Cowls

It’s definitely not summer anymore here in Michigan. The boat is stored. The dock is out of the water. The colorful Adirondack chairs are trussed up in their winter covers. And we’ve had our first snow squall. So it’s now officially wear-your-cowls weather.

This is Tanis Gray’s Republic of Splendor Cowl, knit in a Showstopper Gradient pack from Leading Men Fiber Arts. The yarn is 552 yards of light fingering weight in 75% merino and 25% nylon. Here’s what it looked like before my knitting kicked it into gear.

As with many a gradient set purchased without a specific pattern in mind, this one lived in my stash for a few years before I decided what to do with it. Someday I probably need to grow up to be a more disciplined stash enhancer. But pretty much everything ends up being used. At some point. Gray’s pattern was designed specifically for this yarn.

I like the final result. A lot, actually. It’s beautiful and I’ll get plenty of wear out of it. But, despite the color changes, the process of knitting it got a tad boring. And I’m not a huge fan of working pairs of 1 over 1 cables. The fact that I sometimes have a meandering attention span span doesn’t merit marking the pattern down, though. If I were talking to Dick Clark it would be “Good beat. Fun to dance to. I give it a 10.”

Here’s another view of Republic of Splendor.

GlassHead is asking why this cowl is called Republic of Splendor. The only thing that comes up in a google search points to a company’s $26.00 Republic of Splendor “B-Line Eye Pen.” I’m not familiar with eye pens or even with make-up in general. The pen is “the ultimate quick-change artist,” and “crosses smoothly from smoky-eye to cat eye–” whatever that means. It has a “silky matte finish [that] can fake a full night of sleep.”  Doubtful that was the inspiration for the cowl’s name. It’s a great cowl even though it can’t fake a full night of sleep.

Some cowls sit for awhile in my gift stash while I consider whether I want to keep them for me. This next one, Melissa LaBarre’s Elyse Cowl, bypassed the gift stash and went straight to my neck. It’s designed for worsted weight. I used Mirasol’s Umina. It’s 50% alpaca, 50% merino. Ravelry classifies it as an Aran weight. For me it worked up as a worsted.

It’s been a long time since I’ve knitted welts. In fact, my last welt adventure was in 2013. It was the difficult to photograph/impossible to wear Sediment Collar. (If you check out that old post there’s a happy ending to the story. One of my adult nieces actually liked the thing.) Turning to this new welt project. It’s a success!

Knitting a welt, which nowadays most folks call a tuck, involves dropping down a set number of rows and knitting the back of the stitches below into the stitches on your needle.

The welts are a tad tricky to get consistent. I didn’t succeed 100% of the time. I modified the pattern by knitting a total of 4 repeats of the pattern, rather than 3, before working the closing pattern rounds. I had enough yarn and I was very much enjoying the process. To make it easier to pick up the stitches from the rows below, I used a short double-pointed needle 4 sizes smaller than the circular I was working on, so a US 3 rather than a 7, and slipped the lower stitches onto the smaller needle to help complete the join.

My cowl turned out to be 6.25 inches wide and 58 inches long. I didn’t block it because it didn’t need it.

I wanted to make the edges look more finished so I used the so-called “Chinese waitress” cast-on and the matching double chain bind-off. Both create a very tidy, tubular edge.

I have a confession to make on this next one. Pine Sway Cowl is a beautiful freebie cowl pattern from the very talented designer Juju Vail. She’s associated with Loops of London. Pine Sway is designed for the somewhat pricey Fibre Company Cumbria, which is 60% merino, 30% masham, 10% mohair. My Pine Sway is not, in my view, a success.

I had two skeins of Cumbria in my stash, Hellvelyn and Purple Moor Grass.

 

So, to me they looked like they were a “go” for Pine Sway. Admittedly, the Purple Moor Grass was more electric looking than my skein photo showed. But it’s exactly the yarn the pattern called for.

 

Hmm. I don’t think so. The colors don’t do well together. I believe it’s likely that Pine Sway is going to be frogged soon. Very soon. Maybe this evening. Alone, these two skeins will make two great accessories. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t have to show it to you. But I shouldn’t be prideful about my knitting. Most of it works. Some of it doesn’t. Pine Sway is a wonderful cowl. It was a fun knit. It is beautifully extravagant and covers your shoulders and is totally cozy. Don’t shy away from the pattern because my color sense failed me.

Being prideful about my knitting, I decided I’d end this post with a success. This next cowl is Iris Schreier’s Puffy Cable Cowl. The pattern doesn’t seem to be downloadable but the Ravelry entry identifies where it’s available. Mine was included in a kit that also included 170 yards of DK weight Cashmere Glitter by ArtYarns. Normally, this kit is one of those take-out-a-mortgage kits. But I purchased mine very deeply discounted at a shop closing.

‘Tis a small thing. But sweet. Lovely loping reversible cables. A little bit of glitter that isn’t captured in my photos. GlassHead says she always knew she was glamorous and this cowl proves it. I told her not to get a big head because hers is already stuffed with colorful vintage mohair and that’s not one bit glamorous.

Sweetie Pie hat

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This is Be Sweet’s Sweetie Pie hat, designed by Tanis Gray. It’s sold as a kit. The hat pattern is printed on the inside of the ball band of a skein of Be Sweet Bambino Taffy. The yarn is 70% cotton, 30% bamboo and it’s very soft to the touch. No little tots will complain the hat is scratchy.

I’m a Tanis Gray fan. And I think this hat worked up really cute. But honestly the pattern is a bit of a mess. It’s arranged in a disorganized way. Anyone other than a beginner knitter will figure it out, though. The pattern is printed in ridiculously light ink. Eye strain really shouldn’t need to be part of the deal, Be Sweet!

