Birthday Cowls Part 1: The Summer

PJ Gallery and Pattern Review

This year, we’re celebrating Purl Jam birthdays with a cowl swap. Cowls are knit by secret swap partners and gifted the Tuesday before the actual birthday at our Purl Jam knit night. This summer, we’ve had three Purl Jam cowl birthdays and it’s been a big hit so far!

Part of the fun and challenge of knitting for another knitter is picking out the pattern and yarn. As friends who knit together once a week, we know each other and our knitting tastes pretty well. And of course, knitters are great hand knit gift recipients. They will always appreciate the effort that went into making something. Hand-wash only yarn? Not a problem! But unfortunately, it can also be a little intimidating to make something for someone who could probably make the same thing for themselves. Because of this, every cowl maker has put a lot of thought into their gift. I asked the three knitters who made summer birthday cowls how they choose their pattern and yarn and to share their knitting experience and tips.

First up, Janice knit for Jessica. Being first was a bit daunting. As Jessica said, it sets the standard for all the cowls to follow! Janice opted for a quirky colorwork pattern.

Jessica in her Owlie Owl Cowl knit by Janice

Pattern: The Owlie Owl Cowl by Betsy Farquhar, available from her etsy site Good Egg. I know Jessica likes owls. Plus she’s a super knitter so I wanted to do something impressive. A stranded owl cowl seemed perfect.

Yarn: Ultra Alpaca Light by Berroco. I have used Ultra Alpaca Light before. It is very warm and nice to work with. The colors are just slightly heathered.

Tips: This was a straightforward knit. The biggest issue was caused by my use of hard-to-see black yarn. If you knit this pattern in fingering weight yarn, the owls won’t really show when worn. So I picked a very thin fingering weight and eliminated some rows of ribbing and plain rows to make it shorter. Project details on ravelry.

Corinne had the next birthday. She’s allergic to all animal fibers except silk which made pattern and yarn selection tricky. Elizabeth opted for bamboo and silk blend yarn in a lacy pattern.

Corinne in her Ridged Lace Cowl knit by Elizabeth

Pattern: The Ridged Lace Cowl by Elizabeth Brown, available on her website Exercise Before Knitting. Because I knit the cowl for someone who is allergic to wool, I looked for a pattern that would look good in bamboo or silk, fibers that tend to drape more than wool. After I found some yarns that I liked at my LYS, I used Ravelry to see what cowl patterns people had used with that yarn. This pattern was a good match for the yarn.

Yarn: Bamboo Silk by ella rae. Looking for yarn without animal content (silk excluded) showed me that I have a lot to learn about non-wool fibers and how they behave. I didn’t want to knit with cotton because it is too bulky and not warm enough for a cowl. After some investigation at my LYS, I found that there are many other options available. I chose a soft and shiny silk/bamboo blend.

Tips: The pattern was well written and fun to knit. I found that the bamboo/silk blend slips around a lot on metal needles. I had to frog back several times because stitches had slipped off the needle and dropped in the lace pattern. Definitely use bamboo needles if you have that option! Project details on ravelry.

The last of our summer birthday cowls was knit by Erica for Liz. Erica was so excited to gift her cowl that we did the exchange one week early!

Liz in her Furrows Cowl knit by Erica and the No Knit Scarf

Pattern: Furrows Cowl by Miriam L. Felton of MimKnits, available from her Mimknits Ravelry store. I could definitely see Liz wearing this cowl. Plus, it had just been published on Ravelry so I knew there was a smaller chance that she had already seen it. I also love sock yarn and I searched for a pattern that used fingering weight yarn. This is the third cowl pattern that I tried making for Liz. The other two patterns were too fussy and not much fun to knit. Speaking of which, I need to frog those projects soon.

Yarn: Painter’s Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM) by Koigu. KPPPM is an all-around lovely yarn. I love the subtleness of the variegation. Plus you only need one skein to make this cowl, so it’s an affordable selection.

Tips: I prefer cowls that have some shaping to them rather than just forming a tube. Cowls that taper inward along the neck drape nicely whereas tube cowls tend to bunch up awkwardly. The Furrows cowl pattern was super easy to knit up, especially after making Jaywalker socks by Grumperina in the same stitch pattern. In fact, it was way more fun than Jaywalkers…seeing as how I have only finished one sock out of the pair. It’s a very simple, well-written pattern to knit. If you’re clever, you could use the Jaywalker sock pattern to knit a similar cowl. Project details on ravelry.

You may have noticed that Liz is actually wearing two cowls in the photo. Both are made by Erica, but only the Furrows cowl was knit! The other one is Erica’s version of a DIY No Knit Scarf made out of Ultra Pima by Cascade Yarns. We all thought that it was funny but honestly, what knitter could wear their stash out on the town unknit? Could you? Turns out that Liz couldn’t because she knit up her No Knit Scarf and part of the extra skein that Erica gave her into a Honey Cowl, a free pattern by Madelinetosh. Project details on ravelry.

Liz in her Now It's Knit Scarf

That’s it for the Purl Jam summer birthdays. But there are more birthdays to come! Stay tuned for nine more birthday cowls in Part 2, The Fall.

– Reported by Tracey, whose cowl birthday is in October.

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About purljamsf

We're a group of knitters, crocheters, spinners, and weavers, who meet on Tuesday nights at 7 pm at Tart to Tart in the Inner Sunset. Please join us!
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One Response to Birthday Cowls Part 1: The Summer

  1. Pingback: Birthday Cowls Part 2: Fall Round Up | Purl Jam SF

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