Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips

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Well, I’m behind in every one of my challenges this year, but I keep working away at them. And here’s a measure of success: I finished another project for my Diversity of Yarn challenge. Aramingo is the project for sport weight yarn.

A hank of Manos del Uruguay's Clara yarn in the Velvet colorway.

The yarn was a surprise. Clara is what the pattern calls for, and I liked the cowl pictured on the pattern, which was worked in a lovely tonal golden yellow. I prefer to wear pinks and purples, though, so I ordered a hank in Velvet. It was a lot more variegated than I was expecting. But I didn’t want to spend the money to mail it back, and I told myself that not everything I own needs to be super-subtle, so I went ahead and made the cowl. I think the variegation does obscure the lace pattern, but the colors are interesting enough in their own right. It is wonderfully soft. I hadn’t been expecting the pattern to be chart-only, but that was fine once I got used to it. I gave up on doing a gauge swatch because the combination of ribbing and lace seemed impossible to measure accurately. Now that I’m done, the cowl is a little limper than I could’ve wished, and I probably could’ve gone down a needle size or two. Maybe I’ll make another one in a tighter gauge. And yeah, a more subtle colorway. I mean, this was enough wild adventure for one pattern.

Aramingo cowl, laid flat.

A bandana cowl laid flat may look a bit odd.

The knitting itself was fun. I obviously need to knit heavier yarn than fingering weight more often because it sped along and I loved seeing it grow so quickly. (I’m currently working on a laceweight project. Words like “sped” and “quickly” do not currently apply.) I like the bandana cowls: they stay around your neck without a fight, and they hug the neck closer than tubular cowls do. As long as the cast on (or chain, if you’re crocheting) can fit over your head, it’ll work. At least with a chain, you can check for fit just as you join it. Since I was knitting this on a 24″ (60 cm) needle, I couldn’t tell until I’d gotten well past the join, and it was a bit tense until I knew it would fit. It’s now waiting for temperatures cold enough to wear it, and since our unseasonably warm fall heat wave (94° F/34 ° C) has finally ended, that may happen relatively soon.


Pattern: Aramingo
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay Clara
Colorway: Velvet
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)



More near-instant gratification and a not-so-instant goal

I knitted another Rasta Triangle Cowl. It’s a versatile pattern, and it seemed like it’d be great for another Malabrigo yarn I wanted to try: Caracol. As it turned out, though, Caracol didn’t behave much like Rasta, even though the yarns are essentially the same weight. But, hey, it’s beautiful to look at! And yes, I’m giving most of the credit for that to the yarn.

Caracol triangular cowlOne of the reasons I like this pattern is that it doesn’t have a gauge. It simply instructs you to use size 15 (10.0 mm) needles. Generally, I’m fine with that—not having to knit gauge swatches contributes to the near-instant gratification element of this project. The Rasta worked out fine, but Caracol is a thick-and-thin yarn, and the 15s were too big for it. The cowl is lovely to look at, but annoyingly limp. (Lesson learned: whatever I do with my other skein of Caracol—yes, I have another one—I don’t plan to go above size 13 (9.0 mm) needles.) Oh, and the cowl was a pain and a half to block. Not only did it go limp, but touching it to gently pat it out to a rectangle was enough to get damp blue-green lint all over my fingers. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I had to pat it back into a rectangle. The pattern instructs the knitter to stretch the heck out of this piece, but I decided with the first one that I would be happier if it was shorter and hugged my neck more. But the Caracol stretched out merely by becoming wet. I ended up pushing it together and hoping it would shrink as it dried. Which it did. Sort of. Not enough, alas.

Close-up of Caracol Cowl and its buttonsLint and limpness aside, though, it’s a glorious color. I love the stained glass effect created by the black binder thread wrapped around the wool. And unlike the Rasta cowl, where it was a struggle to find good buttons, I found good buttons for this cowl practically the moment I walked into the fabric store.

So, cowl, yes. But I want more this year, knitting- and crochet-wise. Looking over last year’s stats, I was disappointed that my pie chart of yarn weights had only two “slices” in it. So I made up my own Diversity of Yarn Challenge. It’s pretty simple; make something this year in each of the eight standard yarn weights. Caracol is super-bulky (#6 Super Bulky), so I’m off to a good start. I’m currently knitting a DK-weight sweater (#3 Light). I can easily come up with a fingering weight shawlette (#1 Super Fine). I have plans for a chunky weight sweater (#5 Bulky). That leaves jumbo (#7 Jumbo), worsted (#4 Medium), sport (#2 Fine), and lace (#0 Lace). Plus the actual knitting/crocheting of these projects, of course. I have most of these yarns in my stash—okay, I learned there was a Jumbo category as I was writing this post, and I’ll need to get some yarn for it—it’s just a matter of finding patterns for them and making them.


