Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Magic Carpet Tapestry Cowl

It is so hot here right now that even talking about this double-thick, multi-colored, stranded-knitting cowl I made seems ridiculous.

 

 

The thing is, though, that if I want things like this to be ready and waiting when it does get cold (and it will get cold, hoo boy, and soon too, ack) I have to make them now, while it's nice and sweltering outside. You all know I don't even mean that ironically. It really is nice and sweltering. I do well in the heat, wow, I am so out of place here in the North, but even when it's so hot my eyelids are sweating, the hot and the humid is good for me. I am happy when it's sultry, and I know that in this, I am all alone. There are only about two really warm weather months here in my neighborhood in New York, and soon enough there will be a nip in the air and everyone but me will be rejoicing.

This was the weirdest knitwear photo shoot ever, and that's saying something, because I once appeared here in my pajamas.

 

 

I know, this is goofy. What, was I going to wait until it snows to show you this? I am nowhere near as patient as that. You can almost see what it might be like one day, right? When the blizzards are upon us and the land is forbidding and frozen, and the sky is leaden and ominous and the winds batter against the door? I'll be so glad to pull this up around my ears before heading out into the storm. (Ugh, it hardly bears thinking about...bring me a Corona, stat...)

 
 

Particulars: for the colorwork exterior, I used (part of) one skein each KnitPicks Palette in Mineral Heather, Cream, Sea Grass, Wallaby, Green Tea, Garnet Heather and Oregon Coast Heather, and Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift in Mist and Navy. All those yarns are beautiful and everything, but they're also pretty itchy for wearing at the neck, so for the lining I used one skein Malabrigo Lace in Pearl.

There's no pattern for this, because I made it up myself. Here's my process; feel free to use this yourself if you like.

How to Make a Knit Cowl in Stranded Colorwork

1. Pull your palette together. Choose yarns--wool, please--that are all the same weight, in anywhere from two colors to whatever crazy number of colors you think you can handle. Take care to ensure that you have contrasting values in your palette--darks and lights. I used nine different colors. Let your whims guide you. My feeling is that if you like all the colors you chose and you think they look good together, and you've taken care to make sure there are contrasting values, you can't fail at this.

2. Select a stitch pattern. There are a great many wonderful resources out there (I used Alice Starmore's Charts for Color Knitting) or you can get out your graph paper and figure out your own pattern. I'm sure there's an easy, computer-y way to design knitting charts, too, and if you know of a good one, I'd love to hear about it.

3. Count the stitches in each repeat of your chosen stitch pattern. The one I used had a pattern repeat of 49 stitches. Now, using your chosen yarn and an appropriately-sized needle (I used a US 2 16" circular) make a swatch. I'm so sorry, I know swatching is a huge drag, but it's the only way you're going to have any idea what size your finished project will be. Measure the number of stitches per inch in your swatch.

4. Now figure out how big around you want your cowl to be. Ask yourself whether you want it to hug your neck a lot or a little; how much ease do you want it to have? Use a measuring tape to measure around your neck to give you this number. I decided I wanted my cowl to be 22" around.

5. Do some math. 22 (desired finished size in inches) x 9 (stitches per inch in swatch) = 198 (number of stitches to--theoretically--cast on). Wait a minute! Hang on. My chosen stitch pattern chart has 49 stitches in one repeat, and 49 (stitches in pattern repeat) x 4 (repeats of chart) = 196. That's pretty darn close, and good enough.

6. Now figure out how you want to arrange your colors in the pattern. The temptation here is to overthink this until you finally stuff all the yarn into a bag and give up, but this is a lot simpler than it looks. I divided my palette into four sets of one dark and one light yarn that looked good together, and I called the pairs A, B, C, and D. For example, pair B was Mineral Heather (the dark) and Mist (the light). Then I almost arbitrarily divided the 48 rows of the repeat in my chart into symmetrical sections, working more or less from dark to light toward the center of the motif, using the cream yarn as the light value for the very center row in the motif, and then light back to dark. How you do this is entirely a matter of personal choice. You can have a light foreground and a dark background (which is how I did it) and if it's confusing, think of it this way: make stripes in a symmetrical pattern with the darks, and meanwhile work the chart design on top of it using the light value colors. Of course you can do the reverse, as well, using a striping pattern of light values as your background, knitting the charted stitches in dark value colors.

