by Joni Coniglio
Available on Interweave for $6.50
(Worth the money to buy the issue of Interweave Knits Winter 2017 where it was first published. It's not much more than the pattern by itself and there are a lot of lovely men's sweaters in that issue.)
Shown here in Malabrigo Mecha
Teal Feather and Natural (I used 1.25 skeins of each color)
Skills required: knit, simple color changes, slip stitch, grafting
I am so glad to be posting a finished knit project again! I feel like it's been a really long time, and looking back, I am not wrong. I have so many projects on needles around the house, it's a little ridiculous. I feel like every time I finish something, I give myself permission to start two new things. The result is something of a mess. I knit and I knit and nothing gets done. That is until now. (insert maniacal laugh here.) I finished the first of my planned holiday gifts. This cowl is for my mother-in-law. She picked it out as something she liked when we were looking at sweater patterns for my husband. I thought it would be a nice surprise if I knit it for her. She is one of those people that even if the end product turned out like a monstrous yarny blob, she would still wear it proudly and boast to everyone it is handmade and someone made it for her. She is every handmade gift-giver's dream. Luckily, this cowl does not look like a monstrous blob...always a plus.
The cowl is knit flat and then grafted. The bulky weight yarn knits up very quickly and, in combination with the stitch pattern, makes for a very squishy and comfy cowl. I decided that I would block my cowl before I grafted it together, the thought being that it is much easier to block something flat instead of something round. It worked out great! I just left the cowl on my circular needles and used the chord of the circular needles as a handy place to pin the top of the cowl. (I did make sure to keep my needles out of the water soak and dried any residual water before I pinned.) I pinned and left the cowl to its own devices for two days.
The garter stitch graft was very straight forward. I wasn't paying attention and I actually knit two rows of color A at the end of the cowl, which I shouldn't have because the grafting makes the two rows of color A. The result was that one stripe on the cowl is a little wider than all the rest. I asked myself if it mattered and my answer was "no." You can't tell, especially when wearing the cowl. But, if you make this scarf, make sure you stop on color B even though you would typically stop on color A. It is clearly written in the pattern, I just wasn't paying attention.
I will say, once I unpinned the cowl, there was still slightly more draw-in where the patterned stitching is than with the garter stitching. While blocking fixed most of the size discrepancy between the two styles of stitch, it relaxed and there is a slight undulation to the sides of my cowl. Again, it is not something that is noticeable except if you lay it out flat and stare at it. It is completely invisible when the cowl is being worn.
I used a single-ply yarn with lots of air and fluff to it, so the cowl is very cozy and should be warm. It was a joy to knit with the Malabrigo Mecha. (So many fun colors to choose from, too.) I think my mother-in-law will be very pleased with how this cowl turned out, though I know she would never say otherwise. I guess it is more fair to say that I am pleased with how this cowl turned out...and that it is July and I've already finished something for the holiday rush!
Project Summary: This is a great pattern. Its simple yet unique stitch is really easy to do and does not require a lot of focus or counting past the number three. It's a great project to pack along with you on an outing because it is very easy to pick up right where you left off and know what you were doing. The bulky yarn and simple stitches make it a really quick project, too. There is grafting, which scares some knitters, but the pattern is clear and makes easy work of the graft.
I have seen many SAORI projects, and while many of them are not to my particular taste, there are quite a few that really catch my eye as something special. I mean, there is something truly wonderful in a 100% unique fabric. No two SAORI-styled weaves can ever look the same. I tend to be a rule follower. I like things organized. I like directions. I like to kind of know how something will turn out before I start. It seemed like maybe it was time I turned my habits on their head and tried something WAY outside my comfort zone. You know, let my spirit free. I decided I would use three ArtYarn skeins I had from a Yarnbox Luxe in addition to a special yarn (that clearly was not as "nice" as the ArtYarns but equally special to me) that I had picked up with my mom while on vacation. The "add-on" yarn had these fun sequins throughout that I really enjoyed but had no intention of trying to knit into anything. It's strange I even bought the yarn, I'm not usually one for bling, but that made it even more appropriate for this project.
