Sunday, June 14, 2015

Brough Bay Knit in Public Day

Caithness weather sent us into the cozy arms of the lighthouse store in Brough Bay, where our merry band of knitters talked and stitched and enjoyed a visit from gansey man ( with a dozen hand knit ganseys to inspire us!

Those not in the know thought World Wide Knit in Public Day was a wind up--for American readers, that means a joke. But according to the official accounting of the WWKIPers, there were 882 events on the day in 56 countries. Thus, we were e pluribus unum, which is a fancy way of saying we were one among many. And the only event of its kind in all of Caithness!

It was--as always, when a group oif knitters get together and blether and knit-- a good time. And a catalyst for good will.

Even non knitters joined in the fun--photographer, coffee maker, hostess in absentia. Now if only we could figure out how to get knitting needles into the seal's flippers...

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Brough Bay Gansey Squares Pattern

We'll need more squares than we'll make on the day, so even if you can't come and play with us, Saturday June 13th at Brough Bay, here's the basic pattern for the gansey square, which I adapted from Wool Shed's pattern for the Herring Girl Wrap. The first page of the pattern is available free on Ravelry; the second page, which contains he gansey motif charts are available for purchase only, so I'll encourage you to purchase the pattern to get those charts (Tree of Life, Starfish, diamond, and double diamond and anchor) and to explore gansey patterns specific to the number of stitches in our basic square.

Brough Bay Gansey Square pattern

(Adapted from Herring Girl wrap pattern by Wool Shed available on Ravelry)

Squares can be knit individually or in a column one after the other with a row of purl stitches between each square (this ensures you begin next square on the right side)

Using DK wool in the colours of shingle beach (see photo above) and 4mm needle,

BASIC Square
CO 23 stitches
Rows 1, 2, 3 K1, P1, K1

Rows 4—30 begin and end with K1, P1, K1

Rows 31, 32, 33 repeat the K1, P1, K1 as in the first 3 rows.

For BEGINNERS: Rows 4-30 do plain knitting (Remember to start and end each row with the K1, P1, K1)

Other simple variations include mixing garter stitch and plain knitting or doing half of square in garter and other half in plain knitting.

There are other sources of information for ganseys and patterns including local ones available on line. Any pattern that fits within basic square 26 sts x 33 rows is most welcome. Follow the progress of squares on the Brough Bay blog (

Silly Name for a Serious Bit of History

I've set up a Knit in Public event at Brough Bay for June 13th, the tenth anniversary of World Wide Knit in Public day (wwkipday). Taking your knitting needles and knitting in public hardly sounds revolutionary, especially for those of us known to have our needles at hand and pull them out during meetings or at lunch, but there is a serious intent behind it as well.

First, it is to honour women's work which is often invisible or unrecorded because it was done in the home or consumed or overlooked. Knitting was not just a luxury for folks up here--it was a necessity.  Women (and some men, too) knit for their own use and to make money to support their families. That's why I've picked gansey squares as a project. It gives us a hands on way to remember the fishermen's sweaters that men at Brough Bay would have worn.

Secondly, it gives folks who have grown up in a consumer economy a valuable you can do it yourself lesson: one stitch, one square may not transform a life, but it plants a seed of an idea--doing things with your hands is  good for you.  The thought that goes into designing, adapting,  or following a pattern involves some complex thinking skills.  Not hard, anyone can do it, that is the beauty of it. 

There are experts now that tell us doing something different with each of our hands is a great brain builder.  You don't often get to wear a successful story problem, but the same skills are used in knitting that you use to solve the problems that annoyed me so desperately in school. I never cared whether Train A arrived before Train B, but I could have been persuaded to noodle through a knit pattern. 

So for a little bit of fun and history and revolution, come along to Brough Bay Saturday June 13th. Beginners are welcome. We'll have extra needles and wool, so all you need is your curiosity.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Pancakes and a Power Drill

The sun was shining and two friends were coming by, so I expected good things to happen, but even my optimistic expectations were exceeded with a frabjous day. Pancakes--in the American way of thinking-- pancakes are Sunday morning and maple syrup with pancakes hot off the grill. Over here you can buy them in the store in packets ready made and only a few folks know about maple syrup. (As you may have noted in previous posts, though we have the north and the cold, we're a bit shy on trees.) So it was a great treat when my friend said as we poured cuppa coffee for us all, 'I'll make us some pancakes'--and she did! Just like that it was Sunday morning in America--I compromised and left the maple syrup in the cupboard and slathered mine in raspberry jam--but they were hot and fluffy and golden wonderfulness.

Armed with a meal worthy of lumberjacks, my friend with her book on live willow furniture and I  went out  to get some willow to make a chair that we would then plant. She worked saw and secateurs and drill while I worked in garden--there are always weeds! I took the opportunity to take some of the seedlings that have been languishing in their wee pots and get them into a raised bed in a sheltered spot.

While we pottered outside, my pancake-making friend was inside taming the chaos.

It was a great day--I have the chair that will hopefully grow--yes the 4 legs of the chair are planted back into the ground--how cool is that? And both the chair and the pancakes reminded me that I sometimes fail even to begin a project because I think it is too hard. With my friend's simpler recipe for pancakes and my drill-wielding friend's admonition to get over my fear of power tools, just perhaps I'll be a little less backward.