Bebbanburg Gansey · Knitting

The Bebbanburg Gansey



Every time I see a new post from Gansey Nation appear in my email I know that it is Monday. This is important since I no longer work at a job, as otherwise I might continue to think every day is Tuesday.  It is very nice to know that I can count on a bit of kibble to feed my fascination with fine fisherman sweaters every Monday morning.

Besides that, it is always inspiring to see how Gordon steadfastly produces one glorious gansey after another, as though he is lounging on a very long, comfortable conveyor belt, taking photos of his surroundings as he passes them by; every few weeks returning to his point of origin and trading a finished gansey for empty needles and a new color of yarn for the next production. He has done this for many years.

I finally took it upon myself to emulate the master and begin a gansey of my own, using traditional motifs but not any published pattern or photo. Instead, I perused Gansey Nation, Beth Brown-Reinsel’s Knitting Ganseys, Michael Pearson’s Traditional HandKnitting, and various other books containing information about traditional ganseys.


I decided to use the Claret color of Frangipani 5-ply gansey yarn that I have had in my stash for a while, because I have at least 13 balls of it and wanted to be sure I didn’t run out of yarn.

I did swatch, but my swatch was among those of the untrustworthy kind, telling me 8.5 stitches per inch (on a 2.25 mm needle) was what I should use for planning. Instead I am getting 9 stitches per inch, but I think it will be ok.

I started with a Channel Island cast-on and a garter stitch welt of about an inch. I then increased by about 5% of my stitches (since garter spreads out more than ribbing), knit a plain area with my initials and then a ridge. After that I started the lower body pattern. It consists of two motifs, one a chain of moss-stitch diamonds (Bebbanburg is a diamond in the rough) and wide V-shaps with dots that remind me of two things: the jets that brought us here the first time we visited the area, and all the mosquitoes that hurl themselves toward me in relentless attempts to desanguinate me while I twitch with the itch in a fair imitation of the Saint Vitus Dance.

(The welt wants to flip up all the time, making it particularly difficult to get photos.  Hopefully this will be resolved in the future with a good blocking and steam pressing.)

These two motifs are separated all around by a 1/1 cable crossing every other row, flanked by two purl stitches. These cables also constitute the side seam and will eventually divide and continue around the outside of the gusset.


As does Gordon, I will wait to reveal the plan for the rest of the gansey closer to the time of its beginning.  He will remind me by publishing a post of his own!


What I did with the Forgotten Project

Maybe when I started the double wedding ring quilt that I subsequently forgot about I was a fresh new bride of 48 and eager to commemorate my union.  Eight years later, that is still an admirable goal, for I am quite happy with said union.

However, I am currently celebrating our retirement and move to Bebbanburg, and that calls for a different commemoration (said I to myself).  So I put the perplexing double wedding ring project aside for the moment or for another eight years, and began to design a different quilt, also English paper-pieced.  I call it the Bebbanburg Homecoming quilt.

It made sense to me that this should be done in the colors of Bebbanburg which have been slowly thought out over the last year.  Here is my palette of Sherwin-Williams colors used in the house that I used as inspiration for the quilt.


From left to right, these are Colonnade Gray, Watery, Garret Gray, Constant Coral, Blue Nile, North Star and Alabaster.

I have to say it is a lot more fun to design something when you don’t have the specter of having to go to work the next day hovering around you.  I designed and redesigned to my heart’s content.

The Homecoming quilt is a hexagon quilt, all hexagons are one inch.  Here is the first section that I have now sewn together.


Although I tried hard to pull fabrics from stash, I also took the opportunity to discover the local quilting shop in Hendersonville called Beginnings. I was somewhat disappointed that they like to focus more on pre-cut packs like layer cakes, jelly rolls and charm packs and and so their stock of bolt fabrics was smaller than what I had been accustomed to in Seattle, though still reasonably robust.

After I had been in the shop for about 5 minutes and had one bolt in my hands, the clerk asked if he could ring me up. “No way!” I told him. I was just beginning.

An hour and a half later I had finally settled on most of the fabrics, though I still need some more subtle corals.  I hear there is a quilt shop near Asheville that has 9000 fabrics in stock.  Be still my heart.   Since this photo was taken I decided to eliminate the green.


Here is a rough idea of my plan, but ignore the diamonds that are not consistent with the rest of them– I was playing around with ideas but decided that simpler was better.  Also, ignore the borders and pretend that the fabrics match the ones I bought.  Got it?!


