wool. It comes with time and practice.  Also you have to reach the point where you’re confident in your own abilities!

Here’s how I sort a fleece.

I learned this from books years ago, in the days before YouTube, etc and when books that covered wool sorting for handspinners, couldn’t afford to have many, or colour, illustrations.  I sued to sort a fleece with one book or another open at the woolsorting chapter, propped open nearby.

I forget when I was suddenly just wool-sorting, without reference to anything but touch and sight.

My grandma, Lillie Boothman, with lamb

Above:  My grandma, Lillie, with a lamb she met at a relative’s farm.  She adored this sheep so much she kept a lock of its wool. This would be 1926.  I still have it upstairs!

This little series of pictures, this is what I wish I’d had when I started.  Ignore my ramblings and words and just look at the pics if that helps – I’m no expert, I have done this for many years but as I say, only learned from books and over time, it became instinctive. Now I see people ask qs on Ravelry and other places and realise this might be useful for some…

Yesterday was a suitably hot and sunny day – ideal for wool sorting/washing as you can do the whole process outside.

And here is the Jacobs fleece I got at the weekend.  Jacobs  are wildly unpredictable fleeces and honestly, rarely brilliant.  Unless you get it from prizewinners like those we photographed months back,  when I blogged about Masham Fair.  As a result I wouldn’t usually choose Jacobs anymore unless I wanted the colour variation.  But I got given this so…

Owt for nowt as my dad and grandad would have said.

First, despite the grass being dry, I spread an old duvet cover on the lawn.  It’s bad enough teasng the farmer’s vegetal matter out of some fleeces – so I’m not about to add my lawn clippings!

Yes you’re not meant to keep fleece in polythene.  But yes, I do.  Bad girl. It’s OK if you poke a few holes in it and don’t leave it in there too long. Once it’s washed it can go into old pillowcases, though.

As It Came To Me

[Click the Thumbnails if you want really close up gory detail!]

The hardest part of sorting can be unrolling the fleece.  Whenever I have messed this stage up – or the shearer rolled it badly – it has always ended in tears.  If you can try and unroll your fleece to keep it as intact as possible, the shape of it will help you, and give you clues as to what’s where in terms of wool grades.

You want the cut side (the side facing you before you start to unroll), against the ground and the tips facing you. Eyeball these pics as I unroll and you’ll see what I mean…

Fully Rolled Up Fleece

Sometimes (usually in fact), they tie the whole woolly bundle round with the neck wool to secure it.  In this case, it was secured without a long ‘tie’ of neck wool, but if it is rolled this way be very careful undoing the ‘tie’ as some of that can be your best wool of all!

Here’s the roll partially undone. Notice you can differentiate from the sheared (underside) wool and the tips.  This is another clue to help orientate you, whilst unrolling the fleece.

Partially Unrolled Fleece

The fleece should be rolled up so the belly wool is either side, and wool from the sheep’s back will be in the middle of the whole fleece, once its rolled out.   It will be obvious fairly soon which end is neck and which is rump.  The neck wool is usually a long piece.  Follow the smell for the rear end!

Sheep are filthy things so you will probably find poo the entire length of the belly, both sides.

Unrolled Fleece

Because this is a bi-colour fleece, I now have a decision to make.  I can sort for colour, or  can sort for quality.  Or… I can sort for both!

Looking at it, this sheep’s markings meant most of its grey wool was close to the neck (best quality wool), but looking at it closely, it was of different qualities,  but there is no really poor wool up at the neck end, where it’s grey.

I have no project in mind yet – if I had, then the decision would be made for me.  Want to make a shaded jumper like this from Jacobs? You have to sort for colour depth first, staple (wool’s) quality second.

With this particular sheep, there was a strong defined line between most of the grey and most of the white:

Where the two colours join

So I decided to separate the largest ‘blob’ of grey from the rest, then just sort the rest for its quality.

I can blend all the varying qualities grey seeing as none are spectacularly fine staple, and none terribly coarse.  When you separate off the wool, notice staples (clumps of wool) grow in lines or rows almost.  Use this to your advantage and separate gently between the ‘rows’, when you can.

