Category Archives: cowl

Abide with me — and my shawl.

I was working on yet another Abide, (designed by the talented Kirsten Kapur) in my regular knitting class this week. This version is my fourth, I love this pattern.  (Photo below is by Gale Zucker.)

AudKnits snowflake scraves

People in class were taken with it, but there was a lot of eye-rolling at the idea that it was at all easy.  (From Drop Dead Easy Knits, of course!)  The projects in DDE were not necessarily designed to be beginner projects, but projects that are easy to work on and follow.

What makes lace drop dead easy? Symmetry for one thing.  And no shaping on wrong side rows.  Here’s how that works in Abide. (I’m using Wollemeise Pure in the color Cassis. )

Photo May 25, 7 53 50 AM

It is a simple long triangle. Easy. Regular increases along one side. Easy.  Except “regular ” does not exempt you from knowing  what the pattern means by regular. For instance, I got careless and started increasing every right side row instead of every other right side row. (I was watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  This is playoff knitting.  Go see what Natalie thinks is playoff knitting — a Herbert Niebling doily!  For real.) So the class got to watch me rip it back. It is always fun to see your teacher brought low, isn’t it? I also think watching me rip out helps less confident knitters to see that every one rips back.  Every one of us.

I was initially skeptical of the long triangle look, but I really like it.  It is very wearable.   I’ve worn the version I made in Malabrigo Sock quite a bit.  Kirsten even demonstates how to make it into a cowl in our silly video.  And look how cute it is on this model, in Quince and Company Finch:


Abide begins at the narrow end, and you complete several of the leaf edging repeats in fairly short order, so the pattern is memorized easily, or at the very least you become really familiar with the chart in no time at all.

knitting, book, hand knit, models

Plus, the leaf pattern itself is symmetrical. You can see the shape you are making, so you know right away if you haven’t done a decrease you were supposed to. I missed a decrease the other night, too, so I know it is easily spotted.

And the picot edging? If you can cast on and bind off, you can make little picots. I don’t care for bobbles, but those picots are pretty darn cute!

I think I convinced them. I mean, other than the edging, it is all garter stitch!

Vote early and often!

I named this cowl Tammany because it is a Tweed Ring.   (History Nerd joke.)

tammany spotlight

Tammany Hall was the home of crooked politics in NYC in the late 19th and early 20th century, led by Boss Tweed.  But now you can vote early and often legally and for a fun cause.


The  Old Skool Cafe, a 1940’s styled youth-run supper club, is in the running for a Super Bowl commercial, courtesy of  Intuit’s Small Business Big Game contest.  Old Skool made it to the second round, and you can vote for them EVERY DAY for the next two weeks.   I’m offering the cowl pattern free for the duration of the voting for those who vote.  I’m doing this on a trust basis, so please go vote if you download the pattern. And vote often!

Old Skool helps break the cycle of violence, crime and incarceration by meeting three critical needs: real-world skills, a sense of belonging and a support system. Learning every aspect of the restaurant business, youth ages 16 – 22, gain transferable work skills necessary for life success.

Imagine a safe haven for youth to learn and succeed. Imagine an incredible restaurant that satisfies both the appetite and the soul. Old Skool Cafe…Come hungry. Leave INSPIRED.

(I’ve never been lucky enough to eat there, but I hear the food is great.)

So vote, already.  Why should beer companies get all the attention?

Annie’s Excellent Bind Off

There is always more to learn in knitting and in life, isn’t there?  Annie over at Knitsofacto reminded me of a bind-off that we discussed, but I never did try, although I bookmarked it last year.  Follow her step-by-step instructions, it is really quite simple.

I haven’t had time to make another cowl yet, but I was anxious to try it after Annie reminded me.  (I do love having virtual friends.) Here it is, looks good, no? (Except for the cell phone photo on dark day, of course. )

two bind offs

It’s a clever variation (with a twist…) on a purl-2-together bind-off that gives a through the back loops effect without having to torque your wrists. It keeps the edge snug but still fairly stretchy.  Other features and benefits — looks good on both sides, much easier than the sewn bind-off, and certainly easier to undo if necessary.

In the photo, the stitches to the right of the needle are Annie’s Bind Off, to the left, the sewn bind-off.  The only noticeable difference to me is the way the knit stitches are slightly more pronounced in Annie’s bind off.  It’s not a drawback, in fact I like it.  Both seem to be equally stretchy without drooping. Knitters choice.

Go visit Knitsofacto and try out this bind off.  I do think it would especially excellent for garter stitch.  Plus, if you have never been to Knitsofacto world, it’s a fun and friendly place to chat.  (Or natter, as Annie might say.)


Goldilocks and the Three Bind-Offs

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?