Caracol Triangle Cowl
Pattern: The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Caracol
Color: Teal Feather
Needles: 15 (10.0 mm)


The stylish near-instant gratification cowl

About three years ago, I made a cowl in Malabrigo Rasta. I liked the yarn—soft! pretty! thick!—the knitting was simple and fast, and the cowl is attractive. But it’s basically a cylinder around my neck and it doesn’t quite work for me. I wanted something somewhat more shaped. So there I was, still with Rasta-lust, and not sure how to satisfy it. A two-skein Rasta project seemed like it might be a bit excessive: I’m too short to really carry off one of those ginormous Outlander-style cowls, and besides, wouldn’t I be a bit top-heavy and in danger of tipping over? 😉 But I didn’t know if one skein would let me do anything more than cylinders in various stitch patterns.


Last spring, Suncat and I were doing our annual Not-Yarnover day, which involved visiting yarn shops that are technically local, but not our usual favorites. At one, I saw Malabrigo yarns all dyed in this lovely colorway, and the Rasta called. But what to do with it? Conveniently enough, the store had a skein knitted up in this pattern. It looked promising. Note that it’s narrower at the top than at the bottom, just as the neck is narrower than the shoulders. So it covers the area where the neck joins the shoulders, while minimizing the gap between the cowl and the body—a gap that lets chilly air in. This is good. So I was able to justify buying the yarn. (Okay, I can usually find some reason to justify buying yarn, but I thought this one was particularly good.)

The knitting was easy: there isn’t even a gauge to shoot for (whee!). Finding good buttons was more of a challenge than I expected, but the fabric store down the street has a reputation for great buttons, and they were able to come up with these. And it was really nice getting to knit something besides fingering weight yarn. (Note to self for 2017: knit something in some other weight of yarn!) I love the look of seed stitch, but I usually don’t have the patience for it. However, in super bulky yarn, it was only a couple of hours of knitting, and even I can make it through that.

I like this cowl enough to try it again. By now, I’ve picked up a couple of skeins of Malabrigo’s Caracol, which looks to be interchangeable with Rasta, plus I’ve acquired another skein of Rasta. (So much potential!) Maybe I’ll use seed stitch again, or maybe I’ll try some other simple stitch. The main point is, I can have fun playing with these yarns, finish the project super-quick, and not feel like I’ve wasted my time or money because I’ll enjoy wearing the finished project. Win-win!


Rasta Triangle Cowl
Pattern: The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Rasta
Color: Añil
Needles: 15 (10.0 mm)


Alkira Cowl

More crochet! Yes, I still knit. I’ll get a knitting post or two up here sooner or later.

This is one of those patterns that can be customized to different weights of yarn and made in different sizes. I was in the mood to use up a skein of sock yarn, and it’s not hard to find shawl and cowl and scarf patterns for about 100 g of fingering weight yarn. But I wanted to use that skein of Smooshy I’d tried to use for a Damson and which had proven to be a bit short. A design that would let me stop whenever I ran low on yarn and not at a specific point in a pattern was perfect.

Alkira CowlI’d say the pattern was fairly easy to crochet. May Cheang deserves credit not only for the pattern itself, but for presenting it in such an easy-to-understand format. She included a photograph for practically every step. (The things you can do when you’re not limited by printing costs.) This was great, since she uses what is possibly a unique pattern stitch. It’s much easier to follow instructions that say “Insert the hook here, here, and here” when a photo clearly indicates where each “here” is. Many crochet patterns include charts, but I’m not sure even a good chart would have been much help with parts of this stitch.

Okay, Cheang adores the pearl edging, but it was a lot fussier than I wanted to deal with. The cowl may be a bit smaller in circumference than I’d intended just because I was tired of making one little pearl after another. But the finished effect is a nice change from standard chained edgings, and it was great not to have to count zillions of chain stitches and hope I wasn’t off by one or something. Still, if I do this cowl again, I’ll probably use a different edging.


Alkira Cowl
Pattern: Alkira Cowl
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy
Color: Cool Fire
Hook: G (4.0 mm)


Elnora Cowl

It could be argued that someone with multiple tubs of yarn in her stash doesn’t need more yarn. I try to remind myself of this whenever I go somewhere where yarn is being sold. This reminder worked as well as it always does when I went to Shepherds’ Harvest this year: I came home with two balls of yarn. At least I also came home with a plan for one of them. Annie Modesitt had a stand, and along with the yarn she was selling, there was a crocheted cowl on display. The pattern was free on her blog, I’ve been wanting to do more crochet, the cowl only took one ball of yarn…a sale was made.