Separating For Colour

If you have a self coloured fleece though you will never have to think about this!  All you’re doing then, is sorting into 4 or so broad qualities. For a first attempt I’d try a sort of medium-ish length stapled wool (Say, Cheviot – which also has the advantage of being all one colour).

Now, woolsorters of old had enchanting names for different qualities of wool to be found within a single fleece. ‘Britch’ and ‘”skirtings” and “back”  for example.  But over the years I have just dropped all that (much as I love the idea of it!) and gone with 1, 2, 3, and 4.  4 is the stuff I’m going to ‘skirt’ off and not even bother with.  1 is the prime, finest, best quality stuff.

Usually you find the majority of a fleece will be 2.  Up around the shoulders and neck, you might get 1.  But look carefully as it may be elsewhere, especially on the flanks.

Sorting wool for quality seems daunting but a lot of it is common sense.  Where bits of the sheep rub together – well that’s like putting your Malabrigo Laceweight in a tumble dryer. It’ll felt! Be coarse. Plus sheep are nothing if they’re not

(a) hell bent on mindless self destruction and

(b) poo factories.

It’s the (b) we’re worried about here.

All round the edges, on both sides you are likely to find poo. You want to skirt that off.  Gently use your hands to pull apart the fibres, taking away all the contaminated fleece like so:

Skirting off the contaminated bits all round the edges

Sometimes if the sheep isn’t so filthy, you may have to lose a lot less to the skirting.

Years ago I was so frugal with fleece, I’d wash and keep the skirtings too – but they take SOOOOO much washing that these days I tend to do soak in a bucket of water for a day or so, then tip the liquid ‘fertiliser’ over my roses…

I use the rubbishy wool as mulch on the garden.

I had to go down the bottom garden and look for my old bucket, first.  And on my travels, found this gent sat in the kids’ old sandpit:

Mr Toad Unfazed By The Wool-sort

If you’re more frugal than me you can wash and re-wash til you get the poo out, then sort it into your main categories.

Liquid Plant Feed!

I am now going to sort the remaining fleece into 3 categories.

1 = prime wool

2 = OK wool

3 = poorest quality

As a rough guideline, coarse wool has a different ‘handle’. It may be kempy (hairy), feel coarse – the individual wool staples will be ‘fatter’ and feel a bit more like the sort of ‘limp, lifeless’ hair Cheryl Cole tells us not to have in the L’Oreal ads:

Kempy, coarse wool

This is what 3 Wool looks like – coarse, and not so crimpy (wavy) . It’s worth taking a closer look at wool from all 3 types –  pull out a lock, snap between your fingers.  If there’s a break, the wool may appear sound but be weak and snap when you pull.  Due to the sheep’s illnesses, or being out of condition at any point prior to shearing.  Also look at the tips. (Opposite end to shorn end). If they look brittle and fragile – you may be wise to cut them off – if you can sacrifice that length of staple.  But it could also be a sign of an out of condition sheep or wool that will never be fantastic whatever you do (silk purse, sow’s ear etc etc).

Hogget (first clip from year old sheep) fleeces are a bit more reliable quality wise as for the first shearing the sheep will produce the best fleece it is ever likely to, and less prone to be coarse or have breaks. Kempy wool isn’t great either as it’s scratchy and the little hairs may work free after spinning.  Not only potentially itchy but they may abrade the finer fibres and after a few washes your pretty skein of handspun will look unbalanced and…weird.

Looking at this fleece, only Category 1 wool was unkempy. It truly isn’t a great fleece. But it will do.

Meanwhile, Helen the 3 legged cat (Or ‘Tripod Of Evil’ as we call her), loving the stench of poo-ey wool in extreme heat, started making a bed (Predictably using some of the better fleece):

Helen Sunbathes

I find it easiest to spot the ‘worst’ wool first and sort it as sometimes 2 and 1 are harder to differentiate frome achother but often the 3 Quality is very obvious – so get that off, then you can concentrate!  3 may be useable if blended with Category 2 wool.  Or you could use it alone for a specific purpose.  In the Dales, they’d sort wool into ‘leggings’ and ‘footings’ – using the coarser stuff for the feet.  Again, a lot of your decisions later on will depend on final use.

