From Shawl to Cowl

Recently, in trying to decide what to make next, I turned to my stash for inspiration.

Almost two years ago, I bought this skein from a museum gift shop:

It’s 100 grams of 50% Merino, 25% Alpaca, 25% Nylon. I stared at it. No inspriation.

I wound it into a cake. No inspiration.

I spent, what was likely, hours on Ravelry. No inspiration.

Then, I remembered, the Museum had a few self published patterns, including
12 Days of Shawlmas
 (RAV LINK).

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, then you’ll know, I love me a good bandana cowl. A shawl, like the pattern as written, I’m not very likely to wear, but make that shawl a cowl, and finally, I had the inspiration I needed!

The pattern was written in a way that encourages the knitter to work 12 rows each day, and by Day 12, you have a finished shawl. First, let me assure you, I did NOT make the 12 rows/day goal. I saw that as more of a guideline…

I followed the instructions for the shawl (working RS / WS) until the end of Day 6 / Row 72. I worked Row 73 as written, but, when I got to the end of the row, I knit that last stitch together with the first stitch in the row, essentially joining in the round. Standard for triangular shawls, there were increases at both sides and at the centre, four stitches increased at the end of the RS row. Once it was joined in the round, I continued to increase at the centre, but I stopped with the increases at the now-back of the cowl. I did, however, keep the garter ridge detail that was started with the border, and I continued with YOs before and after those garter stitches, but every YO was counteracted with either a K2Tog or SSK.

One detail of the pattern that I ADORED was the centre – where most shawls/cowls have that centre stitch, this pattern had two that you were working as a Right Twist (essentially a 1×1 cable achieved by k2tog, leaving stitches on LH needle, then k the first stitch again, and slip the stitches off the LH needle). It gives a lovely twist detail on a part of a garment which is often overly simple.

Turning this shawl into a cowl required a little thinking and counting when you got to sections that had textured details, like the lace section, or the RT sections, but simply counting, and double counting for good measure, kept me on track and was easy enough to accommodate for.

A little show and tell

I have not one, but TWO finished objects to show off.

First, let’s start with the BIG ONE. The last I wrote was near the start of my Temperance Shawl. I wanted to get it done before a wedding in early June. Well, I’m pleased to say, I met that goal.

The pattern is Temperance Shawl (RAV LINK) by Malabrigo. I used three skeins of SweetGeorgia Tough Love Sock, and I really mean, three skeins. Two of the three I finished with metres to spare. I had quite a few grams left of the third. I am so pleased with how these purples work together, and the size of this shawl feels so luxurious. It’s so BIG!

Once the project with a deadline was complete, I picked up the latest cowl I was working on – Paris in Berlin (RAV LINK) by Joji Locatelli. If you’ve read this humble blog before, or if you know me IRL and also lurk on here, you’ll know I love me a bandana cowl. In late April, I cast on using some Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM) I had in my stash for several years. I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about the final fit of this cowl. It is rather long from the point where it joined in the round with little increases, and from a previous cowl I made by Joji Locatelli, I found it far too bulky around my neck. But, those worries were misplaced as I find this cowl wears very nicely. I think, perhaps, the difference is both in the weight of the yarn (Paris in Berlin is fingering while the other cowl was DK), and the feel of the yarn, with the Koigu being so VERY soft. It used quite a bit of the yarn, with 40 or so metres spare.

And now that these two projects are complete, I’m once again in that limbo of what to make next. Sure, I could keep working on the various sweaters I have on the go, or work a few rounds on a sock or two… but wouldn’t it be far more fun to start something new.

Knitting without a pattern

I have to say, I’m rather proud of my latest project, not only with how fast I was able to get it finished – a cowl in less than a week – but also with the fact that I set out a challenge for myself and was successful.

There was a bandana cowl I favourited on Ravelry, a paid pattern, and I thought the general structure of this cowl could work well for my Leo and Roxy March Yarn Club.

Wait, let me back up. Have I showed how pretty this yarn is?

Leo and Roxy is a Canadian yarn company, and in December 2020, they announced the themes for their quarterly yarn club. March was Doctor Who themed, so of course I had to order myself a kit. Merry Christmas to me, amirite?

The main colour and its blues are very reminiscent of the TARDIS, although it has greens and greys as well. Those greens and greys, when paired with the purple and red mini skeins, are four of the colours in the Fourth Doctor’s scarf. Basically, I got the yarn and was in love.

So, back to the story of the cowl. I loved the way the cowl I favourited used a main colour and minis in different sections throughout. I set out to use this design as inspiration and simply make my own cowl in a similar manner. I had my pretty main colour, the two minis from the kit, and I had another mini from Leo and Roxy in a mustardy yellow/gold colour in my stash (and wouldn’t you know, that is ANOTHER colour in the Doctor’s scarf). I was ready to start forging my own path.