Crocheted cowl.Modesitt warns you that the pattern hasn’t been tested. It worked fairly well, although I did better following the chart once I got started than trying to figure out where I was in the written directions. The two weren’t exactly alike when it came to joining the round, but generally I only needed the written directions for a couple of rows of a six-row pattern. But I’m mystified as to how she got the gauge she did for the original cowl. The pattern gauge is 8 sc/1″ (2.4 cm), using a size F (3.75 mm) hook, with the option of using a G (4.0 mm) hook for the first and last rounds to keep them from being too tight. I’m a tight crocheter, so I figured that if anything, I’d go up a size. Instead, the best I could manage was 7 sc/1″ on a size B (2.25 mm) hook, the smallest hook in my set. I refused to drop down to steel hooks to work with fingering yarn! So I resized the cowl for the gauge I was getting, eliminating a couple of pattern repeats. I want to see the display model again and see what 8 sc/1″ looks like! How did she crochet that yarn that tightly on an F hook?

I should have seen one problem ahead of time. This is a gradated yarn, but it’s also symmetrically dyed instead of starting at one color and ending in another. Since the cowl needs to end on a specific round of the pattern stitch in order to look right, I didn’t make it all the way through the yarn. So I have less purple at the top than at the bottom. Not that that’s going to be apparent when I’m wearing it, but I liked the purple and would’ve liked to have seen more of it. I’m happy to report that the yarn texture improved after its first wash. I’m wondering if the yarn started life as a sock blank to be dyed. Whatever its origins, it looked and acted as though it had been knitted and then unraveled, with a limp, unspun look. But the tight gauge kept that from getting out of hand, and then it bounced back after it had soaked in water for a while—at least until I stretched the heck out of it while blocking it to open up the mesh. The yarn, a merino/bamboo/nylon blend, feels nice, although the tight gauge robs it of a bit of its softness. With this pattern stitch, it has a nice drape.

And I’m still in a mood to crochet, so on to another crocheted cowl pattern! I don’t know why I even bother to maintain a queue on Ravelry. When it’s time for a new project, I look over the queue, decide I’m not in the mood for anything on it, and go off to browse patterns until I find something entirely unexpected. Then I put it into the queue at #1. Is that cheating?


Elnora Cowl
Pattern: Elnora Cowl
Yarn: ModeKnit Yarn ModeSock Flow
Color: Hydrangea
Hook: B (2.25 mm)

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Feeling virtuous

There’s nothing quite like the warm glow of having used yarn from a failed project. Last year, I decided to make the Tru Love Bites cowl and bought a hank of the recommended yarn: Lorna’s Laces Sportmate. When the cowl failed and I frogged it, I dutifully balled the yarn up and tossed it back in the stash. Now what it was supposed to do was sink into the depths, not to be seen again until after I’d finished the grieving process. As my stash fills half a closet, there were plenty of places for it to go missing. Instead, you’d think I’d deliberately planted it front and center. It seemed like every time I went into the stash for something, I’d run into it. After a few rounds of this, I figured I’d better either get rid of it entirely or make something else out of it, since being ambushed with bitter memories was doing nothing for my creative impulses.

Pink Marble CowlOff to Ravelry’s pattern browse. My requirements were simple: a pattern that looked at least moderately interesting, that used no more than 270 yards (247 m) of sportweight yarn (all I had to work with, since I refused to buy another hank of this yarn), and was free (I was feeling rather miserly about this project—hadn’t I sunk enough time and money into its predecessor?). This cowl looked pretty, peeking out from a collar on the sample photo. And it edged out the competition by being a crochet project—I keep meaning to do more crochet!

The project itself was fairly simple. It’s worked in the round and the join gradually slips to the left so you don’t have an obvious line down the back. It’s a nice pattern stitch, but you need to put a bit of distance between you and it to see it clearly. While I was crocheting the cowl, at first I thought it looked dull and flat compared to the photos in the pattern. Then one day I laid it down, walked away to get something, saw it as I returned, and the pattern popped out when I was several feet away. But here’s the puzzling part: the pattern calls for 210 – 220 yards (192 – 201 m) of sportweight yarn, which I figured would be a good inroad into my hank of Sportmate. I got gauge and I made the cowl the same size as the pattern called for. A little taller even, since I got swept up in the pattern and overshot the height by about an inch. Yet I’ve only used 162 yards (148 m). So I haven’t got enough to do much of anything else with, but too much to casually toss in the trash: aargh!