Eyeball the fleece closely and start to gently pull apart at the points where you think the 3 Quality wool adjoins the better stuff. Again, notice the natural lines the staples have and work with it, where you can.

Again, common sense helps – if you think about it, the ridge of the sheep’s back is the most exposed to the elements.  This will often be amongst the coarsest wool.  Its flanks might not be so bad.

In fact the crimp in wool is another clue as to quality.  Where it looks flatter and not so wavy- it may feel (and be) coarser – most obviously on the left of this image here:

3 Wool

Of course, don’t forget this is a decidely below average Jacob’s fleece – and different breeds have different amounts of crimp.  For info on more types of wool than you can shake a stick at, check out Nola and Jane Fournier’s In Sheep’s Clothing. It’s a great reference book and I use it constantly when buying or aving just impulse bought, raw wool…

Now,  2 is your average wool – neither great nor terrible.  In this case, it looked like this, see ? More crimp than the 3, finer, and a slightly shorter staple:

2 Wool

And finally, the 1 wool – some of which was mixed in with the grey I had already separated off.  As usual, all the best wool on the animal came from around its neck and shoulders.  This wool was finer, and more  crimpy.

As a picture is more use to you than words here, compare this close up of the 1 wool to the kempy 3 wool close-up :

Quality 3 - Kempy + Uncrimpy = Poor Wool!

Quality 1

Finally, I separated my 3 piles of wool into 3 bags, each with a label.

This fleece is unusual in that it had the tiniest amount of  Quality 1 wool I have ever seen – ever on any fleece. Ever.  Jacob’s is rarely fantastic anyway.  Unless you go to the Masham Fair or a similar show and buy it from a prizewinning wool sheep that looks like this, of course!

I don’t even know what to do with it yet but – given the sunny day, was ideal fleece drying weather so I scoured the grey and the 1 Quality straight away.

Scouring - sort of

‘Scouring’ is the traditional term for a thorough wash. Basically hot water + detergent dissolves the grease, sheepy sweat (“suint”) and dirt. ‘Washing’ meant just quickly dipping the sheep before shearing or the fleece after, in running water.

I’ll talk about scouring some other time.

But here was the wool drying on the mesh of my bunnies’ run:

Drying

I try to do all my fleece washing and drying in the summer/early autumn if I can as it’s quicker to dry but also if you leave fleece in the sun for a few hours, it kills some ‘baddies’ like leptospirosis.   Not a risk with this fleece as it was only sheared the other day and came straight to me in that bin bag – but you can’t account for the good or bad storage habits of others.

Wool was tradtionally dried and bleached in full sun.  In 19thC Haworth, they dried clothes over the gravestones – quite a common sight in rural areas, too.  Vicars would moan about it.  At earlier dates, the wool factors would also hang woven cloth for sale over church walls – often simply the biggest available ‘viewing space’.  This led to the building of Piece Halls like the one in Halifax, where pieces of cloth could be displayed to best advantage, for buyers to select.

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The Adderback glove pattern is now out!  Yarn Forward 26:

Also an article on the history of Yorkshire Dales knitting.  ‘Yarn Forward’ have done us proud with the lovely layout and choice of images to go with the article.

After the article was written and the pattern finished,  the magazine wanted more pictures so we went up to Wensleydale and Malhamdale for the day.

We visited the Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop.

Interior Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop.

A very kind Raveller gave us permission to knock on her farm door, whilst she was at work, and ask her bemused family to let us photo the sheep, then lambing in the barn, not far from Hawes.

This was last month – in the scramble to get everything together for the article, I didn’t post on my blog.

Whilst we were there, we saw a lamb being born:

One minute old!

And as a handspinner I was particularly taken by this lovely Texel:

Texel

And here are some lambs ‘gambolling’. Cute but probably requires different shutter speed:

Lambs gambolling near Hawes

On the same day I went into the Dales Countryside Museum at Hawes, and was given some photos of artefacts for the article and our upcoming book, hopefully. I wish I’d had these sharp, museum quality images when first designing the  Adderbacks – although given the constraints of translating an old pattern into something contemporary and more accessible, I’m not sure if I’d have made too many different design decisions.  But see how refined the 19thC lightning pattern gloves are:

Photo Credit: Belinda May

As you can see, these do not have the adders’ back (lightning) pattern the whole way round but a ‘Midge and Fly’ on the palms. One pair appeared to be silk, too (They ‘read’ as wool in photos). The knitting is considerably finer than my pattern and the lightning itself not solid.

