sunday’s beth brown-reinsel workshop – gansey sweaters

It has come to my attention that I haven’t posted any photos of Jakob in his latest Hallowe’en costume.  I know, I know, I’m a bad blogger/designer/Mommy.  It’s just that I haven’t decided if I want to try and publish the costume or self-publish it, and if I were to publish it outside of my own blog then sometimes they don’t want the pattern to have been viewed previously.  (“They” being any print or online magazine or pattern source).  So until I figure out what I want to do with the pattern, I’m hesitant to post it yet.

I can share what happened last weekend though! Sunday was the second half of the Beth Brown-Reinsel workshop, all about Gansey sweaters.  We learned what makes a traditional Gansey (Guernsey), what yarns to use, and what elements to incorporate.

We also knit our own little ganseys.  Don’t quote me, but if I may toot my own horn for a second (did I really just type that?) I think I was the only person to finish the sweater in class before the end of Sunday. 

The sample gansey has a Channel Islands cast on, an overlapping garter welt, initials (not that you can see them) in the plain section, a diamond pattern on the front and back, underarm gussets, shoulder straps, and in my case, a rolled neck.  I wanted the resulting sweater to be somewhat functional, and the two other neck options looked really tight and I was afraid it wouldn’t fit any of Jakob’s toys.  It really cracks me up how the finished sweater looks so bulky due to the construction- lying flat on a table it looks like it was made to fit a bodybuilder with huge biceps and upper body.

And yet, on a willing model, it actually looks really cute and proportionate!  After some searching around the house, Monkey’s long, skinny body looked like just the thing to fill out the sweater, and the fact that he has no discernable neck isn’t an issue here, as the rolled neck stretches nicely.

Now the best-dressed Monkey in the house only wants to lounge around in his hand-knit gansey, teasing all the other toys about being the favorite.  Cheeky Monkey!

I’m going to end this post with an email that Barb, one of my guild members, sent around to the Montreal knitting groups last week.  I know most of you have probably already seen this, but just in case, I wanted to spread it around.  It’s a really unfortunate thing that has happened, and while I know it wasn’t a targetted knitting attack, it still makes me feel queasy that it happened here, in my city.

Forwarded email follows:

This past Monday I had a visitor from Vermont staying with me—she was not any ordinary tourist, she is Beth-Brown-Reinsel — one of the knitting community’s A-list teachers and historians with a specialty in Gansey sweaters—how they evolved and how to make them. She was here teaching a workshop on Ganseys and another on Latvian Mitts for the Montreal Knitting Guild. Her suitcase containing all of her
workshop samples and reference books (some out-of-print) was stolen from the trunk of my car while I was giving her a tour of our fair (?) city—a city she was so excited to be finally visiting.

I need the public in general (not just knitters) to keep a lookout for this black suitcase containing 5-6 sweaters (some adult, some children), ornately knit Latvian mitts, approximately 20 mini sample sweaters which represent all the workshops she teaches, a pair of Scottish Sanquhar gloves, a multi-coloured tote bag-the one from Interweave, three books on Latvian mittens, and other items we may have forgotten to list. On our tour we visited the Old Port, stopped briefly by the McCord museum near McGill, then up to St. Denis and Duluth (Plateau area) to meet up with friends. I would ask people who live in these areas to pay special attention as there is the chance whoever took the suitcase will dump it once they realize there was no street value to what they stole.

That is not to say these items are of no value. They are actually of tremendous intrinsic value to those of us who understand what it is like to knit something from one’s own hands and have it worn by your family; the value of a research book which records historical data but is now, sadly, out-of-print and from another country far away, making it that much harder to find a second-hand copy; handknit items illustrating specific historical and cultural techniques which have been personal gifts and mementos from travels afar. And from a teaching perspective there is nothing like having something tangible to pass around the class that the students can touch and view intimately for details which may not be caught in photographs. We
all know knitters are “touchy-feely” people.

Should the knitting gods be merciful and someone does come across the suitcase please take it to a local police station, or if unsure where the nearest station is, flag down a police car and give it to them. There is a police report on file and they will contact the appropriate person to retrieve the suitcase. And if not for the love of knitting and doing what’s right, then do it for the financial reward which I am posting. Just leave your name and contact info with the police so I can send it to you (the finder of the suitcase).

And for all the knitters in our community, please support Beth by buying her book and patterns so she can fund the replacements for her workshops—she is at knittingtraditions.com and on the patternfish website.