The Sportmate makes this “autumn” cowl light and airy. A Cozy Summer Cowl, perhaps?


Pink Marble Cowl
Pattern: Cozy Autumn Cowl
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Sportmate
Color: Galena
Hook: F (3.75 mm)


A cowl to start the season

March is the beginning of the knitting season around here. Yes, many people spend early winter knitting things for the holidays, which could be an argument for calling that the knitting season, but the holidays would go on even if knitting had never been invented. March is when knitting-centered events get going, starting with a knitting retreat.

This was another fine year for the Great Guild Getaway. The weather was unseasonably warm and there was no snow to speak of although the lakes were still frozen. Indeed, it was warm enough that some people sat outside on the deck on Saturday afternoon and knitted. I did think about joining them, but I was distracted by a massage (aaaaah…) and the temptation to take a walk.

Women knitting on a deck.

The few, the proud, the women knitting outdoors in March.

There was a drawback to the weather, though. Through most of the winter, the temperatures were in the fiercely cold range usual for this part of the state, but the diminished snow cover meant that the ground froze deeper and harder than usual. This impacted the plumbing at the camp. The running water was unaffected—yippee!—but there were signs up on all the buildings warning everyone that the drains might back up.

Warning sign about frozen drains.


I am proud to announce that I bought no yarn either at the retreat or in transit to or from it. I did win a ball of Cascade 220 Superwash Quatro, though. Even though my name was one of the last ones drawn, there was still this one nice ball of blue left among the browns, yellows, and a chartreuse. I see a cowl in its future as well.Cascade 220 Superwash Quatro (blue)

This year, I vowed to remember that this isn’t a very long retreat and that I didn’t need to bring enough knitting projects to last me for a month. That said, hours before we left for Crosslake, I started a cowl. The pattern is from the same person who’d designed the Brush Creek Cowlette that I’d recently finished, and since this pattern uses Aran-weight yarn, I figured it’d be a quick knit and a smidgen warmer to wear. I wanted to use a gradient yarn as the designer had, so I splurged on a cake of Catnip. As you may guess, it was fascinating watching the colors slowly change as the cowl grew. I’d brought along another project, a Daybreak shawlette in Mini Mochi. The Catnip yarn—half silk, half merino—was so soft to the touch that it made the Mini Mochi—all merino—feel coarse by comparison! (Which was another reason I got so much knitting time in on the Waterlily Cowl.) I got about 60% of the cowl knitted at Camp Knutson and finished it the next day at home, so it’s become a commemorative cowl of the retreat.

So, I’m back home now with a pretty new cowl and making plans for the knitting season ahead. I’m skipping Yarnover this year, but there’s still Shepherd’s Harvest in May, and hey, maybe I’ll tackle Knitting and Crochet Blog Week again. Or just enjoy the season by knitting—it’s not like there’s nothing in the queue…


Waterlily Cowl
Pattern: Zuzu’s Petals
Yarn: Twisted Fiber Art Catnip
Color: Waterlily Evolutions
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)


Three shades of gray

No, I couldn’t resist. And you have to admit it’s an accurate description.

gray Brush Creek CowletteShawlettes are pretty, shawlettes are quick and easy to knit, shawlettes have an unfortunate tendency to come unwrapped during the course of a day. Carina Spencer calls this design a cowlette: “a cowl with the look of a shawlette when worn. [It] has all the style of a lace shawlette without the fuss of trying to keep it stylishly draped around your neck!” Clearly this is a designer who understands my needs. And I love using multiple shades of one color, which was another plus for this pattern, although obviously I could have used three entirely different colors, and I saw examples of Ravelry from people who used one yarn that changed color throughout.

gray Brush Creek Cowlette modeledDespite my choice of name, there was nothing particularly masochistic about knitting this pattern, although when I discovered that my first attempt was going to have to be frogged because it wasn’t big enough to go over my head, that was painful without being the least bit pleasurable. Admittedly, I knew going in that this would be a challenge: Spencer says the cowlette will stretch to 23″ (58 cm) to fit over your head, and my head measures 24″ (61 cm). When you put a garter stitch border on a stockinette stitch piece, chances are that it’s going to pull up a bit unless you take remedial measures because garter is shorter than stockinette. For my second attempt, I started each row with a yarnover that I then dropped on the return row. It worked. I’ve done that occasionally on other projects that combine garter stitch borders with stockinette stitch bodies, but I’m going to make that my standard approach now. Even if the project doesn’t have to stretch, it looks better if the edges don’t look strained.

