The Newcastle: A Colorwork Cowl that Only Looks Complex
When Meghan Babin, the editor of Interweave Knits, walked down the hall one day and asked me if I’d like to contribute a design to the Winter 2017 issue, the timing was perfect. I’d already planned to design a cowl for myself using some yarn from my stash: Quarry by Brooklyn Tweed. The color I had was called Moonstone (it’s the lighter color in the photos). After experimenting with different stitch patterns, I decided that I wanted to add a contrast color, and because I wanted to go with the boldest contrast possible, I chose a rich, dark red color called Hematite.
I wanted a colorwork pattern that would be easy and quick to knit, but still have a lot of visual interest. For me, that combination invariably leads to slip-stitch knitting, a technique which involves slipping some of the stitches on a given row without working them. This simple manuever makes it possible to achieve an incredible variety of colorwork and texture patterns. But the patterns only look complex. In reality, they are no more difficult to work than a simple stripe pattern in garter stitch. The best part of all is that you only need to use one color at a time, so there’s no need to worry about tangling yarns or having to maintain consistent tension when stranding yarns across the wrong-side of the work.
At first glance, you might not know that the stitch pattern I used for my cowl is basically just garter stitch with two- and four-row horizontal stripes. Slipping the contrasting-color stitches from the rows below interrupted the horizontal stripes and created a predominantly vertical pattern instead. It also broke up the garter ridges so that they became ovals of alternating colors.
But because I didn’t want to substitute horizontal stripes for vertical ones, I shifted the dark vertical shapes every 71/2 repeats so they aligned with the light shapes. Then, to break the pattern up even further, I separated the sections with a few two-row garter stripes. The shifting of positive and negative shapes in the different sections reminded me of the exercises I did as an art student, when we were encouraged to look at the shapes between objects, rather than just the objects themselves.
This is definitely a great pattern for “t.v. knitting.” I finished it in a couple of weekends. It does require some garter stitch grafting to join the ends together, but I’ve provided detailed instructions for that.
The cowl is large enough that it can comfortably be twisted twice around the neck. But despite its large size, it’s extremely light and comfortable to wear. This is because Quarry, even though it’s a chunky weight, is a woolen-spun yarn, which makes it incredibly light and lofty. You really want an airy yarn for a big project like this!
The Newcastle Cowl is available as a kit with two skeins each of Moonstone and Hematite. I hope you will enjoy knitting it as much as I did!
For a chance to win gorgeous Brooklyn Tweed yarn and the pattern for the Newcastle Cowl, enter below!
P.S. When my husband and I went to visit our daughter in Portland, Oregon for Thanksgiving last year, we had the pleasure of visiting the headquarters of Brooklyn Tweed. Jared and his staff were gracious enough to give us a tour of their beautiful offices and warehouse and I thought I’d share some pictures with you.
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