Tag Archives: cowl

Small things

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It is finally staring to feel like spring is on the horizon, so of course it’s the perfect time to take stock of what’s missing in our winter wardrobes. I do this every year at about this time: what items do we wish we had? What items to we have that need replacing? etc. Usually, though, I do this little inventory and then decide that because everything on the list is small I can do it later — after all, spring is coming and with it lots of fun new projects! — and then inevitably I never get around to the small things.

cowls3

Except, this year I did. At least a little. L and I have been doing a fair bit of cross-country skiing this year (I’m still learning, but he’s been cross-country skiing forever) and it occurred to me recently that neither of us have cowls to wear. In general, neither of us favour neck warmers, but for skiing, and sports in general, they’re just so practical! We do actually have an old black fleece neck warmer of mine, but that doesn’t go far between two people.

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So I made a plan. A couple of years ago, L was given a skein of hand-dyed wool-alpaca yarn by friends of ours (a gift predicated on my knitting him something with it). I think the original idea was for it to socks, but he doesn’t need DK-weight alpaca socks, so the yarn sat in my stash until last week when I realized it was perfect for a neck warmer.

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I started out by knitting him a Honey Cowl (how had I never knit this before?) but realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t thick enough to replace the fleece one. So I doubled it. Basically, I knit it in the Honey Cowl pattern until it was the height of the fleece neck warmer, and then I purled a row (for turning), and switched to stockinette. I went down a needle size and added a strand of alpaca silk laceweight and just knit until the inside was a long as the outside (I had to sub in some other yarn for a wide stripe because there wasn’t quite enough of the main to go the full distance). And the end, after weaving in all the ends I could, I picked up stitches from my cast-on row and closed it all up with a three-needle bind-off. Very tidy, and it made for a very dense and warm cowl, which he seems quite pleased with.

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My own cowl needs a little work I think. I knit myself the Bandana Cowl, which seemed practical since that vee of space at the zip of my jacket is a definite cold zone. I used a special single-skein of yarn I’d been holding onto (Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label in Frost, from one of her Etsy updates) and a strand of the same laceweight I’d used in L’s cowl. Because I was using a worsted weight instead of the bulky the pattern calls for, I cast on extra stitches, but I think I maybe cast on a few too many. I’m quite pleased with the proportions of the cowl, but its a little wide at the top. The best solution, I think, is to rip back a few inches in add some extra decreases — maybe three extra sets — so it’s snug enough to stay up over my nose if I need it to.

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The simple pattern was a perfect use for the yarn, though, and I’m so glad I decided to stop saving it! I’ve been trying really hard to break out of the idea that a yarn is too pretty or special to use.  I don’t have this issue with sock yarns so much, since a single skein is all I need for socks, but I find other weights can be trickier, so I’m on the lookout for good single-skein projects for my pretty yarns.

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Details
Patterns: Honey Cowl and Bandana Cowl
Yarn: Canadian Alpaca Products and Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label in Frost
Notes: Mostly just what I’ve already said above. You can find L’s neck warmer ravelled here, and my cowl ravelled here.

Anyway, it was a lovely day when we took these pictures, and we even got some funny ones of the two of us together (thanks to our very obliging friend Josh, who was visiting). I will leave you with this one, since it’s both my favourite and the most ridiculous.

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I did not forget about these projects

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My background knitting. Slow but steady, these are part of my grand plan for increasing my pairs of plain socks.

My background knitting. Slow but steady, these are part of my grand plan for increasing my pairs of plain socks.

All evidence to the contrary, I know, but it’s true: Just because I’m not actively working on a project doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it. And, more often than not, I’m debating when/if I should pull it out of my basket and get back to work. I finished my Flukra on Tuesday (proper photos to come) and since I plan to cast on New Girl in the near future, I thought maybe instead of starting something new I’d pick up something that had been languishing. I’m not quite sure what that will be, other than the socks at the top of this post, which have been background knitting for two months now and thus, despite their slow progress, always in active rotation.

It occurred to me that some of these projects had never made it onto the blog, or that even if they had, possibly not for a year or more, so here we go, a tour through my works-in-progress (presented approximately in chronological order by cast-on, according to my Ravelry notes).

Shaelyn, cast on March 3, 2013.

Shaelyn, cast on March 3, 2013.

