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A Fever for Crocheting Cowls

I'm a bit overly inspired this week.

Temperatures here in Florida are up in the '90's lately, but I've been bitten by some neck-tube-making bug. In this issue I briefly rein myself in to focus on just one simple {big} cowl fact:

Cowls are the ultimate celebration of the kinds of colorwork and stitch patterns that only really work or look fabulous in the round (see instructions for 2 of my simple favorites below). Maybe you're thinking, "Big deal. Vashti, you're exaggerating. There are hats and bags and capelets and heck, motifs to name a few."

The designer in me looks at those items and thinks, "I'm not in the mood to have to start increasing from the get-go to make it either lie flat or curve just because I want to explore an idea I have for a cool stitch or color pattern. Nor do I like the alternative: swatching it flat (in rows instead of rounds) by cutting the yarn at the end of some or all rows to simulate working in the round." What if I want to swatch with an expensive yarn?

Meanwhile the crocheter in me thinks, "I just want to have a fun new project growing quickly from the hook and yarn in my hands, and then stop when it's big enough, plus have the option of watching TV or talking with a friend while I crochet it." Frankly, sometimes adding increases can be a deal-breaker. So can having extra ends to weave in (from cutting the yarn too often just to achieve a fancy effect).

I first woke up to cowl consciousness last week when I received a fresh new book called Cowlgirls: The Neck's Big Thing to Knit by Cathy Carron. The designs are creative, inspiring and....100% knit. I thought, "Wait a minute. Where are all the crochet cowl books and ads and excitement?" I proceeded to blog this very thought. That got me warmed up--there's way more to crochet cowls than what I wrote above or on my blog.

I created a new team blog and am registering other crochet cowl designers as fellow authors of it. It's so new that it isn't coming up in Google searches yet! It's called The New Crochet Cowl Scarves and the URL is:   At least three authors have posted entries so far. Mine might show too by the time you read this.

Cowl-Ready Stitch Pattern #1

This is "just" hdc rib, but is a completely different crocheting experience when done in the round with color changes. I know this because I have a stalled autumn shrug that I started years ago with Caron Simply Soft in a chocolate brown and berry colors that I've always liked. I like to look at it but stopped crocheting it because I came to dislike cutting the yarn at the end of each row. It means the shrug has to come out fitting right the first time--no ripping out. And, I have to either weave in a gazillion ends, or leave them as fringe. Fringe isn't a part of my vision.

A shrug 'fail' is a cowl WIN (photo is of the same scarf-shaped piece wrapped to simulate a cowl): Choose your Color A and number of foundation sts using the guidelines in the top right column. Sl st in first st to join in a ring without twisting.
Rnd 1: Ch 2, hdc in each st around to the beginning ch-2. Sl st in top of the ch-2 to join rnd. (Depending on the yarn and gauge, sometimes I prefer the look of joining the rnd by ignoring the beginning ch-2, and instead sl st in top of the first hdc.) Do not turn or fasten off for this or subsequent rnds.
Rnd 2: Attach Color B, ch 2, hdc in the back lower third loop of each hdc of rnd, drop B, sl st to join with Color A.
Rnd 3: Repeat Rnd 2 with Color A. To join rnd, drop A and sl st with B, or attach Color C if you wish.
Rnds 4 +: Repeat Rnd 2 with desired color. Fasten off when cowl is desired size. If you opted to make a donut cowl, seam one tube end to the other, then fasten off.

Cowl-Ready Stitch Pattern #2

I've gotten many emails and tweets about this stitch pattern. I use it for my Twitter background and for the "Half Double Half Circle Handbag." It looks best in a woolly yarn with long color repeats. Pictured is Noro Kureyon. If it's too scratchy for you, you might really like Crystal Palace Mochi Plus.

Choose an even number of foundation sts using the guidelines in the top right column. Sl st in first st to join in a ring without twisting. Ch 2, [skip next st, hdc in next st, ch 1] all around to beginning ch-2. Do not join rnd or turn. To begin working in a spiral, [hdc, skip next ch, ch 1] in the back lower third loop of each hdc around. Just keep going until cowl is the size you wish. To end, [sc in next hdc, skip next ch, ch 1, sl st in next hdc, fasten off. If you opted to make a donut cowl, seam one tube end to the other, then fasten off.

Cowls are the truly effortless kind of chic. As Robyn Chachula and Tracie Barrett mentioned in the cowl blog, you can go about your life and not have a single concern about a cowl falling off or getting stuck in a car door like a scarf, needing to be readjusted like a wrap, or looking too wintery for Florida. I love how soft and cozy they feel; I love how they frame the face and tumble about the neck with special stitch textures or colorwork; I thrill to their visual plush.
Oops, I had myself reined in until that last paragraph.

Abbrev's: ch=chain, hdc=half double crochet, rnd(s)=round(s), sc=single crochet, sl st=slip stitch, st(s)=stitch(es).

That's it for now! If you know someone who would enjoy this kind of newsletter, please forward this to them so that they can subscribe. If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me. Thanks!      --Vashti
Start A Cowl in the round

1. Take one or two skeins of any yarn  and a crochet hook that's a good size for the yarn--but you can't really go wrong. If your cowl comes out stiff, fine! Some of the most stylish cowls on the fashion runways lately are very structured. If your cowl comes out too loose, it's one of the lacy, drape-y types that I'm also seeing a lot of. If it's too lacy to be warm, just give it more height so that you can fold it over or scrunch it more around your neck.

2. Decide if you'll use one color, or change colors on some rounds. (see stitch patterns at lower left.)

3. Choose which kind of tube you'll make: you can work rounds of your stitches horizontally (going around your neck), or more rarely, vertically (a "donut cowl"). You'll probably want to work horizontally.

For the first type, your foundation chain wil be the total circumference that needs to fit over your head and drape around your neck the way you like it. Therefore it's ideal to start with a foundation single crochet or other chainless foundation stitch so that the total length of your foundation row doesn't change or get less elastic as you work more rounds. Futuregirl has a fantastic photo tutorial for it.
A common circumference is about 24 inches. Make your foundation chain (or other foundation stitches) 24* inches long, then join it with a slip stitch in the first stitch, to form a ring without twisting.
*To also be able to wear it as a hood, you'll need to make it taller and wider, more like 28 inches in circumference, or more.

For the "donut" type, decide how high you wish your cowl to be, say 10 inches, and double it. Your foundation chains or other foundation stitches would therefore be 20 inches long. then join it with a slip stitch in the first stitch, to form a ring without twisting.

See the two sample stitch patterns at lower left to get started with your first round!

Link of the Week: A Great Crocheted I-Cord!
June Gilbank of PlanetJune created a video showing how she crochets an i-cord.
I love it!

DesigningVashti News

This is my current project, a beaded
"Smoke Ring" version of the Weightless Tunisian Stole. (Doesn't look like much yet!)

The Chainmaille Cowl & Men's Scarf pattern is being tech edited now.

I'm looking forward to a two-person crochet retreat next weekend with my friend Doris Chan! One of my local yarn shops celebrates their first anniversary that Sat., Nov. 6 so we're going to bop over in the afternoon. Please join us if you're in the area.

I'll be teaching a class on the Frostyflakes Scarf/Wrap in the shop on Sat., Nov. 13 right after the CGOA chapter meeting

Completed an afghan square design for a compilation pattern booklet with other designers. Will update you when I can say more about it and include a link.

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