Next post I will show you my start on the gansey I have designed for myself!

Forgotten Projects · Quilting

Forgotten Projects

Let’s say I was in my sewing room a couple of days ago, shaking my head forlornly at all the boxes to be unpacked but having nowhere to put things yet due to there being 30% fewer finished walls than there should be and no flooring yet.

Suppose that I chose a box that contained the label “sewing and needlepoint stuff” and, thinking that I might sort it out, opened it up to find this:


This, dear reader, is what you call a Forgotten Project.  It wasn’t abandoned– I really like it!  It’s just one of those things that had to be put away about 5 years ago and slowly settled into the mists of forgottenness.

This is the makings of a double wedding-ring quilt, using the English paper piecing method.  I had very carefully chosen coordinating fabrics and bagged each color set up individually.  I quite conscientiously kept everything together, even the paper pieces and the instructions that came with them.

The problem is, I have no idea what my plan was!

For there was a plan.  I love to plan things like quilts, to play around with colors and values until I am satisfied.  Now I look at these pieces that are put together and the following observations come to mind:

  1. Well, this is not right!  First of all, this fabric combination doesn’t have a bag, and furthermore one does not attach ring sections in this manner if one is doing each ring differently (or a set of rings differently) which, obviously, I am.  I am going to assume this was for a different idea and does not belong with this quilt.IMG_1066
  2. Whoa, this section was pieced upside down.  All sections should curve counter-clockwise, ending with the connector diamond.IMG_1065
  3. This pattern I scribbled numbers on– it looks like I had identified each color set with a number (there are six sets) but I only filled in 1-3 and not even all of those.  Yet I did not label each bag with its number.  That was foolish.IMG_1055
  4. I wonder what size it is supposed to be.
  5. I wonder if I got the fabric to applique the rings onto.
  6. I wonder if I got backing fabric.
  7. I wonder if I designed a border.
  8. I probably created a plan on my PC, which is not hooked up yet, and even if it was, I have no idea where to find the file, and whether it is an Electric Quilt file or not, but I haven’t upgraded my EQ for ages and the last time I tried to use it it wanted me to give it the serial number that was ON THE PACKAGE!  In other words, I bought it in the Stone Age when dinosaurs packed up things called CDs and you stuck them into an opening in your computer to install software.  I am not making this up!

After worrying about this for a day and a half, I decided to try to solve the puzzle by thinking about how I might have thought about it lo these many years ago.

I always create some kind of formula, so what was that formula for this quilt?  I asked Loki to help me brainstorm, but he was already exhausted from all my questioning.


Were the connecting diamonds supposed to be all dark, or all light, or alternately all dark and all light?  No, wouldn’t work.  The shades aren’t distinct enough in the right numbers.


Was I attempting to go through a sequence of colors?  Maybe.  I could lay this out, but couldn’t get it to make sense in an assembly plan.


Was I trying to alternate rings with lighter and darker colors?  Probably.  The best thing I can come up with right now is this, which is sort of like a portrait artist sketching a freckle and asking you to recognize the person.


Hopefully I have figured out enough to continue.  One thing seems to be obvious– the colors in each section mostly progress from one hue to another and then back.  At least that makes sense!

Do you have forgotten projects in your house?  Tell me about them!

General · Pets

The Great Wool Migration

nb:  It’s difficult sometimes to know what to talk about here and what to talk about on the Chronicles of Bebbanburg, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the chronicles should talk about the house renovations and other stuff, except for weaving, goes here.   That way folks who have no interest in fiber arts won’t be bored to tears.


It’s raining cats and dogs today,  after gloriously dramatic thunderstorms during the night.  We slept in and enjoyed a lazy morning.

Brian, ever the responsible homeowner, went out in the pouring rain to check and clean gutters, taking Beowulf with him.  Beo had a great time, but got a bit wet.  Here he is after he was toweled off!


But last night he was tired from all the excitement of exploring his new home, and Katie let him use her as his pillow.


Meanwhile, Stonewall has settled in and seems very happy with the new digs. Before we left Seattle, we had taken all the pets to the vet. She was concerned that Stonewall was too thin. But here in NC, he is eating more, drinking more and being nicer to everyone. So even though I was in the middle of winding a skein of yarn on a nostepinne (my ball winders have not yet made their ways here), I was happy to let him settle in my lap and take a nap.