The real refinement (and something I found impossible to replicate going up in tension and needle size) is the way the solid vertical lines between the lightning patterns end precisely at the intersections between fingers – something I couldn’t copy without going down in yarn grist and needle size – and I decided modern day knitters wouldn’t ‘wear’ that idea!

This is the trouble: it’s a fine line between dumbing down patterns for perfectly capable contemporary knitters, thereby patronising them – and making it accessible enough to catch the interest of people, and be an instant gratification knit that even new knitters might attempt.  Knitting a glove is a great introduction to knitting in the round and I was conscious of that, too.  I’m not sure whether I hit that right or not.

I will definitely come back and work out the pattern for a precise copy of some of the Hawes gloves.  Why? Because I can!  And because maybe the 19thC re-enactors out there might find it useful!

My other big design decision was going with DK not 4 ply yarn.  (I used yarn from the Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop, near Leyburn – spun from the Wensleydales in the fields round the shop!)  When I figure out a pattern of a repro pair, will probably handspin but the Wensleydale DK was good for purpose as it was not only locally sourced but had all the qualities the original yarns had – as lustrous as silk, and worsted spun so very good for showing off the subtleties of two colour knitting.

I was lucky enough to see two pairs of the Hawes gloves at a recent exhibition at the Castle Museum in York, at Easter – actually out of display cases, so it was fascinating to see them close up.  They are fine, beautiful and practical pieces of knitting.  What I like best though is the way they are so personal to someone’s history – with dates and intials knit in to the deep wrist cuffs.

At York, the Hawes folk brought down this pair:

From the Dales Countryside Museum. Credit: Belinda May

Colours faded but look carefully, you can just make out the pattern.  I wonder whether they were dyed in the 1860s at the very start of chemical dyeing, with unstable dyes – or earlier than that, a fading vegetal dye? Natural dyes are reliable and fast as a rule.

Even with the colour gone, you can see this is a refined piece of knitting.

We rounded off the day by going  deeper into the Dales, to Malhamdale where Nat got the beautiful watery sunset shot, featured in the ‘Yarn Forward’ article. A walk down some sunken lanes and,  to end our sheepy day, a shepherd and her flock going back to the barn:

Malhamdale

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Here follows a chart in PDF form with the alphabet for the ‘Adderback’ gloves which you can see back in one of the January posts..

7 row alphabet caps chart

Here’s some fun I’ve been having with a lightning pattern (right hand side)  from a pair of gloves in the Dales Countryside Museum, in Hawes.

I call my version ‘Adderbacks’ as they remind me of the zig-zag on adders.

Yorkshire Dales Gloves at the Hawes Museum

I’ve made a slightly less demanding version – hopefully without compromising the various design elements of t’original too much.

Hopefully, the pattern will be in an upcoming edition of my favourite UK based knitting magazine – I’ll link (and boast) soon!  And as we couldn’t fit the charts for an entire 7 stitch X 7 row alphabet onto the article in a print version, we decided to share them here.

It is quite a challenge, making a recognisable alphabet in an area of only 49 stitches. I did use the embroiderer’s alphabet charts in ‘A Schole-House For The Needle’,  pub. by Richard Shorleyker in 1632, available from The Mulberry Dyer as inspiration but as I had even less space for rendering the alphabet than the 17thC book had… it was only inspiration.  I like the lovely, clean 17thC letter forms.  Although I was forced to keep it simple I did manage a few serifs.

This is a brilliant facsimilie of an embroidery handbook from 1632.  There is an incredible story behind it. Let me share.   In the 1940s, a schoolboy, John Mason, found a tatty looking ‘book’ at a jumble sale in Shropshire.  Years later, the V & A identified it as a book they held a copy of and that was also in the Bodleian Library.  The edition found by the little boy was actually more complete than the other two extant books.  The Masons have published a facsimilie.  Some of the patterns in Shorelyker can be found on surviving silk embroidered costume of the 17thC.  It seems it was in a lot of homes – a bit like a 17thC Mrs Beeton.

