Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My New "Practical" Neck Warmer (Cowl)

Well, during my rash of dye testing, I kept gravitating towards blues, turquoise, a few purples, but ended up with enough dyed batts and locks so something could come of them. At the same time I was learning English Long Draw (requires hand carded rolags to get the real thing) and also Navajo Plying which turns out a 3-ply yarn instead of 2-ply. I tried spinning my singles finer, and there are lengths where I succeeded and did get a final yarn that was worsted weight, but because of the extra plump in yarn grist that Long Draw produces (which I didn't know to take into account), most of what I spun came out closer to bulky weight.

I ended up with approx. 103 yards of yarn from my Romney fleeces and 160 yards of yarn from the CVM/Corriedale Cross white fleece - all in the same colorway. I finally decided the CVM/Corrie (a next-to-skin fleece) would be great for a neck warmer and the Romney could be used for fingerless mitts, with either (or both if necessary) making a hat. I'm not sure I'd wear all three together because it's pretty 50's to be quite that matchie-matchie, but what else can I do with that much (or little) yarn? Not much. Small projects only, and I'd really like mitts in that colorway and I'd really like a hat in that colorway and... you get the idea.

I decided to start with the quickest and easiest "no brainer" where I wouldn't have to even look up a pattern. A cowl, or neck warmer, since I only have one. So starting with the CVM/Corrie spin (which ranges between 6wpi and 9wpi)...

What I wanted: A non-bulky, warm, cozy neck warmer that wouldn’t be tall enough to push up into my hairline but would cover my whole neck length, and with just enough “hug factor” not to let in cold air, yet not have so much as to be at all constricting; and then it would spread out wider as it went down onto my shoulders so as to lay flat under a jacket and not curl up. (Whew.)

What I got: Just exactly that. YAY!

At some point I'll take a photo with it on because it really does fit "right" and it's super practical, but I haven't gotten around to that yet.

How To: I made no increases in #stitches, but got the needed flare just by needle size changes. I can vouch for this with worsted weight/bulky weight yarn, but I don’t know if mere next-size-up needle changes would give enough flare using a fine yarn (your call on that). So these instructions apply to worsted or bulky weight yarn.

1. Do a good sized swatch in 2x1 ribbing (K2, P1) with the needle size that’ll give you a substantial fabric but not “cardboard stiff” given the yarn you’re using.

2. Measure your neck circumference under the chin and count stitches per inch from your unstretched swatch. Multiply out, and cast on that many stitches, rounded UP to the closest multiple of 3 sts. Do so using your method of circular knitting (or you could knit flat and join into circle with one seam), but DO cast onto 2 needles held together or onto a larger needle size so your cast on edge will have plenty of stretch.

3. In your swatch needle size, knit 2 inches in ribbing (neck/throat area). Switch to next needle size up and knit a third inch (collar bone area). Switch to next needle size up and knit a fourth inch (top of shoulders area). Switch to next needle size up (largest of 4 needle sizes) and knit 3/4 to 1 inch more, OR use 3rd needle size as I did, but knit with zero tension on yarn (super loosely). Bind off using Elizabeth Zimmerman’s “sewn bindoff” which is easy, fun, and a nicely-finished edge, but also it’s “the” bindoff for maximum stretch. (Do give a little tug against each bound off stitch as you drop it for max looseness.) That technique is shown on this (silent) video...

Ah! Here's another one (a "talkie") where she does show that little tug. She also says to leave 4x the length, so maybe I'm not the only one who's almost run out of tail yarn if she's a max-stretch-making tugger.

...and while EZ said to allow your garment’s yarn tail (what the video's star is sewing with) to be 3x the length of your bound off edge, I allow 4x because sometimes I’ve needed that added length, probably because I do tug against each stitch, whereas the demo in the video does not. But also because I'm a tad paranoid about running out of yarn in the middle of a bind-off.

You can do this neck warmer using 2x1 ribbing or 1x1 ribbing. If the latter, however, 1x1 ribbing has the most memory and hugs the most, so you would want to add one inch to your neck measurement, and of course you’d cast on an even number of stitches instead of multiples of three. (And I acknowledge that it's reeeeeally annoying when someone writes "of course" on something you may not have realized because you're a new knitter.) Also, if you want a real foldover turtleneck instead of single layer “mock” T-neck, knit 4 inches in your first needle size before progressing up. And finally, if you don’t want to knit in the round, you could also knit it flat with just a quickie 5” seam up the back to join.