I made a few modifications. I cast on the recommended 74 stitches, but increased one stitch (to 75) before the heart motif started. That way the hearts, and later the bobbles, are  all evenly spaced. I also modified the puny bobbles and did them this way: (K1, P1, K1, P1, K1) into the same stitch, turn and purl the 5 stitches, turn and knit the 5 stitches, then pass each stitch over the first one, in turn.

Here’s a better look at the crown and my ring of oversized bobbles.

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This kit has a surprise in store for the knitter. This isn’t a gradient ball of yarn. Instead, at every color change the new yarn color is just knotted in. Yipes! Of course, I undid the knots and worked the ends in. Erica, one of my guild members, knit this same hat. She said that Russian join worked well for her.

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It’s a pretty little thing. Your little sweetie pie will look cute in it.

Knitting hats in polar vortex country

hobbit_hat2I’ve gone rather hat-crazy lately. This isn’t even the half of them. Friends and family who like to wear hats have ordered up a few and they’ve kept me busy. Hats are one of my favorite things to knit. You knit a sock or a mitten and then you really do need to make another one pretty much the same. But hats, you can try this or try that and when you’re finished you don’t have to start all over again.

This is what I call a Hobbit Hood and what CreatiKnits calls her “Pixie Hood.” It’s a paid pattern, available on Ravelry. My niece liked the shape and style of this one, so I purchased the pattern instead of just winging it. As you can see more clearly below, this is not a rocket-science knit. The recommended yarn is LIon-Brand Woolease Thick and Quick Solids and that’s what I used. The pattern called for two skeins, but I only used about 5 yards of the second skein. Melanie reports, and you can see it on the glass head, that it curls under on the bottom edge–not really an endearing trait. Maybe a more loose bind off would have helped what steaming didn’t.

hobbit_hat

Trilobite is a favorite hat that I’ve knit a number of times, including here  and here. The newest Trilobite is knit in Lion Brand Martha Stewart Craft Extra Soft Wool Blend, let’s not call it LBMSCESWB for short.

trilobite2trilobite

Trilobite is a free pattern from a 2009 Knitty edition. It’s designed by Hannah Ingalls. It’s such a hoot to see those Trilobites emerge as you knit. LBMSCESWP–I know, I wasn’t going to call it that–has a few issues with unsightly knots hidden in the midst of the yarn every once in awhile, but if they could just lick that problem I’d give it very high marks. It’s 65% acrylic, 35% wool but it feels like the reverse might be true. Plus, of course, it’s easy care.

This is Knitwise Design’s Castle Hat, available on Ravelry or via Linda’s website. I knit it in Berroco Comfort–a great yarn for the sensitive heads among us.

castlehat

This is also a repeat knit for me. Check it out here in another shade of Comfort. Of course the knitted castle is the star of this hat, but the crown decreases are also nicely done, with the placement of purl stitches.

castleHere’s what I think is another cool hat, again worked up in that alphabet soup yarn LBMSCESWL. Such a delicate shade of pink for a hat that designer Robin Melanson named Silver-Plates Dragon Scale Cloche. Since my young neighbor chose pink rather than gray yarn, the name doesn’t quite fit. But the dragon scales still show up clearly.

dragon_scale

Melanson’s pattern is included in Tanis Gray’s Interweave book, Cozy Knits: 50 Fast and Easy Project by Top Designers. The book features Cascade Yarns, great yarns at a value price point. But I’ve been knitting hats from stash and this substitute worked well.

dragon_scale2

 

Copernicus shawl

This is Copernicus. A shawl so named because.  Because. Because of something having to do with “the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology” of our solar system. So says Wikipedia. No, that must not be right because I’ve seen paintings of Copernicus and I’ve not seen him wearing a shawl. The Copernicus shawl is so named because. Because. Because something about it would have bothered the Vatican back in the 1500’s. No, probably not correct on that theory either. Best not to ponder the “whys” of modern-day pattern names.

Copernicus is Tanis Gray‘s lovely worsted weight heavily cabled rectangular shawl. A digitized version is available on Ravelry. Gray’s pedigree as a knitting guru is impecable. Her Ravelry profile explains that she’s a former yarn editor at Vogue Knitting, Knit Simple, Knit.1, Yarn Market News and the Debbie Bliss magazines and was co-editor of Knit.1. She writes that she’s “fairly certain knitting is the best thing in the world.”

Gray’s pattern calls for a worsted weight that will knit up at 14 stitches and 22 rows over 4 inches, in stockinette. That gauge wouldn’t happen for me with the workhorse Patons Classic Wool I’d set aside for Copernicus. But, undaunted, I just knitted on size 8 needles–a good choice for this wool–until I ran out of yarn. With about 100 yards more than the pattern called for, my Copernicus turned out to be 51 inches long and 22 inches wide–longer and skinnier–than Gray’s.

There’s an unusual technique used for the two borders. It worked, but I was skeptical. You knit the center panel, knit the two borders, then pick up a zillion stitches on the length of a border and an equal zillion on the corresponding length of the center panel, then do a three-needle bind off. I’d probably just knit the borders as I go if I knit this again. Even with a fairly aggressive block, the borders are flipping forward a bit. But, particularly near the neck, the flip becomes a fairly nice design feature. It looks a bit like a collar.

Michigan has turned chilly. There’s a nip in the air. More than a nip actually. We’ve already had a 38-degree evening. Soon it will be time to turn the furnace on. For now, a comfy warm shawl like Copernicus is perfect.