Whipstick, below the deck

The Whipstick Knitters are members of  The Gunroom who are knitting hats, scarves, and other warm garments for merchant seamen, to be distributed through The Seaman’s Church Institute’s     Christmas at Sea  program. Why Whipstick? Linda explains:

Whipstick Knitters
Our Motto: “Which it will be ready when it is ready!”

“I hope you all approve of the name; Gunroom Knitters sounded not quite charitable at best and at worst like a worry to Homeland Security. Casting about with Catalina for something both suitably nautical and knitty resulted in Whipstick Knitters. It makes us sound handy with our needles and a whipstick is a vertical steering stick attached to the tiller a deck below. (Watch Desperate Crossings and you’ll see one on the Mayflower II.) It is tempting to go on in this vein, contemplating a logo of crossed double-point needles with a knitted fragment trailing from them over an anchor or summat and knitting bags styled like seabags, but the point is what goes *in* those bags: charity knitting for the Seaman’s Church Institute. [Ed. note: If anyone would like to do this logo, please get in touch via the Comments!]

I propose we plan to upend our seabags for muster and shake out our finished projects on Columbus Day (keeping the nautical connection) and mail them to a central point. This way, we each have to mail only one package and we can make one larger group donation to the charity.”

We later decided that we will set a goal of 21 knitted items, as Patrick O’Brian wrote 21 books in the Aubrey/Maturin Canon. Should we quickly meet this goal, we could do further volleys, as it were.  With a “firepower” of 21 items per volley, we are a force to be reckoned with!  You are welcome to join us, just drop a note via the Comments or the Gunroom.

More on the whipstick, with photos and explanation kindly provided by Linda:

The Mayflower II is conned from the main deck with orders shouted down through a hatch (first photo, above) to the helmsman at the whipstick (right) a deck below.  Here he also has a compass (not pictured) and traverse board (left), plus he’s afforded a view of the sails through the hatch.  Moving the stick moves the tiller, a deck beneath (photo below), which in turn moves the rudder. These photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The whipstick connected to the tiller, the tiller connected to the rudder

Knittingwise, here’s what we’ve been up to so far (new items will be added to the top as they are photographed):

2011 — Year Five of the Whipstick Knitters

April, 2011  — Lee Ann reports, “I’ve started my Christmas knitting for SCI. So far I’ve completed a Seafarer’s Scarf and an Oliver’s Cap. A watch cap to match the scarf is about half done. My friend Lyle said he has a few caps done as well, so we’re off to a good start.”

2010 — Year Four of the Whipstick Knitters

October, 2010 — Catherine colleced all our haul of knitted items and shipped them to the SCI.

This year we completed a neat 50 items — 43 hats and 7 scarves.  Here they all are, guarded by Lerwick, the Hebridean sheep. 

We also offered prizes to ourselves, thanks to generous donations of yarn from our members.  The prize for Newest Member went to Lee Ann’s friend, who knitted 5 caps.  The prize for Greatest Increase in Number of Items from Last Year went to Lee Ann, and here is an example of her work, a natty striped cap:

 The prize for Greatest Number of Items Knitted was a tie between Lee Ann and Alice. And the Sheep’s Choice Prize for Best in Show, chosen by Lerwick himself,  goes to Alice, for her lovely cap and scarf set:

September, 2010 —  Linda knitted a Seafarer’s Beanie.

Lois tried the snappy new scarf pattern with lengthwise stripes, and Gus finds it very dashing.


The rest of us have been busy, too.  More pictures to follow!

2009 — Year Three of the Whipstick Knitters

October 25, 2009 — Katherine assembled all our work before taking it down to the SCI donations room.  Here it is all guarded by Lerwick the Shetland sheep.  Total for this year, 57 items, or 58 if you count the socks separately!

SCI 2009 final tally small

October 18, 2009 — Kat made a lovely assortment of  items: a Mariner’s Scarf, a balaclava, a marsan watchcap, and two Oliver’s caps.   She says, “I was using those to test different stitch patterns, so the grey one is in rice stitch, and the two-color one is in waffle stitch with a corn stitch band.  Next time: stitches not named after foods.”

hats and scarves small

October 2, 2009 — Astrid made a balaclava (also called a  Knitted Helmet) and a Marsan Watchcap. Katherine is gathering up all our knitted items and will deliver them to the SCI later this month.

Hats small

May 30, 2009 — Lee Ann made four Oliver’s Caps, a simple watchcap design by Jeanette DeVita, the Program Manager for Christmas at Sea.

Oliver's caps small

2008 —  Year Two of the Whipstick Knitters

Final Muster, October 2008

Katherine took in our accumulated scarves and caps, a total of 64 items!  Prior to delivery, they were watched over by Wellington, the New Zealand sheep.