Shaelyn has definitely been on the needles forever. I cast this on when L and I went to Eleuthra last year, and then spent the week knitting socks instead. I did work on this on the flight home, but we fit turbulence and my ruler (marking the row I was on in the chart) was jostled. I lost my place, couldn’t figure out where I was, and put the project away without trying very hard to sort things out. I may also have been frustrated by how awful this yarn was to wind (both skeins doubled back on themselves in the middle, meaning they required cutting, untangling, and rewinding). Anyway, now that I have snuggly Flukra to wear I’m dying for another equally scrumptious shawl, and this may be it.

Hunter St. Cowl, cast on April 6, 2013 (appearance not improved for having been shoved in a small bag. Ahem.)

Hunter St. Cowl, cast on April 6, 2013 (appearance not improved for having been shoved in a small bag. Ahem.)

There is no excuse for my languishing Hunter St. Cowl except that I cast it on during the same period as most of these WIPs, so it may have been the victim of my restless spirit and a spate of startitis. I love this pattern, I love this yarn (Tanis Fiber Arts Pink Label lace weight in Lucky Penny), and even though I’m not really a cowl person, I sense this is one I would wear. Progress was slow at the beginning, and I guess I was in the mood for some quick gratification, so I cast this aside. I would like to wear it this spring though.

Grace, cast on June 1, 2013.

Grace, cast on June 1, 2013.

Not finishing Grace is my No. 1 knitting regret of last year. I cast it on a little too close to summer, I think, and put it down in favour of Kit, and then never quite got around to finishing it. I always forget that fall is pretty much all holiday knitting, which means that great lightweight cardigans that I’d wear all winter basically need to be knit before the end of September. I might not pick this up before New Girl, but I think it’ll be the first thing I knit afterwards – I hope I left myself a good note about where I was in the pattern.

Daphne, cast on July 18.

Daphne, cast on July 18, 2013

The minute it gets warm, I’m knocking out this second Daphne sock. This is less second-sock syndrome than putting down a for-me knit to pick up a gift-knit, and then not quite getting back to it. That being said, the first sock flew off my needles (having knit the pattern before made it easy to return to), so I know these will be quick to turnaround when the weather improves (wool/silk/bamboo blend yarn in openwork just isn’t robust enough for winter).

Stasis, cast on Feb. 2, 2014

Stasis, cast on Feb. 2, 2014

Stasis is a pretty recent WIP. I cast on the week before the Olympics, but it’s true what they say about knitting white/grey yarn in February. I got through the colourwork without incident, but the minute I got into the fields of stockinette I just couldn’t handle it. This is a shade I love to wear in the winter, but one I apparently can’t knit with. I’ll pick this back up in May (before it’s too hot to have a sweater in my lap) and finish it so it’s ready for me in the fall.

And I think that’s it! What do you think? Are you shocked I have any needles left for new projects or are you laughing that I think this is a lot of WIPs?

A change is as good as a rest

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No, I did not cast on for a sweater, despite all your encouragement (what a bunch of enablers!). Instead, with the holidays in mind, I cast on for another gift, this one in a worsted weight yarn for guaranteed speedy progress and a little break for my hands.

I really love this super-dense ribbing.

I really love this super-dense ribbing.

And you know what? It totally worked. This is Riverbank by Melissa Thomson, which is fun and textural and knitting up super fast. It actually feels a bit like knitting a sweater since I’m using the same yarn as I used for my Woodstove Season cardigan (though in a different colour) and there are a about as many stitches per round. It’s actually the perfect compromise, with the added bonus of meaning I’ll be finished one gift by the end of the week.

SweetGeorgia SW Worsted in China Doll (which guarantees I get  the David Bowie song stuck in my head every time I pick this up.)

SweetGeorgia SW Worsted in China Doll (which guarantees I get the David Bowie song stuck in my head every time I pick this up.)

Of course, it’ll be my speediest gift knit, which means I should probably have saved it until the end, but oh well. It kept me busy and entertained during a very grey and rainy Saturday while L was away, and even though I don’t really wear cowls I’m kind of thinking I’d like one of these for myself! There’s no risk of my stealing this one though, since it’s the exact colour of my winter coat, and that’s just a little too matchy for my taste. Maybe in grey…?

The week that was

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Plain socks, knit in Koigu KPPPM #P123

Plain socks, knit in Koigu KPPPM #P123. Apparently these colours are not out of my system yet.

