Every now and then I get fixated on a project that is so darn lovely that I think every knitter should make it. My last strong feeling was making the Better Than Basic Pullover last summer, and the feeling has hit again.
A couple of weeks ago we met with Antonia Shankland, one of our yarn reps who happens to be thoroughly chic and lovely, inside and out. She came in wearing this thick and squishy cowl, worked in a reverse stockinette stitch. As we went over yarn after yarn after yarn, I kept stealing glances at her cowl. It was worked up with two strands of yarn (held double throughout), a thicker one in black, a thinner one in white. Unable to control myself, I finally put my hands on it and squished it with delight. Antonia gave me an approving look (it was okay for me to fondle her cowl) and talked about how easy the concept and knitting was. It was simply a long tube worked entirely in knit stitches, doubled over on itself and seamed up (along the cast-on and bind-off edges) to make it extra warm, with the reverse stockinette side (you know, the purl side!) showing. Then she started to pack up and bundle up, putting on this beautiful cowl last, folding it slightly at the bottom toward the inside so it lay perfectly under her ears and at her chin. Antonia looked so chic, so warm and so polished.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that delicious cowl for the next several hours, so I told Patty I thought we should knit one up. A minimal amount of hunting led me in the right direction: Antonia published the pattern for this cowl (although it was written by the owner of a PA yarn shop). It’s called the Val Cowl. Antonia’s own version was worked with the reverse stockinette side showing, while the pattern shows the stockinette side showing. Since we don’t carry the yarn the pattern was written for, I came up with a luscious substitute: Shibui’s Maai and Birch held together.
I cast on December 21, working a long tube – I did mine in all purls because I love to purl) – on a generously sized needle. Five days later, I was done with my knitting. The evening of Christmas Day I seamed this baby up, reverse stockinette side showing. It was an absolutely relaxing and simple knit – the type I wrote about last week. Working with fibers as luxe as Maai and Birch felt like a party in itself. I felt doubly indulged throughout the knitting of this project, working with such lovely fibers and being able to participate with the world around me.
The finished object is nothing short of fabulous. It is incredibly soft and warm. The doubled fabric gives it enough body to stay up on its own without any fidgety adjustments, and it is irresistible to touch and have against my neck and face. I made the shop sample using Tar (black black black) in Maai and Ash (a pale grey) in Birch, so it has that same chic, minimalist look as the one Antonia wore to our meeting. Now that I’ve finished this beautiful piece, not only do I wish I could keep that sample, I can’t stop imagining the unlimited combinations of yarn I could use to make more of these! In fact, I picked out two skeins of Madeline Tosh Vintage from my stash (in a shade of pink only a girl like me could love) and one skein of Tosh Merino Light in Voodoo (another loud, pink skein) and cast on one for myself.
The other day, when one of my lovely knitters came to me asking for a good travel project, this one came to mind. Jessy posed another request: a wool-free version as she can’t wear wool. This actually wasn’t too much of a challenge. We coupled Juniper Moon’s Cumulus (an incredibly soft Israeli cotton) and Knit One Crochet Too’s Cozette (a smooth and soft blend of silk, cotton and nylon). Jessy has been in my knitting class since I started teaching at Wool & Grace, and I’ve always admired her own sense of style. I felt like I was bestowing on her a special gift by sharing this simple project with her. We wound up her yarn and gave her the recipe for this easy cowl and she was ready for her travels and her knitting!
There are a few reasons I think this is a project for every knitter. This project is so effortless, and the finished product is so lovely. Plus, there are so many fun possibilities for this piece. Pick one yarn that is (approximately) worsted weight and one that is (approximately) fingering, and work them together in a long tube. You’ll need a bit more than 400 yards of each yarn. If it looks like your pushing gauge, modify your number of cast-on stitches (and add or subtract yardage accordingly). Within this simple knitting concept, there is a huge amount of room for creativity. Even the most seasoned knitters will enjoy this space for fun with color and fibers.
Besides the Maai+Birch, Vinage+TML or Cumulus+Cozette version, here are a few other ideas:
Juniper Moon Fourteen + Shibui’s Birch: I like the clean look of these two yarns and the subtle halo Birch will lend to the finished piece. Fourteen is a very versatile yarn in that you can play with gauge a lot, and it can play its part as a worsted weight yarn very easily. This is another super soft and refined version of this piece. (Psst, you’ll need three skeins of Fourteen and two skeins of Birch)
Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter + Loft: I love these yarns and the tweedy, flecked look these yarns will give the piece. It’ll be really warm, have a ton of body and get softer with time. (You’ll need 3 skeins of Shelter and 2 skeins of Loft)
Falkland Aran + TML or La Jolla: pair the super soft and luxurious Falkland Aran with a hand-dyed yarn to add some color and texture to this piece. (You’ll need two skeins of Falkland and 1 skein of La Jolla or TML)
Meanwhile, I feel like it’s always a good practice to go into 2019 with some sort of knitting resolution. After an epic year of sweater knitting, I want to put more of a focus on accessories for 2019. This will mean smaller projects, and hopefully some where I can focus on playing with techniques. It’ll also mean there’s more potential for gifts – because how many scarves, hats, mittens etc does a girl really need? Here are a few of the accessories that are on my list – I hope to get to some of them!
I want to knit up this striking and warm cowl in a red and white combination of Brooklyn Tweed’s Quarry. I may even knit up some matching mitts in scraps of Loft.
I love those big, simple cables on a garter backdrop. I want to knit the blanket version, a wedding gift for my sister. I’m determined to do this and I’m planning to knit it up using Mirasol’s Ushya. It’s a perfect sub for Hygge.
I’ve mentioned this hat, mitten pair in a previous blog. I love the modern take on stranded color work. I hope to make time for both. Of course, I’ll use Arbor and Peerie, because those are the suggested yarns and they happen to be thoroughly delightful.
This striped bag came out in last summer’s Pompom Quarterly and I was smitten by it’s striking stripes and blocks of color. It’s a piece of origami, but it’s easy knitting. It’s also written for a fingering weight yarn. I am thinking that if I knit it in a DK weight yarn, it’ll just be bigger. When it comes to me and bags, bigger is always better. I’m thinking Blue Sky’s Skinny Cotton or Juniper Moon’s Zooey will be the yarn for this project.
Something about this unexpected combination of a rectangle and a triangle makes me feel a little uneasy, but in a good way. I can’t decide if I want to go solid (with Peerie or Birch) or hand-dyed (with La Jolla) on this one!
There are a number of other accessories on my queue, and I think I’ll be able to knock most of them off my list this year! Plus, I have a feeling a few more Val Cowls will be happening in 2019 – and that a number of them will become gifts. What about the knitters out there in the world? Who has made their own knitting resolutions for 2019?