Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lauren's Three Color Cowl

This post should really be titled, "Lauren Finally gets her Very Belated Birthday Cowl". And when I say belated, I mean like three and a half years late. But, better late than never? Right Lauren? Although at times, I'm sure we both thought that a birthday cowl would never get made.

Way back in the Fall of 2011 I came up with the plan to knit Lauren a cowl for her 21st birthday. I was just starting to gain a little confidence in knitting, although looking back now, I was still a huge novice. A month earlier I knit (and finished) a cowl for Marissa's birthday out of yarn that I had stashed from Tuesday Morning. Again, this was way before I understood the true value of local yarn stores. I was really impressed that I was able to follow online directions and successfully completed a mobius cowl. I think Lauren was also surprised that I didn't need her help at all for this project, hence my new found confidence. I was on a knitting high when Lauren asked me to knit her a cowl for her birthday too, so I quickly obliged. Thanks to my current state of pride, I wanted to make something "complicated" to show off my knitting skills.

Even though I thought I was pretty hot stuff in the knitting realm at the time, I still knew that Lauren's knitting skills were superior to mine. That being said, I needed Lauren's approval and advice when choosing yarn and a pattern for her cowl. Lauren really liked the way Marissa's cowl turned out, so she decided she wanted the same yarn for hers. I had plenty leftover so this was an easy task. However, picking out which pattern to knit wasn't as easy. It turns out that many of the patterns Lauren and I both like happen to be knit with fingering weight yarn versus sport weight, which is what the chosen yarn was. I tried various simple patterns (just knit and purl stitches) which I didn't really fancy. I even tried cables, and while the cables didn't look so bad in the yarn, I'm (still) not a superb cable knitter. It's something about the tension; I wind up with huge holes which isn't attractive. After starting and later frogging a handful of times, I finally came to terms with the fact that I needed to pick different yarn for Lauren's project.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2015 (almost 4 years later), and I still hadn't made Lauren her birthday cowl. One of my goals for the year has been to become debt free in terms of owing people presents. This was something I needed and wanted to get done. Even though I have a huge box full of stashed yarn, I knew that buying and selecting new yarn based on a particular pattern was what I needed to do. I told Lauren to pick out a few cowl patterns on Ravelry that she might like me to knit for her, and based off of that I ultimately picked the long-awaited birthday cowl.
Together, we decided on the Three Color Cashmere Cowl, although not in cashmere. I read over the pattern and realized this was something I could actually do, with minimal help. We had also been wanting to go to Loop again, so this seemed like the perfect excuse to buy more yarn. We headed out one Friday and I gave Lauren free reign, letting her select whatever yarn she wanted her cowl knit out of, while adhering to a budget. She selected two skeins of Madeline Tosh Merino Light in Antler and Charcoal, and Dream Jilly in Bitter.

This project knit up fairly fast as far as my previous knitting endeavors have gone. I started on February 20 and finished March 23, with a week break when my family was visiting. Honestly, I'm surprised that I finished the entire project without setting it aside out of frustration. I think Lauren is a little surprised too to say the least. This was a pretty simple pattern to follow; I already knew how to do all of the different stitches (I did have to look up one, but it was easy to learn). While the pattern itself didn't give me any difficulties, I did encounter some troubles along the way, as per usual.
The one error that's sadly noticeable is that my stripes don't match up. I did everything I could think of to get the joins to line up correctly, but it just wasn't happening. I also had to restart the lace pattern twice (thanks Lauren for your help), but doing this step correctly was so worth it. This was my second time knitting lace and even though I get tripped up every time, I'm always so glad I kept at it because it turns out so beautiful. Even though it's just a small section of the entire cowl, it's probably my favorite.

If my memory serves me well, this is also the first time I paid for a pattern on Ravelry. Usually I filter the patterns to see only the "free" ones because I feel like I'm too much of a novice to be worthy of using a "fancier" pattern. I really liked how the cowl looked in all of the examples I saw, so I went for it and clicked the "purchase" button. Even though it's not perfect, I think it turned out pretty well. I love the style and as long as it's worn every now and then, I'll call it a win! Knitting this cowl also made me realize how important quality yarn is. I never completely understood why people spend so much money on yarn. I can definitely feel the difference between craft store yarn and yarn purchased at specialty yarn shops. But, even within that local yarn store there are different qualities/prices of yarn. When I first started going to local yarn stores, Lauren would tend to buy the higher priced items whereas I'd gravitate towards the lower priced skeins. Although I know that the priciest item isn't always the best quality, this rule loosely holds true. This was actually my first time knitting with Madeline Tosh, and after knitting the majority of a project with it, I can totally see why people are obsessed with it. I don't need to buy any yarn for a while, but when the time comes I'll definitely come in with an open mind and not base my purchase on the price tag. It's little lessons like this that make hobbies even more enjoyable.

While I could easily and quickly knit up a plain knit scarf (nothing wrong with that!), I like the experiences of learning new techniques. Even though it's a pain to have to look up how to do certain things, I like this enrichment.
Here's one more item I can cross off of my virtual list of presents I owe people. Happy super belated birthday, Lauren!