Shorelyker included both a lower case and an upper case alphabet for embroiderers.  These can easily be turned into alphabet charts for knitters.

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Based on some of the gloves in the Dales Countryside Museum, at Hawes.

Adderback glove - still on the 'Signature' needles!

Prototype version

They are knit in Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop’s DK – any two colours with strong contrast would do the trick.  Will upload the pattern and charts here after it’s published.

Gansey research is coming on well – lots of museums and archives now contacted, feelers been put out, images starting to come in and I’ll be going to visit them all, camera and notebook in hand!  I’ll be sharing it all in book form (‘Citing!), hopefully down the year!

The gloves came in handy during this weather:

Slightly Snowy

The Signature DPNs were a Yule present, and I can safely report back to yous they are, indeed, the ‘Ferrari of knitting needles’ (according to the mighty Yarn Harlot).  A far cry from the original Yorkshire Dales knitters’ needles – described by Marie Hartley in ”The Old Handknitters of the Dales’:

“… They bought lengths of curved wire from the village shop, and sharpened the ends on a stone. Sometimes, they might sharpen them on the jambs of the fireplace and leave permanent dents in the stone-work….”

[Old Hand-Knitters of The Dales, Marie Hartley & Joan Ingilby, Dalesmen Books, 1991]

Signatures In Action

I couldn’t bear to bend my Signatures – have seen the Dales needles in the Museum and they curve like bows!  But then I don’t bother with a knitting sheath unless knitting at living history events.

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Yesterday we made our annual pilgrimage to Masham in the Yorkshire Dales.  A whole town turned over to sheep – for a whole weekend! Sheep steeplechasing, dancing sheep, fleece sales…. what’s not to love!

And just like last year, the sun shone down for us. Here you can see the sheep pens covering the market square:

And Morris Men at rest:

Ripon Morris Men

Ripon Morris Men

And at work:

We saw geese being herded (one escaped):

Geese herding

Geese herding

But this is what I came for. On the hoof…

…And on the fleece sale stall:

Add to that, dancing sheep, a sheep steeplechase, (you can BET on!), craft stalls, plenty of fleece for sale…. you get a grand day out.

I came home with my booty – technically my birthday present from earlier in the week so no guilt involved –  some handmade soap, and a black Shetland fleece with incredibly fine, crimpy fibre, and a white Ryeland shearling fleece enough to make a lifetime’s supply of Monmouth caps for the re-enactors in my life.

We rounded off the day at Leyburn and then Aysgarth.

Yore Mills, Aysgarth

Yore Mills, Aysgarth

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Sunk Island

I had to keep this quiet, til it ‘came out’, so – at last – I can put it up here!   I’m reliably informed it is in the current ‘Yarn Forward’ (No 18).  Although I won’t see it for myself til I get down the shops tomorrow or Weds.

For some time, on Ravelry this gansey was pictureless (although we toyed with pixellating a photo!) and called ‘The Mysterious Gansey of Mystery’.  A v.2 came out, and that became ‘The Even More Mysterious Gansey of Mystery’.  Now both can be given their real name, Sunk Island.

Sunk Island Vs. 1 and 2

Sunk Island Vs. 1 and 2

As you see, the difference is in the arms.  V1 I favoured my usual band of pattern at elbow, bi-sected by the coninuous rope run down from neck.  This latetr is more a Scottish feature than a Yorkshire one, but is my favourite way of finishing a shoulder. I do a cast on provisionally, and work down.  I took it to it’s logical destination, this time, continuing even through the wrist ribbing.  But…  in V.1 I was unhappy with the pattern – it seemed fussy and lacked unity. So…  v.2. Sometimes simpler is better.

V.1 uses Winghams gansey 5 ply; v2 Frangipani.

