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My Gansey; the knit that nearly broke me.

I’m not sure I’ve shared this here before. It’s the Sennen Cove gansey from the book Cornish Guernseys & Knit-frocks by Mary Wright. I started it last year on my way down to Cornwall on holiday and it’s been a loooong knit.

I’ve wanted to knit a gansey for ages but it seemed particularly timely to start it when I did because we lost my mum last year and it’s through her I get my Cornishness. My ancestors lived at Vellandreath; the men fished out of Sennen Cove for generations, and, amongst much else, including raising squads of children, the women would have earned money by knitting gansies.

Mine has been languishing at the bottom of my wip basket, awaiting its second sleeve (second sleeve syndrome, like second sock syndrome, is definitely a thing, right?), but, I realised with mild panic last week, that it isn’t long until we will are down in Sennen Cove again and I’d planned to wear my gansey on any bad weather days, to property put it through its paces. So I’ve had to get a wiggle on.

Knitting this has given me such a huge amount of respect for my ancestors. Those women were tough! Never before have I felt I might not be able to finish a piece of knitting. I don’t mean that I was bored and might give it up. But, the actual knitting was so physically demanding, I didn’t think I could do it. My poor hands have really suffered. It’s knitted on 2.25mm needles and I haven’t been able to find any that could take the weight of the garment and not wear through my finger tip, including the traditional steel needles. There have been callouses galore, blood, and a good deal of swearing. I now need to wrap a plaster around the top of my index finger on my left hand before I even think about picking up the needles, or else, I haven’t done 20 stitches before my finger tip has a painful split in it.

The knitting has also made my hands ache. I’ve never suffered from sore hands, no matter how long I’ve knit. And there have been occasional weeks, where pretty much all I’ve done is knit. But now I understand what it’s like to get sore hands when you knit. And I’m over it.

Anyhow, like I said. Respect. Heaps and heaps of it.

So, I’m about half way down the second sleeve now and I’m really motoring. There are quite a lot of ends to deal with and I doubt I’ll have time to soak and block it. It’s so dense, I’m not sure it will dry out if I were to block it the way I normally do – pinned onto a towel laid on my bedroom carpet. I’m thinking I need one of those sweater blockers you see used for Shetland knits but given I’m unlikely to ever knit another gansey, that’s quite an indulgence.

So blocking aside, with luck it will be finished before we go on holiday. I look forward to sharing pics of me modelling it in front of fishing boats, in due course!

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Unravel 2019

A week from today, I will be showing my yarn, for the first time, at Unravel, at The Maltings in Farnham.

I can’t tell you how excited I am. For the last few months, I have been naturally dyeing up a storm in my cottage kitchen, trying new to me colours, new to me techniques, endlessly experimenting and learning. I have just one indigo vat to go and I’m ready.

I have also designed three hats to compliment the special qualities of my Saucy Dorset Horn DK yarn (300m/100g) and these patterns will be launched at the show. All three patterns are inspired by my west Cornish ancestry and our family visits to Sennen Cove, a small fishing village about a mile up the coast from Land’s End.

The first of the hats is Gommon, which takes name and its inspiration from the seaweed, thrown up onto the sandy beach, by the wild seas of winter. My children just love the curious, other worldly, shapes of the seaweed. The stitch used in the hat is a super stretchy mix of knit and purl, and an initially nerve wracking, but quickly satisfying, yarn over and drop stitch repeating pattern, ideally suited to the grippy quality of Dorset Horn wool.

The second of the hats is named Hasen (the Cornish word for seed) and is named for the myriad dried seed heads found, in late summer, in the sand dunes above the beach by the tiny hamlet of Vellandreath, about a mile along the sandy bay from Sennen Cove. My ancestors and wider family, lived in three of the seven small cottages at Vellandreath for generations. My mother, when she was alive, told me vivid stories of visiting her great grandparents there, so it’s a very special place for me. It’s wonderful to linger in the dunes, toes in the soft sand, looking for snail shells and listening to the sounds of busy insects and the gentle breeze rustling the dried seed heads. Hasen is a super stretchy rib hat, with an easily memorised twist, and a pretty bobble brim.

Finally, on the cliff path from Sennen Cove to Land’s End, where the land meets the sea, magnificent cliffs of granite endure against the wind and salt spray of the pounding Atlantic waves. These cliffs, and the submerged rocks nearby, have claimed many ships, and are the inspiration for Kleger, the last hat in this short series, which combines simple knit and purl stitches to create a super stretchy, cosy hug of a hat.

If you are visiting the show, I’d be thrilled if you came to say hello. I will be upstairs, in the Barley room. I look forward to meeting you.