This is a story of gauge and needle size. I admit I am something of an indifferent knitter. In fact, I’ve often said if I ever wrote a book about knitting, I would use that as the title. I’m not a gauge person. I’m not a swatch person, except maybe with handspun because handspun can be tricksey.
I am also a person who does not like the cold and have mentioned this before. I am on a quest to come up with the warmest, most comfortable wooly knits to ward off the cold. I have experimented with various neck gaiters, cowls, and scaves to come up with the best for warding off a chill.
I found a pattern on Ravelry called Eiswein that I absolutely loved. It was a lace pattern for a bulky yarn and had lots of interest like bobbles and picot edges. The photo of the finished object was eye-catching. I had some skeins of Lion Brand Alpine Wool in my stash. I also unearth a couple of balls of Crystal Palace “Iceland” lopi-style yarn in an ice blue color. I was set.
The results were a little bit Goldilocks — the first was too big, the second too small, but the third was just right.
The top cowl is from Lion Brand Alpine Wool in Oatmeal. I used the requested Size 11 and Size 10.5 needles that the pattern called for. The lower part was okay, but the neck was far too wide.
I admit I have a bit of a scrawny neck. If women’s shirts were sized like men’s, I’d take a 16 collar. Even though this followed the pattern, it was way too loose.
Back to the drawing board. Next I tried the same yarn in the “Chili” colorway. This actually was my second favorite color of this yarn, the first being the sadly discontinued “Cinnamon”: even an e-mail query to the company about possibly bringing back the color failed to get any type of response. At least they could have been polite and said “no, we stand by our decision to discontinue a really awesome color.” Anyway, with the chili red yarn, I made the error of using the 10.5 needle on the lower half of the piece. I used size 8 on the neck. The neck was okay with the smaller needles, but the body of the piece lost definition.
The smaller needle made for a thicker, tighter fabric but made the piece overall too small.
Back to the drawing board, again. This time. I found the Crystal Palace “Iceland.” I had bought this on sale from an on-line yarn store when it was on clearance and at a ridiculously low price. So it marinated in the stash, waiting for the proper moment. This time, I used Size 13 needles for the body, size 9 needles for the 2 rows BEFORE the neck decrease and the 2 rows after, and then a size 6 to finish the neck. That worked.
This needle combination gave me a wider sweep of the body of the piece and allowed for better definition of the lace pattern. The size 9 nipped the neck in a little more snug than before but not too tight. The size 6 for the neck I originally though was too tight, but after a couple of wearings, it stretched just enough so that it doesn’t bag but allows for an easy on/off.
The one thing I may still do is go back and add a few rows to the neck to make it a bit higher. I like it to the chin and this is a tiny bit lower another 2-3 rows should bump it up just fine. But taking everything else into account, this one was just right!
It occurs to me that short rows might work for something like this, to make it higher in the back than the front. Having made a few cowls this year… I will have to try that sometime.