I named it Sunk Island after the place on the Humber Estuary, close by where one  line of ancestors came from. Sunk Island was reclaimed from the sea, it seems, in the 19thC. I felt I reclaimed this piece of my own family history, so it was apt.  There are also already a plethora of ‘Patrington’ ganseys out there anyway!  A couple of gansey books open with a Patrington, but few stay to linger around the inland ganseys, heading straight out to sea to play with the coastal ones.

My grt, grt, grt grt grandfather was William Richardson, who was a Keyingham born (Humber Estuary) fisherman. Sometime in the 1840s he moved further inland to Wistow, and remained a fisherman on the River Ouse.  There have been some huge salmon hauls in the past, at the right time of year.  I have speculated that the weird way I knit may well come from my Humber estuary ancestors.

In the 1851 Census, then in Ottringham, William gave Keyingham as his birthplace.  At his marriage in Wistow in 1828, he said he was ‘of Patrington’.  I am still trying to figure out whether he was the same William Richardson baptised at nearby Hedon in 1794, as this would roughly tally with his reported age on the censuses. Yet I can’t pin him down for sure. Yet.

William’s wife was Ann Ablett, who lived in Ottringham.  William and Ann had two illegitimate daughters, one of whom, Rose, born in 1825, was my grt grt grt grandmother.    Rose Ann (as she seems to have called herself) married farmer Joseph Golton in Wistow in 1848.  And so my direct line passes back to farmers not fishermen.

The Humber Star is the most famous of the inland gansey patterns.  It’s big and bold but it has its challenges in terms of design. The trasitional pattern (waves) was a bit of serendipity as I have used it before on sleeves but never on the body of a gansey. It was very characteristic of inland ganseys though and the unintentional effect is of stars over waves – in this case, the waves of the tidal river.

V.1

V.1

Take the pattern repeats, for example. You can’t break them. You couldn’t have half a star. And it’s a big old repeat, a fair few rows.  I looked at old photos etc and decided to go for the (apparently) standard 2 repeats. One would be too shallow. Three too deep.  But then, sizing it up and down from the original 28″ version… For the largest size, I couldn’t add a repeat. For a tiny size, I only had the option of a shorter section of plain, beneath. At the same time, I wanted to keep the transitional pattern (zig zags), between the plain section and the stars as this seems to me to be a key design element specifically in the inland ganseys.

I fast started to realise it would have been far easier to work with an allover vertical pattern!  Trouble with the inland ones is – they appear to be more often than not, an horizontal banded pattern  and plain for the first third.

Knitting one lone Humber star gansey would have presented no problems. The difficulty came in having to size it up and down, bearing in mind that everything had to stay proportional in every other direction – so, in a bigger version, the pattern would start higher up the body, but the armhole depth might be elsewhere…  Etc ad infinitum! I ahd to take standardised measurements for the different sizes, and alter each size accordingly, whilst still having this constant depth of pattern at the top. Easier said than done!  With vertical pattern panels, you can just add a pattern panel on either side, make sure you have everything centred – and away you go. This proved a bit more of a puzzle and I keep everything crossed, I cracked it.  The sizes as shown are 28″ and 30″.  The smaller was v.1.

I decided to make the pattern adaptable with a section of moss either side. And used the double rope … which I have never done before – Aaron over at ‘A Fisherman Knits’ recommended I separate then with a couple of purl stitches as I wasn’t sure whether to go with purls or moss st.  Good advice, as it worked. I wanted the double ropes to ‘pop’ out, and frame the more figurative stars, almost like a picture frame but to have nothing noticeable going on between the 2 ropes.

I looked at the Patrington patterns in Gladys Thompson’s classic gansey book, also Michael Pearson’s Traditional Knitting.  I don’t understand why this is out of print, as it is a book treasured by those lucky enough to have it. It is the only book with a section on the inland ganseys. I took it as my starting point.

But I also incorporated elements of design not found in Yorkshire ganseys so much – most obviously, the shoulder knitted down sideways. I decided not to mirror ropes, but to stick with the tradition of knitting them all the same orientation. And I upped the needle size from my preferred 2.5mm to a 2.75mm which would not please the purists but I felt made the pattern more accessible. I stuck with the traditional 2 X 2 rib, and the entire construction techniques were the usual gansey suspects – knit in the round, seam stitches, udnerarm gussets, initials knitted in.  So no compromise and anyone who makes this as a ‘first’ gansey will have had a go at every single technique they might conceivably need.