Loki, who needs to lose weight, settled in to a cat bed with the end of a curtain and sleeps to the lullaby of the falling rain.


Meanwhile, I put on my tennis shoes and had an aerobic workout. I’m glad we sold the Stairmaster– who needs it when you have two long staircases to go up and down?

When we were here in March, we took delivery of the first pod that we had packed. We had used lots of bags of fiber as filler around items. We had friends visiting us, who helped to unload the pod, and so rather than figuring out where it all went, we put it all into the master bedroom walk-in closet. I then put in a couple of moth repellant capsules, shut the door and wedged towels underneath it to block the odor and prevent moths from having a party. But now I need to put them in their proper places.

These photos were taken after I had already removed quite a few bags.



My workout consisted of taking these bags and boxes (not all of them– I probably have another 3 workouts in that closet!) up or down stairs. Upstairs in one guest bedroom I’m putting spinning fibers, and in the other guest room, knitting and needlepoint yarns. Downstairs goes sewing, quilting and weaving yarns and fabrics.

I kept track of my heart rate on my new Apple Watch (got it for Mothers Day) and kept my heart rate up for about an hour, with a couple of rest breaks. Beo insisted on running up and down with me, so I had to stop, right? I didn’t want to give him a heart attack!

There is still much to reposition, but as we unload our second pod, it becomes necessary to have the master closet back for such fripperies as “clothes” and “shoes”.



I know you thought this blog was long abandoned. Indeed it has been on my mind a lot, but time is an endangered resource and I was forced to spend it on other things.

Yesterday I officially finished the rat race. It was of course bittersweet to leave my friends. It felt more like I was graduating, and they were not. I still plan to devote time to writing software applications, but now they will be what I want to write and not what my employer wants me to write.

What’s next? We are moving! Yes, we are moving 2700 miles away to the Blue Ridge mountains in western North Carolina. Why there? Lots of reasons. We adopted a home between Hendersonville and Brevard last July and we call it Bebbanburg. Here is a little taste of the reason why:

I plan to update this blog more frequently but the story of our move and new home has its own place: The Chronicles of Bebbanburg. Please follow our story there!

What else is new? I took the Olds College Master Weaver Level One class in Yadkinville, NC the last week in April. (Sadly, Yadkinville is 2.5 hours from Bebbanburg, but still much closer to it than Seattle). Once I get moved and have an appropriate loom set up and ready to go, my progress in the course, along with my weaving adventures, will be documented on another blog, Thrumbelina.

Everything else– knitting, life in general, spinning, pets, etc. will remain here.

Let the future begin!


Picture Post Wednesday

Post #3 of Plan B

Progress Achieved toward Goal: 25%

Short of time and needing to rush out the door to work, which may happen often.  Better just mostly pictures than no post at all, right?

Saint Olav, up to and past the point of last frogging:


Dark Gray Dyer’s Wool Churro, one more bobbin spun:


A bit more Navajo:


And Gratuitous Kitten Photos;

Brian and Spencer Kitty:

BrianAndSpencerKittyKatie Kitty:


Knitting · Weaving

Blustery Blunders

Post #2 of Plan B

Progress Achieved toward Goal: 16.66%

I was knitting merrily along yesterday as giant breaths of wind gusted wildly through the Pacific Northwest, hurling branches and debris at moving targets and kicking over flower pots like a tantrum driven two-year-old.  It was the kind of day Pooh would call “blustery”.  My gauge on Saint Olav was spot on (as Flavia de Luce, the 11-year-old British chemist and lover of poisons might say while examining the specimen under a microscope in her late great-uncle Tar’s laboratory) and I had just progressed to the main part of the lower body where I would begin my vertical columns of white.

May I direct your attention to the picture of the sweater in my last post?  Can you compare my beautiful green and red border with that of the design photo?  Take your time… I’ll wait.


Why no, as you can plainly see, you cannot compare them, for the design calls for red and white, not red and green!  Three steps forward, two steps back, and here I am, starting the border over again.


The weaving went a bit better, and I’ve added about an inch, despite many rescues of yarn tails from little kittens.


Because of the Blustery Day, we (along with thousands of other people) lost our power for about 12 hours,  and were forced to revert to primitive means of getting our morning coffee– to wit, driving around until we found an open Starbucks and having them fill our two Thermos containers.  If we had been better prepared, we would have procured a battery-powered coffee grinder and made cowboy coffee on the gas grill.