Rip it up, start again

Two years ago I knitted this skinny scarf.

Krakow Oct 2011 027It 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:

Krakow Oct 2011 098

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. DSC_0003It 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!

DSC_0010Step 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.

DSC_0011As 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:

DSC_0013They 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.

DSC_0015I 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.

DSC_0017And 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.

stripey cowl

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6 Responses to Rip it up, start again

  1. lottieknits says:

    Ah, the demise of a yarn… about a third of the questions I get asked in my day job amount to ‘do you have this discontinued yarn?’ and I always feel bad when I have to say no. (Sometimes though it turns out that the yarn was discontinued in 1987, then I feel less guilty.). I also have a small Cashsoft 4ply stash, but none of the elusive bark shade!

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