See how the background is striped, with the lighter colors kind of "on top"? Breaking down the design process like that makes it easy to come up with a color strategy.

7. Cast on and start knitting, and because the color work part is so utterly compelling, you'll want to dive right in with row 1 of the chart and your first color pair, but I suggest you do what I forgot to do, and use a provisional cast on to work a bunch of rows of the lining first; this will pay off later when you're all done. Knit your way through the chart, changing colors as needed. Carry the yarn along at the back whenever you can. Work as many pattern row repeats as you need for your cowl to be tall enough--my chart had 48 rows per repeat, and I worked two full repeats. Change yarns and knit the lining in something soft and gorgeous. If you started by working part of the lining first, you can finish the lining and graft the two ends with Kitchener stitch for a flawless finish. If you started with the color work, like I did, knit the whole lining (work the same number of rows--or inches--as you worked for the exterior) and then bind off and seam the lining to the cast on edge using mattress stitch.

8. Block the finished cowl, wait for cold weather--or not--and wear with pride, comfort, and joy.

 

 

32 comments:

  1. Ugh. It is crazy hot and humid here in Philly. You're loving it, and I'm thinking "Maybe it'll snow tomorrow. Love the cowl--you do such beautiful work!

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  2. I'm inspired and your instructions are so easy to follow. Fabulous work.

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  3. Looks great, well done. Good to be prepared for whatever the weather throws at you.

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  4. stunning! thanks for all the info!

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  5. \What a talent, it is beautiful and great to be prepared. Made me smile a cosy cowl and a vest top...

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  6. It's marvelous, and the photos are cute, not ridiculous! : ) I'm tempted to try and make myself one, but as I'm a beginner knitter I might end up tangled in the different threads - I can barely knit with one... xD

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  7. Wonderful. You introduced me to colour work when you posted the knitty fall hat last year and I made two: one in practise wool for my daughter (she loves it) and one in blue Leicester and alpaca for me. Kirsten I hadn't knitted anything other than a scarf for over 30 years! I too knitted a cowl this year following a pattern which entailed counting in fives. You and the lovely Alicia are so inspiring. I want to knit more. Yesterday I was in a little needlework shop studying the Appleton shade card and talking knitting with the owner and he told me about Annie & Co on Madison Avenue. I immediately thought of you! In the UK all the little wool and needlework shops are closing down but in upmarket touristy towns like Oxford and Bath and London they are being re-invented.

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  8. It looks amazing! Well done! I have tried colourwork a couple of times but it's not my greatest strength - something to conquer at a later date, I think! The cowl looks so cosy, it will be fabulous in the cold weather. I am, for now though, a little envious of your hot weather, we are having a rather cool wet July here in the UK, a little dissapointing! That's British weather for you! I will be starting a little winter knitting soon too - getting organised like you, for the coming cool days :)
    Kate x

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  9. It's absolutely gorgeous and you'll be the talk of the town come November! I adore the color select that you made … I can envision this with a charcoal topcoat. Also, that's some bitchin' tattoo that you've got there!

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  10. Kristen, bravo to you on creating this lovely cowl! Your color choices work so well together...a really good mix of light and darker values let the fair isle glow. As you may remember, I am a huge fair isle fan and love this way of playing with colors.