And yeah, I like this cowlette enough that I’m already planning a pink version. Although “Three Shades of Pink” doesn’t have quite the same connotations to it.


Three Shades of Gray
Pattern: Brush Creek Cowlette
Yarn: Knit Picks Palette
Colors: Ash, Marble Heather, Mist
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


The cowl of consolation

After frogging my last project (sob!), I decided to knit a cowl. It seemed a perfect small project: relatively simple to knit, and it would use two balls of Mochi Plus that were in my stash and for which I didn’t have any other project in mind. Quick, easy, and it’d give me a feeling of accomplishment to, well, console me after the failed Damson.

As it turned out, it wasn’t quite as easy as it looked. You start with a provisional cast on because you work this cowl side-to-side rather than bottom-to-top. But the first row, with increases and decreases, threatened to get my waste yarn so thoroughly tangled into the project that I’d never get it out again. I started with the second row, then had to think how to finish the project correctly when I came to the end. The pattern involves two double decreases that would’ve worked well enough in another yarn, but Mochi Plus is a singles yarn and a splitty one at that. I’d think I’d successfully worked the decrease, and then discover four rows later that I’d dropped the middle stitch and have to rip back. 😦

Knitted zigzag cowl.Finishing the cowl was also unexpectedly difficult. The designer says that you can use a three-needle bindoff or Kitchener stitch, and I decided to use the latter because it would be practically invisible. Which it is. The problem was that the yarn frayed and broke. Yes, that’s a known danger with singles yarns, but because the yarn you use in Kitchener stitch is visible, you can’t substitute a stronger yarn. Aargh!

Also, partway into the second ball, the color sequence reversed itself. With this cowl, that’s fine: it looks deliberate. But I could see that looking just plain sloppy in another project. This is the second time I’ve run into a yarn in the Mochi family doing that reversal. If that’s something Crystal Palace intended, I wish they’d tell you about it in the advertising, the way KnitPicks warns people that the color sequence in their new run of Chroma is now mirrored rather than sequential.

Okay, so the cowl maybe wasn’t all that consoling as I knit it, but I like the final product. Whatever its faults, Mochi Plus is a wonderfully soft yarn, which is exactly what I want in something that’s going to touch my neck. The colors are lovely and the garter stitch makes it squishy. It hugs my neck, which I like better than the kind that has a lot of excess fabric draped in the front (I can’t help thinking of those as giant knitted/crocheted necklaces). And I had enough yarn for it, and I finished it successfully, which is consoling as all get out!


Zigzag Cowl
Pattern: Mochi Plus Zig Zag Cowl
Yarn: Crystal Palace Mochi Plus
Color: Seafoam (612)
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)


The triumph of stubbornness

In reaction to Viajante, I have a compulsion to only work on small projects. Expect posts on shawlettes and cowls for a while, starting with this one! Tru Loves Bites, inspired by the TV series True Blood and designed by Kristen Ashbaugh Helmreich, caught my eye because it was a cowl that mimics the drape and coverage of a shawlette. I like shawlettes just fine, as you can tell from the number of them I’ve made, but I’ve been looking into cowls more because they stay put. Shawlettes have an annoying tendency to come undraped after a while and start trailing ends into what you’re working on. And cowls generally have better neck coverage. We’re into winter here now, no matter what the calendar says (it was 10º F/-12º C yesterday, instead of the normal 34º F/1º C), and I need all the help I can get.

My first attempt at this pattern was earlier this summer, when I needed a small project to work on during the state fair. I ended up frogging it a few rounds before the end, though. I’d run out of yarn, and even though I could have bought another hank and kept going, I just wasn’t happy with how the yarn was knitting up at the gauge called for. Now this is where the stubbornness kicked in. It’s not like there is a lack of cowl patterns in the world. As I write this, there are 18,883 knitting and crochet cowl patterns listed on Ravelry. But I couldn’t let this one go because I didn’t want to be defeated by it. The pattern had errors: I vowed to correct them. The pattern didn’t work at the yarn weight called for: I planned to use a heavier yarn.

Tru Loves Bites cowl

And lo, I have a cowl. I went with Haymarket, a worsted-weight yarn (100% Bluefaced Leicester wool) that is a smidgen itchier around the neck than Sportmate would’ve been, but is pretty darn soft in its own right. Besides, I wear turtlenecks all the time in winter, so there’s not much neck skin exposed in the first place. Despite being made out of a heavier yarn than called for, the cowl drapes just fine, and I figure it has to be warmer for all that. And given what the weather forecast looks like, I’ll be debuting it any day now (brr!).


Tru Loves Bites
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Haymarket
Color: Ogden
Needle: 4 (3.5 mm)