The more people who know, knitters and non-knitters alike, the greater the chance of someone clueing in
if they see a black suitcase just sitting there. I am taking inspiration from a similar incident which happened this past summer to an esteemed quilter in Nova Scotia who had her samples suitcase also stolen from her car then found a couple of weeks/months later by the side of the highway and the fellow who found it knew what he’d found because the quilting community had gathered forces and publicized like mad. Thx to all who can get the word out.


saturday’s beth brown-reinsel workshop

Better late than never, right?  Sorry it has taken me so long to get the workshop summary up, but it’s been a crazy week!  Monday I took Jakob out for some last minute shopping then that night I went out for dinner with the moms from the playgroup Jakob used to attend.  Almost everyone went back to work so we had to disband the playgroup, but it is still nice to see the moms and we try to arrange a dinner once a month. 

Tuesday I took Jakob to his first trial morning at daycare.  That’s right- he will be starting daycare next Monday!  It is so strange to think that he won’t be coming to work with me every day.  I had left him in his class last week when I brought him in to register, and he was fine.  This time he cried when I left and it was heartbreaking to see him pressing his little hand against the window like he was trying to will me to stay.  I only left him there for an hour, and he was fine by the time I got back, playing with the other kids and the toys.  That night I stayed home while Yannick went bowling but I spent the night knitting like crazy on Jakob’s costume and didn’t even get a chance to upload my photos from the weekend. 

Wednesday I brought Jakob back to daycare for a 2 hour visit.  He cried when I left but by the time I made it to the door I could hear that he’d stopped.  Yannick met me there when it was time to pick him up so he could see the school and meet Jakob’s teachers, and we were able to peek in on the class without being seen.  It was sweet to watch Jakob running around and interacting with the other kids.  I know next week will be different, since we have yet to leave him there for a meal or a nap, but I have hope that it will be an easy transition for him.  That night Yannick took me out for dinner for my birthday which was…uh…in September.  Yeah, we do things late around here.  After dinner we rented Forgetting Sarah Marshall which was a cute movie, although I have now seen parts of Jason Segal I never thought I’d see! 

Last night I was supposed to go to prenatal aquafitness but I wasn’t feeling well so I skipped it.  I’ve never heard of “third trimester nausea” but it seems that’s what I’ve got.  I had a few weeks, maybe even two months of feeling fine and now all of a sudden I’m nauseous daily and have started throwing up again too, instead of maybe once a week it has now been, on average, one to three times a day.

Today is Hallowe’en, and it was also Jakob’s last day at work.  He wore his costume all day and before leaving we went around to the other stores in the mall and said good bye to the friends he’s made there.  It will be really weird to not have him with me.  As frustrating as it can get, it made my day to be able to glance over and see him, or to have him come running up to give me a kiss and a cuddle.  Now I will only get evenings with him, and it makes me sad.  Not sad enough to keep him home with me, since I need him transitioned to daycare before the new baby comes, but sad nonetheless.

But I digress.  Trick-or-treating has been done, Yannick and I did our annual drive-around to look at decorations, and I now have a few minutes to post before I try to get an early night’s sleep.  On to the workshop!  I still haven’t photographed my knitting from the Sunday workshop, but I will try to do that tomorrow.  In the meantime, here is what happened on Saturday:

This is the progress I’d made by the time the class was over.  The yarn Maaike and I used is Sport by Briggs and Little, purchased from Robyn’s Nest.  If I remember correctly the workshop called for any sport weight yarn and a 3.75mm needle.

 Starting at the bottom, we learned a two-color cast on, we did a two-color half braid and then a solid-colored half braid, some scalloped lace, a few knit rows and purl ridges throw in to give each section some definition, knitted-in fringe, a braid I think was called the “Norwegian” braid, and then some colorwork.

This goes to show you the difference between two knitters.  Maaike and I used the exact same yarn and needles, and not only did our choices in color placement result in completely different-looking mittens, but you can see the difference in our gauges too.  Her mitten cuff is slightly wider than mine, and the section from the cast-on to the two-colored braid (above the fringe) has the same number of rows, yet hers is longer than mine.

I deliberately pushed myself to learn new techniques in the workshop, so when given the opportunity to work 3 colors in a row (instead of Fair Isle’s usual 2 colors), I took it.  You can see that in the photos above.  However, as I am still not completely comfortable with stranding my yarn (I MUCH prefer intarsia to Fair Isle, so far) my mitten had no slack and was crazy tight.  The cuff had fit me perfectly, but the progress I’d made on the mitten needed to be ripped out if I was to have anything servicable.