I’ve made countless bandana cowls. I don’t really need a pattern for these any more. They start just like triangular shawls, although, you get to a point where you want to stop knitting flat and start knitting in the round. Easy peasy.

I got to the sections for the contrast colours; the first section was simple to reverse engineer, and the second took some brain power, but again, a very simple stitch structure to replicate. I then got to a lace section and was CONVINCED this was the point where I would simply make it my own. A bit of time looking at lace patterns and plugging it into Stitch Fiddle later, and that section was reverse engineered as well. Now it was a challenge. There was one particularly tricky section of the cowl, but I have a stitch dictionary boasting a very similar pattern, so the differences are negligible. I was able to essentially recreate this beautiful pattern without a pattern. Me five years ago couldn’t do that. Heck, I wonder if pre-pandemic Me could have (because I’ve spent a LOT of time over these last however months knitting, honing my skills, if you will).

I do have some guilt, that I’ve made this designer’s lovely pattern without actually purchasing it. I have no intentions of recreating this cowl for anyone other than myself. I also read other knitters comparing patterns to recipes. If you want to make Chocolate Chip Cookies, would you need to pay money for a recipe if you have the ingredients and know how to make your own without it? I’ve bought patterns from this designer in the past and likely will again in the future. I will support them.

But this time, I didn’t need the recipe.

Blurry Cowl

A short while ago, I finished one of Joji Locatelli’s latest patterns, Blurry Cowl (RAV LINK). It flew off my needles and I couldn’t wait to try it on, but after blocking, I didn’t love it.

Blurry is a bandana style cowl, one for which I will forever and always declare my love, and it’s made with two skeins of DK weight yarn. Everything about this should have been my jam, but ultimately, it had a little too much bulk around the neck for my liking.

So I frogged.

I ripped back until the start of the striping section, and I adapted the pattern, hoping it would result in a more comfortable (for me) fit. The pattern, as written, sees 2 stitches increased after working 8 rounds; instead, I increased 2 stitches every 2 rounds, omitting decreases that were called for at the back. It changed the overall shape of the cowl, as you can see:

On the left was the cowl, knit as the pattern was written, and you can see a very straight line at the back; compare that to the cowl with my adjustments, and the back flairs out at an angle. It fits much more comfortably around my neck.

To cut down again on the bulk, I shortened the number of striping rounds, but I don’t think anything was lost from the design by leaving out a few stripes.

I was very glad to have kept the ribbing bottom border of the cowl. I was a little nervous about that, because my stitch count was different and would have continued to be due to all my increases, but I simply kept track of which stitches were meant to be knits and which were the purls, and it worked out very nicely.

The yarn I used was sport weight, a little lighter than the DK called for in the pattern The speckled yarn is Annie Paaren MTL BFL, yarn I bought from Espace Tricot on my 2019 trip to Montreal, while the teal was grey sport weight yarn I overdyed, yarn that was part of my swag bag for the 2018 Great Toronto Yarn Hop. They work really nicely together – a very happy accident I couldn’t have planned if I tried!

New Year Knits

Happy belated holidays! I hope you got what you needed from the holidays. Me, it was quiet, relaxing, filled with virtual gatherings with family and lots of knitting.

I was down to the wire with my holiday knitting, but I got everything finished before Christmas. Actually, I might have been weaving in the ends of my dad’s socks on Christmas morning, and he got them officially a few days later after washing and blocking. I’ll write about these socks, more specifically, the pattern I used, in another post.

By Boxing Day, I turned my attention to some selfish knitting! One of the many sweaters I made last year was Very V Neck Raglan (RAV LINK) by Jessie Maed Designs, but it needed to be one size smaller for a better fit. I frogged, I re-cast on, and I was able to revisit it after sitting untouched, getting quite a bit of it knit.

Another project I’ve been working on is Blurry Cowl (RAV LINK) by Joji Locatelli. My love of bandana cowls has been well professed in the past, so when she released this pattern as part of her new Interpretations collection, I had to buy it. I had the perfect yarn in mind – a teal and black speckled yarn I bought in Montreal in 2019, and a skein of teal yarn I hand dyed a few years ago. As described by Joji, “Born during a night of boredom, and of the desire to just feel the rhythm of the stitches in my hands, this cowl is both easy to make and easy to wear.” I couldn’t describe it better if I tried. This cowl has been such a relaxing project, with enough variating stitches in the pattern so far to stay interesting but very simple.

Happy New Year and happy knitting!