New Release: Hidden Leaves Cowl

Photo of Hidden Leaves Cowl

I am very happy to announce that I released my newest pattern today! Here it is in all its glory: the Hidden Leaves Cowl.

Let me take you inside the design process for this pattern. It all started last Christmas when I saw a beautiful skein of yarn called Diadem on the Knit Picks website. It was a new yarn: all shiny and purple. I knew that I had to have some, so I bought it for myself, wrapped it up, and put it under the tree. What? Doesn’t everyone do that?

I had no idea what I was going to do with it, so it sat around patiently waiting for inspiration to strike. I was busy with other things, namely finishing up my binder for the TKGA Level 2 submission, but ideas were slowly percolating. By the time I finished my binder and sent it off to the review committee, I had decided that I would like to make a cowl with my beautiful yarn because I knew that it would be soft and drapey, and there was just the right amount of yardage in the skein. There were a couple of other things I wanted to accomplish with the design. I wanted a stitch pattern that was attractive, but different on both sides so that the cowl could be reversible. I wanted the top to gently fold over into a sort of cuff so that you could see both sides of the stitch pattern at the same time, and I wanted the top circumference to be smaller than the bottom so that there wouldn’t be an overwhelming amount of fabric bunched up at my throat. Sort of like this:

Concept sketch of HIdden Leaves Cowl
Concept sketch

The usual method of making a knitted piece change size is by increasing or decreasing the stitch count. That’s easy enough if you are working in plain stockinette, but a whole different animal when you are working in a complicated stitch pattern. Very clever designers figure this sort of thing out all the time, but I confess to being a bit lazy about this. So I decided to use the other method of changing size, which is to change the size of the needle.

When I had gotten this far, I just so happened to acquire The Knit Stitch by Melissa Leapman. It’s an excellent new stitch dictionary, which I highly recommend. One of the best features of this book is that it tells you when a stitch pattern is reversible, so it was really easy to search for one. I quickly found one that I liked and started swatching.

Now, the tricky bit about swatching is that I knew I was going to knit this in the round because I wanted it to be seamless. Normally when you make a swatch, you knit back and forth, but the trouble with that is, because most people’s knits and purls are not really identical, you actually get a different gauge when you knit a row, then purl a row than you do when you knit every row, as you do when you are knitting in the round. So what can you do? Well, one thing you can do is to knit in the round on a much smaller scale–say something on double-point needles that would fit around your wrist. I didn’t want to do that with this project because I also wanted to see how changing the needle size would affect the drape and size of the fabric, so I decided to knit up a great big swatch using the stranding method. In this method, using a circular needle, you knit to the end of the row, and, instead of turning your work as usual, you slide the work back along to the other tip of the needle. Because the working yarn is now at the wrong end of the work, you have to carry a rather long strand of yarn across the back of the work to begin the next row. It’s a bit tedious, but it works fine. When the swatch is finished, you cut all of the strands so that the swatch will lay flat when you block it. You end up with something that looks like this:

Photo of right side of circular swatch
Right side of circular swatch
Photo of wrong side of circular swatch
Wrong side of circular swatch
Photo of top edge of swatch folding over
With the top edge gently folding over–this is just how I imagined it would look.

The fabric was indeed soft, drapey and interesting on both sides, the top edge looked great folded over and the changing the needle size with each repeat changed the size, yet still looked good. I was so happy with this proof of concept, but now I had to actually write the pattern.