Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Gradient Cowl: A Drama in Four Swatches and Epilogue

I bought this fabulous gradient set from Miss Babs at MDSW. It was displayed next to a sample of Spectral, and that’s what I intended to make. aquarius crop The pattern directs the knitter to divide the yarn in a very specific way. You use a scale and divide 4 of the 5 colors into equal balls, and then you further divide one ball and mark it so you know when to begin the edging. It is very specific. I used a lot of baggies.IMG_3263So I was a little surprised when it said that gauge is super important and that you have to measure gauge after washing and blocking a swatch. Which color should be sacrificed to the swatch? Luckily, I had some Miss Babs Yummy Toes left over from last year’s Albers Cowl, so I swatched with it. And that’s where the problems began.IMG_3261

Swatch I

1 cropI worked the first swatch in the suggested needle size: US 3 (3.25 mm). You can see that I worked it in the round (because gauge can be different in the round vs flat) and I snipped my long floats after swatching. My gauge was way too small. Also, I kind of screwed up the pattern because it was hard to see on this darker color. Fail.

Swatch II

2 crop I worked this on a US 4 (3.5 mm). It is a little bigger than Swatch I, but nowhere near the recommended gauge of 5.25 st/in washed and blocked.

Swatch III

3 crop Now I am getting suspicious. I go to Ravelry to see if others have drastically changed needle size. I notice there are “only” 59 projects made from this pattern. This seems like a small number, given that the Yarn Harlot blogged about it. I notice one knitter who says that the stitch pattern as written does not create what you see in the photos. She suggests an alternative. So for my 3rd swatch, I use a US 5 (3.75 mm) and work half the swatch as written and half in this new way (the stitch pattern on the right half is different from the left half). I can see a difference, but it isn’t huge. And frankly, neither really looks like the photo on the pattern. I don’t like how loose and hole-y this is. I’m still not getting gauge.

I go back to the pattern and notice a mistake. The designer says she gets 5.25 st/in. She casts on 336 stitches. Do the math – the cowl should measure 64” in circumference. But the pattern says it is 54” in circumference. I slide deeper into skepticism about this pattern. I am getting the gradient grumpies.

The final straw is that I notice the finished cowl has a depth of 10.5”. This is too deep to wear easily (for me). I grab my favorite cowls and they measure 6 to 6.5” in depth. So I decide to scrap this pattern that I have paid for. I can do better on my own!

Swatch IV

IMG_3324 I head for my trusty Vogue Stitchionary Volume 1 and swatch stitch pattern 222, “Tiny Scales.” I like it!  You can actually SEE the yarn here. I decide to knit this instead. Those little diagonal lines pull the fabric in and keep it from being too stretchy. I used a US 4 (3.5mm). I measure gauge, decide about circumference (54” is what I was shooting for), and cast on. Coincidentally, my custom cast-on number was 336 (same thing the designer calls for in Spectral – but which I don’t believe will yield the specified size).IMG_3458Here is what I have so far. It took a long time to get going on this project. I mis-knit the first pattern round and didn’t notice until the 3rd round, which meant a lot of tedious ripping back. But then I got moving in the right direction. I had to decide whether to move across 5 colors only (A-B-C-D-E) or to go “out and back,” so to speak (A-B-C-D-E-D-C-B-A). “Out and back” is what Spectral does, but it does that over 10.5” of depth and I’m only shooting for 6.5”. I’ve settled on “out and back” but I’ll be changing colors a lot more frequently.


Did you notice the edging? More specifically, did you notice that I have to hold down the edging so you can see the stitch pattern? I chose a simple stockinette edge that would roll. That’s what the ubiquitous Honey Cowl pattern does, and mine looks good. But I don’t think it’s working here for some reason. Maybe the stitch pattern of the Honey Cowl stops the rolling somehow. Here is what happens when I let go of the edge:


That’s not pretty! And I’m not having it. After staring at it all last evening and not adding a single stitch to it, I’ve decided to rip back AGAIN. I love this yarn and want the cowl to be right. I’ve decided that if I don’t like rolling and curling, then a turned hem is a sensible response. I’ll do a picot turned hem and sew it down. I think that will frame the “tiny scales” well.

If you hear strange sounds coming from my locale, it’s me. Frogging. Again.


  1. You didn't even mention that you decided it was too long also....

  2. I know. And I left off the part about the stretchy cast-on. I had to edit. Too much drama!

  3. I think you get the prize for best swatcher ever along with the very patient knitter trophy. I do love the yarn, the tiny scales pattern you arrived at, and your turned hem idea; that is a lot of work for a paid pattern. Maybe you should publish your pattern when you're done!

  4. What you're making is way more gorgeous than any of those swatches. You are the queen of swatching and gauge! And I think you showed more restraint in discussing this 'pattern' than many would have.

  5. Steven, you gave me that stitch dictionary as a gift years ago. I've gotten so much use out of it. It's riddled with post-its!