The four yarns I was using were all very different: a merino, a mohair, a silk blend and...um...sequins. Ready, set, go! I warped my loom as free-spirited as I could, making stripes of each of my yarns as I felt, none of them the same size and in no particular order. Be free, my spirit, be free! Part of me felt a little guilty I was using such expensive yarn for this experiment, but I hushed that voice and assured myself this was a good project worth the yarn I was using. My spirit deserves nice yarn, right? With the loom warped, I made myself two makeshift cardboard stick shuttles to accompany my Schacht shuttles to accommodate all four of my yarns and I was ready to go.
I want to tell you it was a wonderful, zen-filled experience weaving this scarf. That it was a peaceful journey where I listened to my soul as I painted with yarn. I want to tell you that, but I can't. Don't get me wrong, I actually love the end result and the journey was enlightening, but this was probably one of the most stressful weaving projects to date. I don't even know where to start. Mohair is sticky. Different yarns have different elasticity. Sequins do not fit through the holes of a 12-dent rigid heddle reed very well. Abrasion is a thing. Consistent tension is a bitch. The list is longer, but I think you get the idea.
Like I said, though, the journey was enlightening. Imperfection is okay and even beautiful. I leaned so much from this project I have certainly become a better weaver for it. It will probably be a good long while before I let my spirit go again, but I am glad I did it. Even if I had to cut each sequin off the yarn on the warp thread as I went, this scarf really reminds me that you live and learn and you should always dream big. Because I wove this after the kiddos were in bed, and to remind me of the journey, I have decided to call this scarf "Midnight Meandering." One of the best parts of this project was unrolling the cloth from my front roller on my loom. It was great seeing how my weaving turned out. I had an idea of what it was going to look like, but I did not really know how it would all look together. I am not gifting this scarf to anyone, I am going to keep it. It is mine...my self expression despite frustration and a reminder that sometimes we just need to let go, even if it doesn't always work out the way we want or expect-it can still be beautiful. (And every journey really is one of a kind.)
I had never heard of this event until this year, but apparently it is because I sometimes live with my head in a hole. The Tour de Fleece has been an annual event for at least a decade, as far as I can tell, with many participants all over the world. As you might guess by the name, it is meant to take place concurrently with the Tour de France...get it? Spinning/spinning? Well, it made me laugh and think it was such a clever and cute idea, I wanted to learn to spin something just so I could participate. The idea is that you take time out of every day to spin some fiber. You may only have ten minutes to spare, but that is completely okay. There is a group on Ravelry for the event as well as competitions, so if that's your dish, you're in luck. Also, just like in the bicycling Tour de France, you can join spinning teams. It is really quite amazing. I, however, just wanted to participate quietly on my own, especially since I am just learning and I am not even using a wheel. I went the spindling route. (Much cheaper and seemed like a logical place to start my handspun adventures.) I get the impression, however, that the Tour de Fleece is a come-as-you-like type event, I feel like everyone is welcome however they spin.
I had a pile of fluff and a simple spindle I got in a goodie bag from a folk-fest, but I went ahead a bought myself a Louet bottom whorl spindle and some Blue Faced Leicester from The Woolery because it came recommended in the class I purchased on Craftsy. (It is a great class called "Spindling: From Fluff to Stuff;" I feel like it really gave me a solid foundation to explore spindling. I have linked it here in case you'd like to check it out.) My supplies cost less than $40 and I got my spindling class for $20, though if you are a beginner like me and not ready to spend a combined $60, there are a whole host of YouTube videos and DIY spindles that could make this an even cheaper place to start spinning.
Let me just say, the Tour de Fleece has been so much fun so far! I am really digging this whole spindling thing. I'm still not very good, but that will come with practice, I'm sure. But there is just something so peaceful and zen about the whole process. It helps clear my mind and relax me, even when I only try spindling for five minutes. And it is so easy to tote about, I can follow my kids around and still enjoy spinning. They think it's fun to watch, too. Bonus! They don't mind at all that their crazy fiber loving mother has found another thing to play with.
If there is a spinning bug, I think I've caught it. I want to spin up enough of this mixed top to ply the yarn and maybe make a fisherman's cap. That would be awesome. So, this is going to be my first post on spinning- we will see where this Tour de Fleece takes me and what awaits beyond the July finish line.