Tuesday, January 22, 2013

But is it earth tones? the drop stitch cowl story

This cowl took me all of six hours to make, including an hour spent sourcing the pattern (Drop Stitch Cowl, by Abi Gregorio) and choosing the yarn and needles, and twenty extra minutes on adjusting for a loose-enough cast off, for which I devised a Trick I'll tell you about at the end of this post.

It is an awesome knit and if you know somebody who would wear it and have some superbulky yarn in your stash, I highly recommend you make one too.

The cowl story, which starts with pasta

I've been going to the same restaurant every couple of weeks for about twenty years, which is in itself pretty amazing because normally when I find a restaurant I like it closes a few months later, which makes me feel more than a bit like I must have the kiss of death or something, at least as relates to restaurants.

When you go into a restaurant that often you get to know the people who work there, and that can be nice.  Superfavourite person: Heather, and not just because she threw in - not literally - a slice of chocolate cake that one time Pete got takeout on my birthday because I was too sick to eat in (though that was pretty great.)

Well, at the end of last August, which you may recall was without understatement a horror show, I went past the restaurant and it was GONE.  When I wasn't looking it got closed so a BANK could go in.  A BANK!!

Obviously it's sad when a place you've gone into that much closes, but I was really sad.  It bothered me a lot, and I knew I was overreacting so I just kind of squashed it all down and tried not to think about it, exactly as you're not supposed to do with feelings like that.  But honestly: the restaurant has a couple of other locations, and I just told myself it would all work out.  Still... it was two months before I did go to one of them.  I just knew it wouldn't be the same and I wasn't in any hurry.

Exciting conclusion: the moment I did walk into the next-nearest location, I saw Heather at the bar, and that was that - I practically leapt over there and gave her a big hug, and Pete wasn't far behind me.  We were so relieved!

After we sat down and tried to look all normal and stuff, I realized what it really meant to me to have thought I lost Heather and my favourite restaurant: it had become the home you go to when you leave your own home for a little, the place you go where you're welcome and you don't even have to ask for that thing you love to eat because the minute you open the door Heather sees you and tells the guys in the kitchen to start it.  And after all the losses the past few years, I just was not equipped to lose that too.  Pete said he felt exactly the same way, which made me feel I was being very sensible about it all.  So when Heather came back to the table for more catching up, I told her I wanted to knit her something and I asked her what colours she likes, and she said,

Earth tones.

Best intentions

I guess I was kind of imagining I would be making a very meaningful cowl out of my own handspun dyed by one of my artist friends when I told Heather I wanted to make her something.  So at first I didn't even look at my whole pile of yarn options. 

Later I got to panicking.  When you have a stash the size of mine, it is more than a little embarrassing not to have a skein of yarn in earth tones.  I was looking at blue green blends and trying to tell myself that water is on the earth, and pink meadow combinations and telling myself gardens are on the earth, and oh man, I made this commitment in early November and I've been too shy to go back to the restaurant since then because I hadn't figured this out if only by going into a yarn store and buying something new.

Friday night, I decided I'd had enough, and enlisted Trish's support via e-mail for pattern and yarn.  Oddly enough I was with Trish when I bought this skein in a grab bag - it's a now-discontinued Noro superbulky wool, which we decided was the most earth tone-y of anything I had.  Now that I look at it, it's more 'rock pile', but I don't care any more.  I am pretty sure Heather has some black tops or sweaters that would look good with this.

Anyway: done!

Details, details

It's not the softest yarn, so I thought I'd better make a cowl that wasn't too close to the neck.  Trish and I both loved this pattern and boy was it easy (though the non-superwash wool did grab quite a bit when I was dropping the stitches.)  In the event though, the dropped stitch part? sooo soft.

My hand isn't just there to show the softness.  It's for scale, because this cowl is big.

The pattern doesn't come with any sort of gauge measurement or finished dimensions, so that was a bit alarming.  In the end I did a bit of a swatch to see how many stitches per inch I was getting, figured I would want a 26" wide cowl, and cast on accordingly (I went for 74 stitches on a 6mm, 16" circular needle.)  I cast off just shy of 9" into the cowl which looked perfect.

Amazingly, I had enough yarn to do all the repeats with a bit to spare.  But when it came to the cast off, it just wasn't as loose as I wanted it to be.  I didn't want to redo it with the kind of super stretchy bindoff you use for the top of a sock, because that would go too far in the other direction from the width of the cast on.  So here is what I did:

You know how you wind the yarn around the back needle to pull it through the stitch?  Well, I put my index finger up alongside the back needle and wrapped the yarn around it and the needle.  Worked like a charm.

And best of all: I get to have somebody else cook pasta for me again.

That's me for today, but I'll see you here again tomorrow.  Take care!


justmeandtwo said...

I love your cowl (and your story) and it is most definitely the best kind of earth tones. It will go with everything! Lovely!

Marianne said...

I love the cowl, I am an earth tones fan and the colors are perfect! I do know what you mean about the restaurant, but from the other side, I once owned one and you do get to know the customers and when they don't come in for awhile you get to worry/wondering if they are okay. They become our friends though not in our everyday lives. Just wonderful faces that we welcome in a special place in our lives. So glad you found Heather, I know she will love your gift!

Mary Keenan said...

It's funny Marianne, that's exactly what Heather said after we found her again! Later we went to another branch of the restaurant and found our usual waiter there - more hugs all around :^)