The Shawl Collar Cowl Is a Hug Around Your Neck

A photo of Matt modeling his new Shawl Collar Cowl

Earlier this year I started a Pinterest board for my knit-worthy family members to pin things they’d like me to make them — primarily knitting, but there are no rules … and no guarantees.  I got the idea from my friend Tiffany after hearing that another friend of hers started a shared board for people to pin things to that they wanted Tiffany to make for them.  Tiffany obligingly follows through, good soul that she is.

My Make for Me board is a lot of fun for me to look through.  It’s interesting to see who is pinning to the board and what is catching each person’s eye.  If you are on Pinterest, I recommend setting up a shared board or three.  Matt and I also use a shared board for recipes and that has worked out well.

One of the items on the Make for Me board is the Purl Bee‘s Shawl Collar Cowl.  If you’ve been reading here during the past twelve months, this pattern will be familiar; I tried to make one for my brother last December and tragically ran out of yarn.

photo of an unfinished Shawl Collar Cowl

But the idea wouldn’t die.  Matt decided he really wanted one for himself.

That gave me the perfect excuse for a tiny yarn bender last month when Abbey and went to Ewe-Nique Yarns in Brighton for a little therapy shopping.  I knit this cowl out of Cascade 128  Superwash in loden green and beige (not the official color names).

A photo of my finished Shawl Collar Cowl laying on the table

Let me tell you, this this li’l fiction of garter rib and stockinette is no stroll in the park.  You might think it’s an easy-peasy pattern. Or you might think the tricky part is the cross over.  No, no, no.

A photo of Matt modeling his new Shawl Collar Cowl

You know what kicked my ass?  The increases.  I’ve been knitting ardently for twelve years and I was nearly felled by the four different M1 (make one) increases in the tightly knit stockinette liner.  I got holes, I got stitches slanting the wrong way, I missed increases entirely — it was a hot mess.  Repeatedly!  After ripping and re-knitting the first half dozen rows three times, I wrote out every row on scratch paper, along with a shorthand description of the increases, and then I was able to make progress.

A photo of Matt modeling his new Shawl Collar Cowl

During this ten day adventure, I got a message from a fellow knitter on Ravelry who found my in-progress cowl and asked me how my project was going and if I was having as much trouble as she was with the dart decreases.  First time in seven years on Ravelry I’ve had a message like that.  Oh the pathos!

A photo of Matt modeling his Shawl Collar Cowl

She found her way out of the woods, as did I, but I’m here to tell you that, while the Shawl Collar Cowl pattern looks modest and unassuming, it’s actually rather spicy and takes some attention to accomplish. Lesson learned: stick to basic socks for mindless knitting.

Okay, So the Gift Knitting Wasn’t All Roses

I didn’t tell you the entire story of my holiday gift knitting in the last post.

My parents and siblings decided this year to scrap the round robin of individual gifts in favor of the secret santa system — which wasn’t even secret, not that any of us heathens cared.  So you can imagine my relief when evil-me went from trying to talk good-me into making a whole bunch of stuff — starting, oh, mid-November — to sane-me realizing I could still crank out a gift knit because I only had to make ONE.

I got my brother’s name.  Noah is awesome, fashionable, self-reflective, sensitive.  In other words: a great recipient of handknits.

Noah!

I started off making Noah Purl Soho’s Shawl Collar Cowl in Malabrigo Chunky — Lettuce on the outside, Natural (white) on the inside.  The yarn came from my stash, the project was working up quickly.  At Thanksgiving, I asked Noah’s fiancée Abby what kind of handknit he would like and she said “a cowl” and told me how he tried to buy one on Etsy and it was too long and girlish.  I felt like a champ!  The Shawl Collar Cowl is so chic and manly and I was going to solve Noah’s problem.  And he was going to look smashing in that lettuce green, if I do say so.

my beautiful failure

How does the saying go?  If it’s too good to be true… Well, perfection was far from achieved: I ran out of yarn.  Although I had researched what yarn would be a good substitute and looked up the needle size, I never checked how much yarn I needed.  Why, I cannot say.  This is not my first time at the rodeo.  (This is not the first time I have made this mistake, either, arg!)

Worse yet, this college town has gone, in five years, from having three yarn stores to having half a yarn store.  The remaining half store is downtown, where no one who doesn’t work downtown wants to go.  But go I went — and on the Saturday before Christmas no less.  I knew it was a long shot, that I might have to start over in a new color rather than just alternate between dye lots, but at least this place specializes in Malabrigo.  I still had hope that this project would be saved.

(There’s that foreshadowing of doom again, eh?)

I do believe I gasped out loud when I walked in to this very small shop.  Admittedly I had not been there in a year or more and I knew the owner had been scaling back the yarn portion of her business (she also sells clothing and jewelry). Eyes as wide as saucers, I gaped like a fish for a moment before finally choking out the question, “Where’s all the yarn?” to the owner.  The shelves and walls set aside for yarn were nearly empty — altogether there was only an armful of yarn in that shop.  The needle wall was almost empty.  My stomach sank to the floor as I realized: I have more yarn in my house than this shop now carries.

You might be tempted to conclude that there was a run on her small stock as people grabbed all the yarntastic gifts, but no.  The owner patiently explained that Malabrigo, the small cooperative, cannot keep up with the demand of her customers, so people are putting themselves on a waitlist and when it comes in, she calls.  A month later and I am still aghast at this… solution?  I am sure I don’t know all of what is going on in her store, but isn’t this the kind of thing that a dozen online businesses are doing, only faster?  And charging less?  And if you can’t keep yarn on the shelf, but still have empty shelves, why wouldn’t you carry another brand?  This used to be the place to go for Reynolds brand yarns, as well, including Lopi.  I didn’t see that at all.

At this point I could have gone to the big box store and gotten something else so I could forge ahead, but I decided to cash in my chips and cast on a pair of socks.  There was now no way I could finish in time and I used a precious skein of Trekking XXL that I had been saving for myself, but it seemed that some kind of sacrifice was demanded by nature in order to make this vicious cycle of WTF end.

socks of brotherly love

Noah was gracious about opening up part of a gift that wasn’t finish and I know he looks forward to these extra special  socks.  I’m still not done with Noah’s holiday socks because I  tried to pull off some other knitting miracle for my husband’s January birthday.  But first, I have one more gift knit to tell you about.  And this one is truly epic (the knitting, not the story).  Here’s a preview:

IMG_0233

From my needles to yours

This mistake rib cowl was my comfort project of the winter of 2010-11.  I made the first one with some precious bulky weight handspun merino from my friend Jenny, which she and I later dyed a deep deep emerald green.

Mmmmmm…  I love this color, love this cowl.

I loved it so much I couldn’t stop there.  This one is made with Lamb’s Pride Bulky in “Oatmeal.”  Lamb’s Pride was my first yarn-crush back when I was a noob (is this becoming a belated yarnie Valentine post?). I remember when Lamb’s Pride was really popular and easy to find.  I miss those days.

Then I foisted my cowl pattern on my friends and family.  Dennay made it in Lanaloft Bulky “Autumn Run”:

My mom made it with Lion Brand Homespun in a colorway known only to the stash-gods:

And now it is your turn!  You can find the free pattern on my website here.  The Ravelry project page is here.

Enjoy and stay warm.