Hats herded

Hats herded

 And here’s a close-up of Wellington — note the air of fierce concentration.

Hat herder

Hat herder

September 24, 2008

Hat done!

Hat done!

Astrid finished a modified Watch Cap, but Montezuma thinks it’s a bit big for him.

June 16, 2008

Happiness is a warm melon

Astrid finished a Marsan Watchcap, and the Temptation Melon finds it cozy.

May 23, 2008

Nyarlethotep stays warm

Astrid finished the Lucky 7 Hat, and Nyarlethotep found it just the thing to wear on a chilly Arkham night.

March 28, 2008

The SCI had a spring hat drive, Knit 4 Lent, with the goal of collecting 4000 hats knitted during the 40 days of Lent. The Whipstickers stepped up to the plate and made 26 hats, here kept in line by Rhodri, the Welsh Mountain sheep.  Katherine delivered them, and saw tables filled with hats in the sorting room, as well as boxes still to be unpacked.  Here’s hoping they made their goal!

Herd of caps

February 19, 2008

Very dashing

Linda is first past the post this year, at least as far as pictures go.  I hear rumors about hats, but pictures are the proof of the pudding.  Linda ran out of yarn and brainstormed with the other Whipstickers for solutions, finally going with the most labor intensive, which involved ripping out work on one end and reknitting it in red yarn, so it would match the other end. It  makes for a very dashing effect.  And is that a deck prism in the middle of that elegant display?

October 15, 2007 — The SCI Takes Delivery

Catalina and one of the Gunroom stalwarts, Hugh, delivered our hats and scarves to the SCI. Hugh is holding up a copy of  HMS Surprise, the book that got all this started, being the first of the Aubrey/Maturin series that brought us all together. Did all those things come out of that wee white seabag?

Catalina and Hugh deliver hats and scarves

Notice Catalina’s hands.  Could she be  . . .? . . .why yes, she is knitting up the very last scarf, having discovered a dropped stitch in one of them the day before that required ripping back eight inches.  Also notice her sweater, which I’ll bet she knitted, too.

SCI Yarn Room

Here’s the yarn room at the SCI, with Jeanette, the director of the knitting program on the left, and a volunteer on the right, getting ready to open the day’s packages of donations.  This is their busy time, as warm knitted items pour in from around the country to be packaged into bundles that are distributed in December.  There are bins of yarn on the right, which the SCI will send to knitters for a modest fee.  Beyond that are bins stuffed with knitted goodness, part of this year’s donations.  The SCI’s goal for  2007 is 16,000 items, of which they’ve received about 46% — but things will come in thick and fast now.

October 14, 2007 — Final Muster for the Year

Catalina is  gathering our knitted  items  to take them over to the SCI tomorrow.  Here’s the haul, guarded by her watch-sheep,  Cyril (left) and Dorian:

Pile o’knitting

We have a total of 44 items!  That’s two volleys of  21 each with 2 leftover.  Great job, Whipstickers! 

May 22, 2007

Oh, we’ve been busy, just not blogging.

Does this make me look fierce?

Linda was concerned about the colors of this Watchcap, but not only can real men wear bright colors,  there are merchant seawomen as well.

Astrid finished this Seamen’s Scarf, and the tree is grateful.

We have now completed a total of 30 items, with another 6 on the needles.  We’ve also pressed  found three new recruits, Betsy, Shoshona, and Katherine.  Welcome!

March 22, 2007

Grey cap, chastened

Linda finished a Watch Cap, although she says, “It was a near run thing. It shredded the tip of one of my bamboo needles and sent the shards into my fingers three times in an attempt to fight me off. That’s right, it bit me! But I got revenge, as the photo shows.”

March 18, 2007

You talkin’ to me?

Astrid has completed her first Watch Cap. The ruffed lemur thought it was a good place for a nap.

March 8, 2007 

Catalina has been busy!

Catalina has been busy indeed! It looks to me like 6 Watchcaps, 1 Balaclava, and a Seafarer’s Scarf. 


March 7, 2007

Catalina has been spending so much time knitting that she hasn’t had time to send a photograph.

Good dog!

Augusta, who also answers to Gus, although she is every inch a lady, is wearing the Seafarer’s Scarf that Lois knitted. Yes, Gus, you can have your bone now.

Who is that masked boy?

Linda’s son is modeling the Knitted Helmet, which, in our history geek way, some of us call a Balaclava.

Boy, revealed

Now Linda’s son looks every inch the well-turned out Ship’s Boy in the Watch Cap.

Chilly boat?

Astrid made the Mariner’s Scarf, and her rowboat couldn’t be happier. Little does the boat know that the scarf will be given away.