I can hardly believe it’s Monday, because I’m still in recovery mode from last week (also because I worked yesterday). Last week my section of the paper went live with a new program that totally changes our workflow and, in small ways, everything about how we do our jobs. The basics of the job (design news pages, edit stories, write headlines, etc.) is the same, but the way we do it has changed, and like any big change, this one has been hard. It’s new technology, with fewer people in-house, and last week was a bit chaotic. The paper made it out close to on time every night, so it was okay, but I got home every night totally wiped (and late, since new systems tend to take longer, at least at the beginning).

It was one of those weeks that makes you glad you’re a knitter. Every knitter I know has, at some point or another, talked up the stress-relief of knitting, and I really needed that last week. Of course, as is often the case, I didn’t really have time to knit. I did pick up my needles and work a few stitches here and there, but there wasn’t time for more.

Hunter St. Cowl. Lace always looks bad before it's blocked, but I am loving this pattern (and this colour). I think I managed to knit four rows on this last week. Part of me thought it would be done by now.

Hunter St. Cowl. Lace always looks bad before it’s blocked, but I am loving this pattern (and this colour). I think I managed to knit four rows on this last week. Part of me thought it would be done by now.

By the end of the week, I realized (in part) why that was: I didn’t have anything plain on the needles. Everything I was knitting had a chart of some sort, and even an easy to memorize chart like the one for the Hunter St. cowl requires just enough counting to not be mindless. Often, I enjoy charted knitting when I’m stressed. For one, it makes me feel a little clever, even when I’m just executing the same set of rows over and over, but it also forces me to stop thinking about whatever is on my mind (last week, page layouts – I actually dreamt about nothing but page layouts two nights in a row) and focus on something else. When I have the time, this is awesome, when I only have time for a row or two, it’s not the same.

The second Hummingbird sock, which I'm knitting Hedgehog Fibres sock, which might just be my new favourite sock yarn.

The second Hummingbird sock, which I’m knitting Hedgehog Fibres sock, which might just be my new favourite sock yarn.

It took me the entire week to realize this, so on Saturday, after running around for most of the day, I finally fished some fun Koigu out of my stash cast on a pair of plain socks (at the top of the post). Sometimes stockinette bores me to tears and sometimes it feels like magic. These are magic socks. I knit most of them while we hosted friends for dinner on Saturday, and a little more last night, and I’m going to try and squeeze in a few rows before I go to work.

Part of a pocket for my Woodstove Season cardigan. After wearing it a few times without pockets, I'm actually reconsidering my plan, so I might put these away for now. They can always go on later if I change my mind.

Part of a pocket for my Woodstove Season cardigan. After wearing it a few times without pockets, I’m actually reconsidering my plan, so I might put these away for now. They can always go on later if I change my mind.

L sometimes teases me about how much yarn we have in the house, but honestly, this is what my stash is for. I definitely did not have time to go to the yarn shop this weekend, but luckily I had already planned for such a moment and had what I needed at home. These socks will likely sit on my needles for a while since stockinette socks are nice to have around but rarely hold my attention long enough to be a primary project. That’s okay, though, because they’ll be there when I need them.

Edited to add: After a couple of people asked about the needles I’m using for my socks, I thought I’d post a link. I treated myself to some Signature Needles after Christmas and holy, they are awesome. They are a bit of a splurge, but when you think of how often you use your needles, and factor in that good metal ones will last forever, I decided it was worth it. I bought three sets (2.25mm, 2.5mm, and 2.75mm) and am seriously considering getting another set in 3.25mm (for worsted-weight socks).

That wet wool smell

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I can't believe I didn't mess up a single chevron.

I can’t believe I didn’t mess up a single chevron.

It’s the smell of triumph. On Saturday, I cast off my Woodstove Season cardigan, wove in my ends, and wet blocked it. My first sweater, and it actually fits. I don’t know why I let sweaters intimidate me, but it feels like a real accomplishment to finish one. Obviously, I already have the yarn and pattern for my next one ready to go.

