Two years ago I knitted this skinny scarf.
It looks cute, but was actually quite awkward to wear. No matter which way I tied it, somehow it annoyed me. Left long it flapped around distractingly and got in the way of my camera, so here I am trying another method:
Clearly this doesn’t work either – it just looks naff. These photos were taken in Krakow, and let me tell you, Poland in late October is really bloody cold. I needed a scarf that would nestle snugly round my neck and keep out the bitter chill, but this one seemed always to have an infuriating gap. I even tried wrapping it round three times in an effort to keep warm! Clearly it just wasn’t fit for purpose. So, when I returned from Krakow the scarf was confined to the drawer, never to be worn again.
But then a month or so ago I discovered the fab ‘i-Make’ blog by Martine Ellis, a Guernsey-based crafter who writes about everything from gardening to knitting. On it was a pattern for the aptly named ‘Splendid Striped Cowl’, a seamless, bias knit cowl that looked deliciously snug. It instantly conjured up memories of my discarded skinny scarf and reminded me of what I had liked about it – the stripes!
A brainwave hit me. I loved the colours and the two-row stripes of my scarf, but not the actual shape – so why not remake it in a different form? I could simply unravel the scarf and rework it as a version of Martine’s gorgeous cowl. That very night I dug it out of the drawer and set about it with the scissors. It took a good while to unravel. The yarn is Rowan Cashsoft 4ply, and as you can see from its telephone cable appearance it has pretty good ‘memory’ (i.e a yarn’s annoying tendency to hang on to the shape of knitted stitches). No way could it be used again right away; the yarn would have to be ‘relaxed’ first. A slight nuisance, but also a chance to try something new!
Step one was to turn the yarn into a skein, which I did with the aid of a trusty chairback, wrapping it round and round until the whole ball was done. Usually I’m turning the chair upside down and using the legs as a yarn swift to wind a skein into a ball, so it was odd to be doing it the other way round. I secured the skein in several places with some waste yarn.
As you can see, the yarn at this stage was practically an afro! Hard to imagine it could be straightened, and at this point I was wondering just how effective the process would be. Step two was to submerge my skeins in lukewarm water, like so:
They were left to soak for around 20 minutes to properly absorb the water. Once the time was up I took them out, squeezed them a bit to ring out excess water, and then a bit more inside a towel until they were merely damp.
I then tied the skeins to a clothes airer, pulling them nice and taut. I positioned it in the bath but to be honest it didn’t drip so it could’ve been left anywhere. Later I moved it near the radiator to speed up the drying, which took a day or so.
And here we go – fully straightened yarn, as good as new and ready to be wound from skein to ball using the aforementioned chair legs. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the process worked, given how fiendishly curly the yarn was when I started.
So now came the business of knitting up the cowl. This wasn’t without challenges, as Martine’s original version was knitted in Rowan Cocoon, a chunky yarn, whereas mine would be in 4ply – slightly different! Given the disparity in thickness I knew my finer version would never be quite as snug, but I could work to the same dimensions with a bit of tension wizardry, casting on almost double the amount of stitches to get the same width. I was confident this would be fine; the only issue was that I would need around 100g of each colour, and whilst I had enough green, I was short on brown, having used it to make the pompoms on the original skinny scarf. No problem I thought, I’ll just buy another ball of brown.
That was when I discovered that Rowan Cashsoft 4ply is profoundly discontinued. Is there any word more devastating to a knitter than ‘discontinued’??! I tried everywhere – the furthest reaches of the internet, the whole of Ravelry, even Rowan themselves – but no, Cashsoft 4ply shade Bark is truly extinct. So, having gone to all this trouble it looked like I wouldn’t be able to make the Splendid Striped Cowl after all, at least not without a few more modifications. But knitters are nothing if not adaptable. After rejecting the option of making the green stripes wider than the brown ones (I just love those 2 by 2 stripes!) I decided simply to make it thinner, casting on 50 stitches on 3.25mm needles, and then knitting until I could wrap it twice around my neck, which was just before I ran out of brown! And here’s the finished result, which I’m chuffed with and have worn every day since. It’s Ravelled here.