After the workshop most of us went out for dinner with Beth, and instead of working on Jakob’s costume when I got home, I stuck in some needles and ripped back to the last 2-color section above the Norwegian braid.  I played around with Beth’s chart in Excel until I found a color pattern I found pleasing, then reknit everything I’d ripped.  I was very pleased to find that my tension with 2-color knitting didn’t seem to have the same issues as with 3, and the mitten stretched nicely and fit me quite well.  It was getting late and I was exhausted so I didn’t keep going with the plan of having a completed mitten.  1) the yarn is a little too scratchy for me to want to wear as a mitten, and 2) I wanted to finish whatever I was working on that night and not have another “ufo” lying around.

So I continued until I felt like stopping, and wound up with a fingerless mitten.  I followed Beth’s directions for knitting in a spare yarn to do an afterthought thumb, and after working enough of the color pattern to make me happy, I did a few plain stockinette rounds.  I then threw in a purl ridge followed by another Norwegian braid, and finally bound off loosely holding two colors together.  I know a typical fingerless mitten should come up to at least the base of my fingers, if not the first knuckle, but it was late, I was tired and I didn’t care.

At the very end I took out the waste yarn and picked up those stitches, plus a few extra around the sides of the thumb hole.  I did a few rows in stockinette stitch before binding off in purl (I like the edge it gives).  I’d like to hope I’ll make the matching mitten someday so I can have a pair, but in the meantime at least I have a finished something and I don’t feel guilty.


if I…

…told you that I was going to knit a mitten on Saturday and a sweater on Sunday, would you think that I was crazy?  Fear not!

This weekend is the Beth Brown-Reinsel workshop hosted by the Montreal Knitting GuildMaaike and I will be there, along with a packed house of other knitters eager to learn from a master.  To quote from our newsletter:

Beth Brown-Reinsel has been a knitting teacher for 18 years. She is probably best known for her Gansey sweaters and has published what may be considered the Gansey bible, “Knitting Ganseys”.



This is the plan for Saturday:

The beautiful mittens of Latvia will be studied in this class and a child’s mitten will be knitted to learn the following techniques: A choice of the fringed cuff or scalloped cuff, the herringbone braid and many subtle and beautiful variations of the half-braid, the waste-yarn thumb, and round tip shaping. A variety of traditional motifs are incorporated in the main body of the mitten, and reading from the chart will be covered. Additional techniques to be discussed include knitting with two yarns in the right hand, two yarns in the left hand, or a yarn in each hand, as well as setting up the knitting for color changes in the braids and weaving yarns to reduce float size.

This is the yarn I will be using:


Briggs & Little Sport in (clockwise from top right) Teal Blue, Washed White, Light Gray, Orange and Dark Gray, purchased from Robyn’s Nest here in Montreal.  The class only calls for 4 colors, but it calls for 2 oz of each.  The skeins of Sport have 3.5 oz each and Maaike and I decided that since we liked the same colors, it made sense to buy only one of each skein and split them.  So we threw in a 5th color to make sure we didn’t run out.  Now if only I could shake the feeling that I should be knitting a Miami Dolphins sweater with these colors…

I haven’t told Yannick yet, but Saturday night after the class many of us will be going out for dinner with Beth (‘cus I can call her that!) and will get a chance to hang out with her on a less structured level.  I didn’t go to the dinner with Suzanne Atkinson or Fiona Ellis, and I can’t remember if I went with Lucy Neatby, but I did join the group for dinner with Sally Melville, and can say that it is definately a great addition to the weekend!

Here is the course description for Sunday:

Students will learn how to construct a Gansey, a sweater form prevalent in the last century and early part of this century among the fishermen of the British Isles. A small scale sweater will be knitted using traditional construction techniques including the classic Channel Island Cast-on, split welts, seam stitches, traditional knit/purl patterns, the underarm gusset, shoulder straps with perpendicular joining, and picked-up sleeves. Alternative methods to these techniques will also be explored.


My sweater will be knit with Cascade 220 Superwash in Winter White, also from Robyn’s Nest.  I’ve never used any Cascade yarn before, so I’m looking forwards to seeing how it knits up.  I’m assuming that the sweater will be doll-sized and think that a little white gansey will be adorable.