Thursday, 8 August 2013

Spread Your Legs Cowl - A Not Pattern.

So I'm on the phone to the Carphone Warehouse trying to sort out some fraud that they've allowed to go on for two whole years and I've been on the phone to them for 50 minutes and counting now. I can't do much work work whilst I'm here because I can't concentrate with the noise that they've got for holding music so I'm doing something productive.

I wrote a blog about my trip to Holmfirth  t'other day and in it I described how I made my fairisle cowl and people have been a bit excited about it. I've done another since (can you say obsessed ???) but I can't show you anything to do with that because I know this friend reads the blog. It's a good one though! Truly, it was dead easy and I'm going to describe the method to you roughly... You couldn't call it a pattern...

This is what we're talking about by the way:

But that was before it was blocked. 

So, to start with you need four or five colours that you love. The closest thing that we sell to the Cashsoft that I used is the beautiful Cygnet Merino DK. I know I say this about most yarns that we sell at some point, but this is pretty much my favourite yarn in the shop! It's not as soft as the Cashsoft - I don't think much could be - but it has a good yardage, it's got a firm hand, it's a pure wool, it washes like you would not believe and the colours are something else.

The King Cole Merino Aran also works beeeeeeeeeyootifully.

I've spent a few minutes putting together what I think would be beautiful combinations in the Cygnet Merino DK:

I reckon you could get some more subtle variations though - I'm a bit in love with BIG colour... you know me. I'm a bit taken by that last version...
The idea is that all of the colours get used with each of the other ones though so if there are any combo's that you don't like together, say red and pink (which I luuuuuurve), then don't use a red and pink in the same combo. So, choose some colours - about 200g-250g altogther should be enough so four or five colours.

You'll also need some circular needs in a size above what you'd normally use so a 4.5mm for a DK and a 5.5mm for an aran. On the whole, fairisle tends to be a little tighter for most people and even if it's not, I'm pretty convinced that a cowl should be pretty floppy - especially a biiiiiiiig one like we're making. 

Now, for the cast on. Just get to it. No numbers. HA. That should put a few of you off. I use the long tail cast on because it's my favourite by far and so that I don't run out of yarn before the end (you can't even estimate if you have no idea how many stitches you're doing) I use two different colours and just hold them together rather than knotting at the beginning, once a few stitches are on the needle it doesn't matter that you're working from two different balls but it does make a pretty edging. You need enough stitches to go easily all the way around the needle, no stretching but also you don't want to completely fill up the needle choc-a-block. So I'd say the stitches need to comfortably fit all the way around, including up to the ends of the needles, with a little bit of smooshing up. Bear in mind that once you start knitting the stitches will fall more comfortably.

I would place a stitch marker here (just about the only place I regularly use a stitch marker...) and start knitting. Do a round in one of the colours that you've used to cast on with. 

Now into the fairisle. A few things to note: 

1). You want to avoid the floats going over more than about five stitches, especially if this is the first fairisle thing that you've done. To start with, something like *two knits in one colour, two knits in another* for a few rows will get you going. 

2). Triangles are pretty easy too. Start with *k5a, k1b*, next row: *k1b, k3a, k2b*, next row: *k2b, k1a, k3b*. You could start with a base of seven stitches for the triangle. 

3). Take inspiration from other patterns: Oranje, Neville's Sweater and the Waterville Hat all inspired mine. And when I ran out of inspiration I went to my book of fairisle (which is v. obscure and I can't seem to find on the internet...) and it went wrong, but I came up with something at least and it was the same all the way around. 

4). Make sure to do some bigger and smaller repeats. So some that are up to say 14/16/18 rows whilst others are completed in four or six. This adds visual interest. 

5). If the fairisle is stressing you out, do a two row stripe. It'll still look lovely. 

6). If you're about to start a bigger repeat and you're not sure of the stitch counts, don't count! Start it and worry about that when you get 20 or so stitches from the end. At that point you can count the remaining stitches to see how many more or less you'll need to complete a full repeat and then you can increase (m1) or decrease (k2tog) up or down to that amount as you're knitting the repeat. Simple right? Over 150 or so stitches five or six stitches won't matter so increase and decrease with wild abandon! Apart from, keep an eye on whether you're increasing or decreasing a lot, because if, in the next repeat, you have an option to decrease or increase and you know you're already down 20 stitches from the cast on amount then the obvious course of action is to increase rather than decrease. Make sense?

7). About half way through, look at your colours and make a note of which ones haven't been worked together and then make sure that they're worked together. It's an easy way of keeping the balance and doing it at this point means that you should still have plenty of each colour to work with. 

8). It's a cheat to repeat a motif. It's not a repeat to have 2 by 2 stripes and also 2 by 2 stripes that move one stitch to the right every row - that's diagonal 2 by 2 strips. :)

9). Try and make sure you use each colour throughout the cowl, don't have lots of yellow at the beginning and never again - it'll just look unbalanced. 

10). Finish when you've used most of all of the balls (like two or three metres left). Make sure to save enough yarn to cast off with!

10.5). Block the hell out of it!!!!!

There - I made ten points! Does it make sense? Can you see how easy it is to do? One thing that I've been noticing recently is how much everybody seems to like rules but I promise it is brilliant to do something that's fairly difficult without constraining yourself to rules and patterns - a real confidence boost. A garter stitch scarf is brill for days when you need to be unthinking but doing and this is for the kind of day where you need to think about something other than life and be doing.

I'm really just trying not to cast another one on right now. But I have three projects that need doing now and I can't knit three fairisle cowls in one week... can I?

Right, I may or may not have sorted the Carphone Warehouse thing out and I may or may not be bothered to tell you about it at a later date but it certainly has taken up most of today. Ugh. I'm off to try and get rid of this headache that they've caused. Shall I sue?

Love Eleanor.

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