The Yarnery asked me to design a cowl that would use one skein of Metalico, from Blue Sky Alpacas. I could expand to two skeins, but since it is pricey, it’s nice for customers to have some affordable options for such luscious yarn. The other request was that it be “Something a man would wear. Or at least a gay man.”
Metalico is a singles blend of baby alpaca and mulberry silk. The colors are natural and undyed, and really do have with a metallic sheen in the sunlight. Designing for such a non-springy yarn was a challenge. I started out swatching with some Frog Tree Alpaca sport so that I wouldn’t wear out the Metalico. This wasn’t a great idea, as the Frog Tree is plied and has no silk. What worked in that was a dismal failure in the Metalico. I wish I had been alert enough to record all the failures. (Gale, photography teacher extraordinaire, always says “Document, document, document.”) I just get in the flow and rip and restart. And rip and restart. Nothing I tried lent the yarn enough elasticity. I had a wonderful idea for some giant, slightly cabled pattern down the front, but it would have needed a garter belt to stay up. Plain ribbing seemed too boring.
At last, I went with a combination of ribs and welts. There are lots of variations on this out there, especially in some of the older books, like Mary Thomas. I was surprised that it worked. It had enough elasticity to stay up on the neck, and go over the head. The variation in stitches showed off the yarn, and they didn’t get lost in the slightly tweedy appearance of the Metalico.
Then it was time to bind off. My usual approaches all failed, and left a sad, droopy edge. I was in a hurry to get the cowl done and off to the shop for the Blue Sky Alpacas trunk show, so I didn’t record that process, either. I decided to make a second one in some Malabrigo Silky Merino DK that was calling out to me. Silky Merino is quite similar to the Metalico, but has a bit more loft and elasticity because it is 50% merino instead of 50% alapaca. It really showed when I worked with it, and the finished cowl has a bit more bounce. I did record some of the bind-off failures this time. They weren’t quite as egregious as with the Metalico, again, I think it was the merino vs. alpaca aspect, but what failed before, failed again.
My number one favorite bind-off, useful about 90% of the time, is the Knit Two Together Through the Back Loops: *Knit 2 stitches together through the back loop. Return the stitch back to the left-hand needle; repeat from *.
Second attempt, bind off in pattern. It was a bit better, but still rather Sad Sack:
Finally, just right.
The good old sewn bind off. If you don’t know that one, it is in lots of books, but here you are: instructions are generally break yarn, leaving a tail about three times as long as the circumference of the item to be bound-off. Frankly, I don’t do this, I would rather weave in some ends than fight with yards of yarn as I sew the edge. Thread a blunt tapestry needle.
With tapestry needle, *sew right to left through 2 sts as if to purl, leave sts on needle, draw the yarn through both stitches.
Sew left to right through first st on the needle as if to knit , draw the yarn through and remove that stitch from the needle. Repeat from * until all sts are bound-off. (If you have never done the sewn bind-off, remember that if you need to undo it, you have to take it out bit by bit. It won’t rip out easily.) Looks just about perfect, doesn’t it?
Naming patterns is often a challenge. I looked online for images of herringbone brickwork, since that’s what this stitch pattern suggests like to me. I found Tamworth Castle, in Warwickshire, UK, has a famous herringbone stone wall. The cowl doesn’t look exactly like it, but who cares, really? It was fun to search it out. So it is now the Tamworth Cowl. The second also took just one skein of Silky Merino DK and is now waiting to be given to the someone who looks good in that nice blue-grey-green. Huh, that’s my color, isn’t it?