Because Woodstove took all weekend to dry, I don’t have any nice photos of my wearing it yet. I’m also not 100% sure it’s finished yet. It grew a few inches in length with blocking, which is fine, but I am now feeling that the pockets I had previously decided not to knit would suit it. Pockets aren’t a huge knitting burden (and I have yarn left) so I think I might whip them up this week and see. Proportionally, I think it needs something to balance the ten million buttons. Thoughts? (I’ll do a proper FO post when I have better photos and likely also pockets.)

This funny ombre effect is not there in real life.

This funny ombre effect is not there in real life.

To balance all the worsted weight knitting I’ve been doing lately, and in keeping with decidedly spring-ish weather, after getting Woodstove into its bath, I cast on something fun in laceweight.

Despite the greys in the photo, this is knitting up to look just like tarnished copper.

Despite the greys in the photo, this is knitting up to look just like tarnished copper.

I’m tend to forget about cowls, but with bicycling season upon us, the Hunter St. Cowl by Glenna C. seemed like the perfect balance between pretty and light and something practical that won’t fly off. I’m knitting it in Tanis Fiber Arts Pink Label in Lucky Penny. Even if I put it down in favour of pockets, this won’t take long to finish.

Indecision

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It’s fall. Even though it has been a few years, fall always feels like the start of a new year and, thanks to years and years of back-to-school shopping, it also feels like time to overhaul my wardrobe. Not that anything much changes, but it is one of the few times of year I don’t feel guilty spending some money on new clothes.

As a knitter, fall is also the time of year when my needles start to get itchy. Suddenly, a million projects flood my imagination and it seems I can’t cast on quickly enough. Usually, that’s no problem, but this year, I can’t quite seem to find my groove. Partly this is because my knitting for the shop has taken up time that would otherwise be used for personal knitting. Partly it’s also because I stil haven’t cast on the wedding mittens I swatched for weeks ago, and I’m feeling a little guilty about that. Mostly, though, I think it’s because I can’t find the perfect project for the yarn I want to use.

These two skeins come in at about 710 yards, which should be almost enough to knit whatever I want.

The more I look at the Fleece Artist Earth, the more I want it snuggled up around my neck. I thought for a while it could be socks. But no. I want it to be a shawl or scarf or cowl. And honestly, I want it yesterday. I wear a ton of blue, and the browns and greens and almost-purples that ripple through this colourway are made for my wardrobe. Plus, how perfectly fall is that colourway?

The trouble, though, is that I can’t find the perfect something, and I’m in too much of a hurry to design something myself (although I do sometimes lie in bed at night envisioning what I will do with this yarn if something better doesn’t come along.)

What I’m saying is: I need help. I need help picking a pattern, because I really want need to cast this on soon. I can’t believe how antsy it’s making me. Usually, I am a pro at waiting for things, and delaying my satisfaction, but not this time. (I suspect this is due both to the cooling temperatures and the fact that working in a yarn shop and wearing my knitwear all the time have combined to make me crazy.)

So, here’s what I’m looking for: Something with some interest (lace, eyelets, slipped stitches, whatever) but that won’t demand my full attention for the entire time I’m knitting. It also needs to work with a very variegated yarn, so lacy-lacy is out – I’m thinking something with a stockinette or garter middle, and fancy edges. I would also like it to be long enough to wear as a scarf/kerchief under a jacket. I don’t really think this is too much to ask.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve narrowed it down to:

  • Of the Moon – has potential because the samples are all knit in variegated yarns, and it’s customizable in size, but the font of the pattern is crazy annoying to read.
  • Damson – I suspect this would work, but I also wonder if I should maybe save this for the purple Handmaiden Casbah that I bought. Tricky.
  • Shark Tooth – I like the body of this shawl, but not the titular teeth along the top edge. Maybe I can work a little modification in there?
  • Multnomah – Simple, basic, with a feather and fan lace edge. I’ve come back to this one several times, but I’m still not sure.
  • Simple Things – I like this, but it’s also very similar to Doublish, and I’d like a little variation in my wardrobe. Also, I have two skeins of the Fleece Artist, so I feel I should save this for something pretty that I only have one skein of
  • Surprise entry: Woodstack – yes, it’s a cowl, but it sits more or less the way I like my shawls to sit, and knitting with the Fleece Artist held double would solve any skein matching issues. I am almost prepared to give up my shawl dream for this. Almost.

Okay, there’s my list. What do you think? Have you knit any of these? Do you have a pattern that’s perfect for variegated fingering-weight yarn? Help an antsy knitter out.