More cowls for me

River Rock cowl using Casdcade Eco Duo

A colour photo of my grey River Rock cowl

As you may know from reading earlier posts, after a lifetime of surviving Canadian winters I discovered a little accessory called a cowl, or neck warmer, that far surpasses a scarf for both comfort and function. After two winters it was time to add to my cowl wardrobe and I knew just what I was looking for. The River Rock cowl (left) went perfectly with the lighter jacket I wear on warmer winter days (0 to -8° C or 32 to 18° F), and since my approach to cowls is now much like my approach to jackets and mittens, I wanted a warmer cowl for colder weather. What makes a cowl warmer? A cowl with more coverage — covering my cheeks and throat — and possibly made of a warmer or thicker yarn/wool. River Rock was a little short so the next cowl had to be longer. And fluff-free. Those little filaments that are part of soft fluffy wool were drawn like magnets to whatever lip protectant I wore.

Manos del Uruguay Maxima wool in Peach Melba (top) and finished cowl

Manos del Uruguay Maxima wool in Peach Melba (top) and finished Nina cowl

As much as I like moss- and seed-stitch patterns, running the yarn back and forth resulted in tiny open spaces that let in cold air. So I opted for a pattern where each row was composed of the same stitch. Enter the Nina cowl, an easy and visually appealing pattern I bought on etsy.com. What really attracted me to this pattern was how I thought the accordion design would make it easy to collapse the cowl when I only need warmth around my neck, and pull it up to keep both my face and neck warm when the wind blows. When I couldn’t find solid-colour wool in the right weight at the very first store I went to (oh, I was impatient!), I chose the beautiful fire colours in this Manos del Uruguay Maxima 100% wool (top right). The finished cowl has been satisfactory. While it is longer than the River Rock cowl it wears shorter than I expected because it keeps springing together. The bottom pops up when I pull the top up over my nose. This is what motivated me to look for wool when I was in Halifax .

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Cascade 220 Heathers, purchased in Halifax

The Manos (top right) and Cascade 220 (left) wools are both 100 grams per skein and they call for the same size needles. Since a single ball of Manos didn’t give me the cowl length I had hoped for, I bought two skeins of Cascade 220 Heathers; one in teal and the other in taupe. A 4.5mm needle was just right for the Manos wool, but the fabric knitted with the Cascade 220 was thin. My solution was to double up on the Cascade 220 and increase the needle size to 5.5mm. The impact of these differences is noticeable (see below). Both cowls have 5 purled sections although the pink cowl is short a final series of knitted rows. Plus, I’ve worn the pink cowl quite a bit this winter, whereas I only just finished the Cascade 220 version. This might explain why the second cowl is not doing the accordion thing as much as the original. Otherwise these two are the same.

My two newest cowls.

My two newest cowls.

Unfortunately I lost my River Rock cowl just last week so I couldn’t take any pictures comparing the three of them. But you know what this means… time to start on a new River Rock cowl!

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Unwinding and winding in Halifax

You can see the sign for DeSerres “the Creative Marketplace” reflected in the upper part of The Loop’s storefront.

A couple of weeks ago my job took me to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and since we were working the afternoon shift I had time to wander around downtown in the morning. It was fun to be out of my regular routine for a couple of days. (The work was fun too, but that’s not what this blog’s about.) Obviously my art angel was with me because I stumbled upon an art supply store and a yarn shop.  Of course I went into both.

I was very keen to make another cowl, so I focused my search on yarn. To ensure warmth, it had to have a high wool content. I also wanted the yarn to work on at least 4.5mm needles and not be self-patterning.

???????????????????????????????It didn’t take long for me to zero in on these teal and taupe skeins of Cascade 220 Heathers yarn. As I was making my purchase, the store clerk asked if I wanted to wind the yarn. At first I said no because I didn’t want to lose half an hour of my morning winding yarn, but I was told it would take only a few minutes. Now that was promising; so much better than sliding the untwisted skein onto a chair back and manually winding it into one massive ball.

In no time at all the clerk had me set up on the winding apparatus. On the left below, you can see where the full skein is loaded onto the “yarn swift”. It looks like an old-fashioned baby gate that’s been shaped into a circle. All I had to do was turn the crank on the ball winder. Boy that thing could fly. Three minutes later, ta-da! Not only did I have a tidy ball of yarn, but I could pull the yarn out through the centre hole.

Ball winder landscape b+ midtones

In my opinion, yarn in skeins is so inviting, whereas the finished ball doesn’t quite capture the imagination. This may be the perfect way to market yarn. Let the skeins do the seducing and offer a yarn swift and ball winder to take care of the drudgery. Maybe then I could be persuaded to make a whole sweater 🙂

Cascade wool before and after

Before and after. The skeins of yarn as sold by the shop (top), and the quickly wound, neat and functional balls I left the shop with (bottom).