The Couru Cowl and the Art of Grafting Invisibly
I love to knit accessories. The truth is, I often have a short attention span when it comes to knitting, and once I’ve seen how a stitch pattern is going to look with a certain yarn or figured out a new (to me) technique, it can be difficult to see a project through to the end. Accessories such as hats, cowls, and mittens provide the perfect opportunity to experiment, which I love to do, and still end up with a wearable object.
Of course, I do occasionally knit larger garments, especially when I get a special request from a friend or family member. Right now, I’m making the Baler Cardigan from our knit.purl Spring/Summer 2015 issue for my older daughter. She requested a cardigan that was mostly stockinette stitch, with just a touch of decoration, and this cardigan, with a lace pattern on the sleeves and stockinette stitch on the body, fit the bill perfectly.
The rows of stockinette stitch in the body of the cardigan were just the thing for a recent long car trip, but when I needed a break from the repetition, I worked on smaller projects, such as the Couru Cowl from knitscene Summer 2015.
I was intrigued by the stitch pattern in the cowl. I’d seen similar stitch patterns before, but not quite in this configuration. According to the designer, Anastasia Blaes, she “was inspired by Anasazi Indian motifs from Lake Powell, a popular vacation spot in Utah,” and the images reminded her of birds in flight (I agree, you can certainly see that in the stitch pattern). For me, the pattern also brings to mind the stylized arches of Art Deco style design.
For my cowl, I used Plymouth Yarn Mushishi in color #20 blues/beige/black flecks. (I decided not to attach fringe.)
The cowl starts with a provisional cast-on and then is grafted in pattern at the end (there are step-by-step instructions for the grafting in the issue). You can see in the swatches shown here and below that the grafting results in a completely invisible join. For the swatches, I used a solid-color cotton yarn so the stitch pattern would really stand out.
The Bird in Flight pattern is composed of 16 rows. After stitches are picked up in the crocheted chain for the provisional cast-on, Rows 1–16 of the chart are repeated until the cowl is the desired length. Because the pattern needs to continue uninterrupted when the stitches are grafted, it’s important to end with Row 14 of the last chart repeat before grafting the stitches, leaving the last two rows to be completed by the grafting. (And, yes, that’s two rows, not one.)
Here’s the grafted row halfway completed. If you look closely at the ungrafted stitches on the lower needle, you can see that the arch below the needle has three (out of four) purl ridges and there are three yarnovers in each of the two “bird wings” on each side of the arch. Compare that to the chart and you can see that the third purl ridge is created on Row 14, the last row that was worked, and there are only three yarnovers in each wing at that point. The provisional cast-on loops on the upper needle (which are actually the strands between the stitches that were picked up in the chain) form the foundation for Row 16 of the chart, but that pattern row won’t be completed until the grafting yarn is drawn through the loops to form knit and purl stitches according to the pattern (with grafted purl stitches forming the fourth purl ridge of the arch). The grafted row itself will add Row 15, complete with decreases and the fourth yarnover at the top of each wing. So, even though you are adding a single physical row to the knitting, two pattern rows are created.
The great thing about grafting stitches top-to-bottom (grafting live stitches to a provisional cast-on row) is that there won’t be a half-stitch jog at the point where the patterns meet because the stitches are all worked in the same direction. Thus, top-to-bottom grafting, unlike top-to-top grafting, is truly invisible.
Over the last few years, I’ve written a lot about grafting. I think that I just love the challenge it presents. There are almost as many grafting methods as there are ways to knit, and the challenge is in discovering the best method for each situation. So far, I’ve covered: grafting stockinette stitch, reverse stockinette stitch, garter stitch (two different ways), ribbing and seed stitch (both top-to-top and top-to-bottom), grafting in the round, grafting with two colors, grafting lace (both top-to-top and top-to-bottom), and grafting cable patterns. And I’ve explored some of the myths that have cropped up over the years about grafting.
There are so many different aspects to grafting that I never seem to run out of things to write about. And just when I think I have it figured out, a new challenge presents itself.
One of those challenges was grafting brioche stitch. Brioche presented a particular challenge because of its interwoven structure. Each row is worked in two passes, with alternating stitches and slip stitches with yarnovers worked on each pass. For a long time, I just couldn’t figure out how to make the grafting resemble the brioche using only one strand of yarn. But, after a bit of trial-and-error, it turned out to be much simpler than I’d thought.
I discovered that the key to grafting this somewhat complicated stitch is to maintain the same “two-pass” process used in working the brioche stitch itself, which means that both the provisional cast-on and the grafting needed to be worked in two passes: the cast-on is worked over two rows and the stitches are grafted with two separate strands of yarn (one at a time). In my next blog post, I’ll give you step-by-step instructions (with videos) for grafting an earwarmer worked in brioche stitch.
Both the brioche stitch and dropped-stitch grafting methods can be used for projects in upcoming issues of Knits and knitscene, so grab some yarn and needles and keep watching this blog for more grafting adventures!