    Even in hot weather. It will effectively be about 100 degrees here later on today. Upstate New York sounds very appealing for August. Europe's had an unusually cool summer. Knit on! xo

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  11. So Beautiful!!! I wish I could knit like that. but the whole post was like reading Chinese, not you its me. Me and Math...not friends. I'm so right-brained I qualify for handicap parking, and anything that involves more than filling in the amount on a check, makes my brain begin to smoke. People who do math (and some people do it for a living!!! UGH!) are like police and firemen to me. Thank God for them. Research? check. Need a speech written? Check. Need something fact-checked? check. but numbers? I run far and fast :)

    101 here today with a heat index of 110. Humidity sitting somewhere around 60%. You want hot, come on down. =)

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  12. It's beautiful! You'll really enjoy it when it's cold.

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  13. You are not alone. I love the heat and humidity too!

    Beautiful cowl!!

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  14. You are not alone. I love the heat and humidity too!

    Beautiful cowl!!

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  15. It's beautiful. I'm impressed with how good it looks with your pajamas. :)

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  16. Wow, ¡impresionante! Yo nunca he tejido algo tan intrincado a dos agujas. Yo por el contrario, sufro con el calor, a mi me viene mejor el frío :D
    Que sigas teniendo bonita semana y gracias por compartir con nosotros. :)

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  17. That is absolutely gorgeous Kristen! (But then I knew it would be from the first WIP pic of it you posted ;-)) I am also thinking of the approaching winter right now (yesterday I was putting together an advent calendar for #1 grandson) although it has been so cold, wet & miserable here in the Highlands so far this year I'm hoping we will get a little hint of summer before we head into the Fall! Enjoy your warm sultry weather while it lasts, your beautiful cowl will be in use soon enough :-)
    Helen

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  18. This type of stranded knitting boggles my mind and you make it look so easy. I also love that it's lined. Even though your tank top and cowl are "seasonally conflicted", it makes for a great blog post.
    Lovely knitted finish.

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  19. This cowl is so amazing. It's winter here and would work just fine. As it's beside Catdog and her cushion, it made me think what a great cushion cover a larger (flat) piece of this would be. after awning over the cat dog pix, I have now got myself a little black puppy, collie/lab cross cat dog in training. She remembers to be a snoozy cat dog 60% of the time but her puppy-ness often gets in the way and then she is more crazy monkey than cat dog. But i am hopeful.

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  20. that was actually meant to be awwwing, thank you autocorrect!

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  21. Thats a really beautiful colour combination, the cowl looks super!!

    And can we see a full picture of that excellent tattoo on your arm please :-)

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  22. Great idea using a soft yarn to line the cowl so you can make use of scratchier ones for the design - I'd never have thought to do that. Great work here, I love it. xx

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  23. Wow, this is just beautiful! I'm just getting ready to start knitting and this looks so complicated. I admire your creativity. I also love the yarn you dyed in your last post - what a lovely shade of yellow. I live in NY too and though I've never been a hot weather person, I'm loving this summer. But, thank goodness for AC!

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  24. simply lovely! I wish I could knit this! But I too felt like I was reading Chinese - LOL! Not your explanation - just my brain.... Maybe if we were in person and you were showing me every step while I knitted. Or better yet, if YOU were knitting it - ha!

    Linda in VA

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  25. I don't normally go for a cowl - too baggy but I would fall for that in a shop any day. Great knitting skills. jo x

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  26. Beautiful!!! Both you AND the cowl! You are always such a great inspiration; thank you!

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  27. Beautiful!!! Both you AND the cowl! You are always such a great inspiration; thank you!

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  28. That is a very impressive, and very beautiful, piece of knitting!

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  29. I love this. You can make me one. Oh wait--I live in Houston and would never, never get the opportunity to wear it. Unless you love summer enough to trade places with me (in Houston we say the seasons are hot, hotter, less hot, and Christmas). In which case you would probably not have much of a reason to knit. Aw, forget it all. ;)

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  30. Wow you're such an accomplished knitter, after following your blog for years now I know this already, but this is fab.

    I can tell you're loving the hot weather - you look so well on it.

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  31. Your cowl is absolutely lovely. I've just finished swatching for my Icelandic sweater...but I may have to have another project on the side..... Thanks for the ideas I now have swirling around my head.

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