zaterdag 9 februari 2013

The making of a 'thick & thin cowl'

Hi folks! This week I've been working on a new little project: a little girl's cowl knitted with homespun thick & thin yarn. I am really smitten with how it turned out!

So... I thought it might be nice to share with you how I exactly made this cowl, because it's really easy. I think even beginning knitters (like myself!) can do it!

Okay, we'll start at the very beginning. I chose to spin the needed thick & thin yarn myself, because I like spinning and because it gives me such a satisfying feeling to create a product from the very basis (actually... I'd love to own my own sheep or alpaca, shave them myself, and....well, you get the idea!). But I realize a lot of knitters cannot spin (while on the other hand, most spinners can knit), so I'll start with showing you where to get this kind of thick & thin yarn, spun by other artists and al ready for you to use! The easiest way is to go to Etsy, and search for 'thick and thin yarn'. I did it for you here! There are a lot of different thick and thin yarns, one important thing to keep in mind is the thickness of the slobs (the thicker parts). In my yarn, I made them about 2 cm thick (they contain a lot of air). Obviously there are also a lot yarns available with thinner slobs, which will give your final product a different look. I really wanted to go for a rough structure in this cowl, if you want the same: the bigger the slobs the better!

If you áre able to spin, and you'd like to do so, I will explain a bit about that in the next paragraphs (italic font). If you decided to buy the needed yarn instead (as described above), you can skip those parts and go straight ahead to the knitting paragraph :)

Spinning part
Okay, here's a bit for you fellow spinners! I went to Turtlepurl on Etsy for my superwash merino roving. I wanted a color scheme suitable for little girls, so her so-called 'swirly' roving jumped right out of the page to me! I also wanted the colors to be not too contrasting and differing, they had to flow into each other easily. Just various tones of two or three close colors, you get what I mean? Here and here are some other beautiful examples of what  I'm trying to explain. But this is purely personal, just go for whatever you like! Important is the amount of roving you need. I used a full 4 ounce for my cowl, and it's definitely not suitable for grown ups... If you want to make a cowl for yourself or a friend, you might need 5 or 6 oz! I think Merino is quite suitable for thick and thin yarn, it has a nice soft structure and drafts and spins easily. Superwash merino is even better :)

When you have your roving ready, it's time for pre-drafting. I think pre-drafting is not always necessary when spinning, but it ís when spinning thick and thin yarn. I chose to split the roving one time, but this depends a bit on the thickness of your roving. 

After splitting it in half, I carefully pre-drafted it to make it airy and easy to spin. Be careful though, don't make your roving thinner than you want the biggest slobs to be!

When you're done pre-drafting, you're ready to spin! Never spun thick and thin yarn before? I found Susie's (from Woolwench) youtube video especially helpful to get me started, you should definitely check it out if you're new to this kind of spinning. Take note of her explanation how to get a lot of 'air' in the slobs, I found this part quite important for the final look of the cowl!

Don't worry when most of the twist goes into the thinner parts of your yarn, that's normal and inevitable. Above you see the yarn on my bobbin, the slobs don't seem to be very big here, but that's because the yarn's still under tension... Once off the bobbin, you can really see the results! (Sorry for the bad quality of the next two pictures by the was late at night, but I just hád to finish spinning my yarn ;))

Here I was just playing around, heheh. You can almost say it's not even necessary to knit the yarn, you can wear it as a cowl straight off the bobbin!

Anyway, last thing I did that evening was rolling my yarn into a ball, because that's just easier to knit from. Also, leaving it like that overnight might set the twist a little bit!

Knitting part
Now we get to the part where the non-spinners among us can join along! Next day (after spinning my thick and thin yarn) I proceeded on my project, and started knitting the cowl. For this I used the biggest knitting needles I had at home, which were 12 mm. Actually I would have used bigger ones if I had them, because the bigger the needles, the less air will be pressed out of the bigger slobs. When you knit with big needles, you allow these slobs to stay puffy, resulting in even more structure in your finished product!

I casted on 42 stitches, but this depends a bit on the thickness of your yarn of course. After casting on, the only thing I did was knit. No purls or other special stitches, only knits! How easy can it be? I told you, everyone can make this!

I just kept on knitting until I had almost no yarn left over. I fastened off my work, and with the little piece of yarn I had left I joined the two ends of my work together, to produce a circular cowl. I did not use any special stitch for this (I was counting stitches a moment ago, and almost couldn't find the seam back...the rough structure allows you to do whatever you like!), just kind off sewed the two short sides together. 

Well, that's it! It's a very forgiving piece of work, in that way it's perfect for beginners. It might feel strange though to knit with those huge needles, and with a yarn that differs so much in thickness. But then again: it's forgiving, little mistakes disappear in the bobbly structure. What I found a challenge, was not 'fuzzing' my work too much while knitting it. This happens easily, while I really wanted a more 'clean' look for my cowl, avoiding too much flocks. Al I can say is: try not to distress your cowl too much while working on it. But it's almost impossible to avoid this completely, so if anyone has any advice regarding this, please comment!

When my cowl was finished, I went to my moms house, who looks after a lot of kids (it's her daytime job actually). Lianne, a little lady of 3, volunteered as my photo model. I think the cowl looks adorable on her, so girly and sweet, yet also trendy because of the rough structure of it!

The cowl is still available in my shop for now, but now you also know how to make one yourself!

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