With a dearth of info re. the inland ganseys, I decided to at least set them in the context of the coastal – to define what they wre not as well as what they were. Research-wise, I had already had a head start, visiting the gansey exhibition at Robin Hood’s Bay last year, held in a small church with sheep grazing between the gravestones – unusual in that the vicar got bored of it and locked it up at some point in the mid 19thC, leaving it like a little time capsule, unlocked in the 20thC. Amongst the ganseys, we were distracted by these ghostly garlands, like something from Hardy’s ‘Tess of the d’Urbrvilles’.  All the vegetal dyed colours faded except for one spectacular blue ribbon, that had to be dyed with woad or indigo.  Reminded me of the woad dyed mitten I once lost under a metre deep Colorado snow drift. Found it in the spring, itnact and the colour unaffected.  Down the week I will put up some of our old gansey photos, to show their only slightly faded blue glory.

Ribbons, from May garland of mid 19thC left in RHB church

Ribbons, from May garland of mid 19thC left in RHB church

We added to this Whitby Museum which has only the odd Sutcliffe photo – and several ganseys on display and the rather more useful Filey Museum, where I studied the beautiful largely unpublished I think, photos of Walter Fisher who deserves to be up there with Sutcliffe as a photographer:

Photo by Walter Fisher, Filey Museum

Photo by Walter Fisher, Filey Museum

And, my personal favourite:

Walter Fisher Colelction , Filey Museum

Walter Fisher Collection , Filey Museum

I began to sense the stark austerity of the inland ganseys – and maybe a different influence at work. And I thought of John Wesley, around the 1790s, making his voyage up the Ouse, preaching along the way at riversides, in farmhouses, etc, and wondered if there isn’t some of that influence, as the ganseys were working their way from the coast inland, around the same date, in all probability.

I was given permission by the lovely and generous Polperro Press,  to use some of the earlier known (1850) gansey images – the Polperro photos of Lewis Harding.  Although a world away from Yorkshire, all ganseys share some common characteristics and I felt very privileged to be allowed to share some of Lewis Harding’s famous images:

Panel of Lewis Hardings Photos, Polperro, 1850

Panel of Lewis Harding's Photos, Polperro, 1850

Sunk Island came together quickly as a design, but we had spent months looking at old coastal ganseys – and maybe something coalesced, slowly, during all that time without me consciously realising it.  I like to think my Humber Estuary fisherman’s wife, Ann Ablett Richardson, brought a Humber Star gansey or two along the Ouse, when she came here.  And the pattern lay waiting for me, somehow, to find it again.

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Bunnies!

Here’s my new boys, Albert and Terry. First Albert in all his fluffy glory:

Albert Says Shut Up, Im watching Coronation Street.

Albert Says "Shut Up, I'm watching 'Coronation Street'."

And then Terry. Terry is 10 weeks old and has a leg missing (rather careless of him). Not sure if mum bit it off when grooming him or he was born that way. Vet says even with an X Ray we might never know but as Terry is putting on weight and happy and active – not to worry.


Terry Thinks He Is Set Off Rather Well By This Red Cushion

The boys have been here nearly a week now, and seem to be settling in just fine.

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks with the current Viscount on holiday from work. Only 2 non rainy days. One we spent at Legoland. Oh joy.  But the kids liked it.

We saw a lot of this:

Smaug wakes up after 100 year sleep - in theme park

Smaug wakes up after 100 year sleep - in theme park

And not a little of this:

One of Them Camp Robots Whose Names I Forget

One of Them Camp Robots Whose Names I Forget

And, through the veritable sea of wasps attracted to x-thousand little kids clutching free-refill-all-day fizzy drinks, I think we caught a glimpse of this:

Forget Where This Was Meant To Be

Forget Where This Was Meant To Be

Although you can put your dream of a world in miniature capitavating in every detail, in your pipe and smoke it because the boys were less impressed by Lego’s ability to mimic Canary Wharf and The London Eyem, and deeply more gripped by:

Well They Do Size Size Dont Matter

Well They Do Size Size Don't Matter

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