Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Free Charlotte Cowl Pattern: Phototutorial

This little project developed out of a need to have more patterns available for the time pressed gifter--me. And I'm sure I'm not alone. Being a handspinner, I often prefer to use my own yarns for projects. But that can seriously amplify the time I need to work on a handmade gift (testing, swatching, spinning, swatching, knitting...sigh). I also wanted a neat gift which probably isn't circulating the web like wildfire..you know, to enhance the one-of-a-kind feel. The Charlotte Cowl isn't really a pattern, per se, but rather a twist on the wrapped yarn cowl that is already a current trend. Let's begin the phototutorial!

First, pick out your yarn(s). If you are a handspinner, this is the perfect time to try out a funky new yarn with a ridiculous gauge and tons of bits and bobs for color and texture. Or you can use leftover bits of yarn from sampling or your stash. Any yarn will do, but the best result comes from a combination of colors and textures (you could totally still go neutral with colors and textures if you want a sleek, sophisticated look). For my cowl, I picked out a handspun yarn which was plied with bamboo and had locks stuck in between the plies. I had about 44 yards of it.

Here's a close-up of the locks stuck in between the plies:

Second, you need two tools. Well, you need just one tool, but the second one makes things convenient. You'll need a niddy noddy or a chair. You can use anything rigid (like a piece of cardboard), just make sure that when you wrap your yarn around it, it has a circumference of at least 30 inches (less than that and it'll feel too tight). And for convenience, find a crochet hook. Your fingers will work just fine for this in case you don't have a crochet hook available. (If you don't have a crochet hook, you might find a darning needle to be handy when you need to weave in the ends.)

We're ready to begin! Tie one end of your yarn around one end of the niddy noddy. Now, start wrapping. I wrapped the yarn such that each subsequent wrap lay next to the previous one, not overlapping. Tip: When wrapping, be sure to keep the tension a little on the loose side. If you're using anything other than silk or bamboo, it'll bounce back and be tighter in the end (don't make a noose!). Keep wrapping until you have used about 1/2 to 2/3 of your amount of yarn. For me, that was about 27 yards.

You can wrap your yarn however you want. If you wrap like I did, you'll get a cowl which stacks up on itself and becomes very tall (great for keeping your ears warm while simultaneously keeping your upper chest warm!). You can overlap the wrap to get a gorgeous, confusing highway of yarns going every whichway. You can do a minimalist approach with a few wraps, or you can layer the texture by making the background with bulky yarn and the foreground with thinner yarn. Seriously, this has tons of options! Now we need to keep the cowl together--right now, it's just a bunch of wrapped yarn!

Without cutting your yarn (or you can switch yarns now if you'd like), make a small slip knot and put your crochet hook through the loop. Now we will chain ply the wraps together.

Your yarn supply should be on the top of your project. With your crochet hook, slip the hook under one of the wraps (it doesn't have to be just one wrap..experiment with two or three wraps!).

Wrap the yarn around the hook and pull it under the wrap yarn and the through the slip knot on the hook (the loop closest to your hand). You will have made a new slip knot! Tip: You don't have to go under each wrap in order. You can skip the next wrap and go to the next one, chain it, then come back to the wrap you skipped and chain that one. It'll give your cowl some interesting lines (for example, when you look at a moebius strip and draw a line with your eye).

Rinse and repeat until you get to the end of the wraps. Now you have a choice. You can simply cut your yarn, knot the end, and weave in the end. Or you can do something like what I did...

I cut off a random length of yarn (crochet hook for scale--you don't need to remove your hook).

With your hook still in place at the end...

...pull SOME of the yarn through the loop, but don't pull the whole yarn through. If you leave some yarn on either side of the slip knot, you'll get ends which loop instead of fringe. While holding either end of the loops, pull to even them out if you'd like. The slip knot will hold the ends snuggly, but if you are using a slippery yarn, you may want to choose an alternate form of tying the end. You could try a square knot or a bow.

Add as many of these chain sections as you want. I had 7 chain sections to hold my cowl together, but I think 4, evenly spaced chain sections would be the minimum number to keep the cowl together. I spaced my chain sections irregularly to keep it from looking too uniform. You can even do chain sections which start somewhere in the middle and finish before the end of the wraps to add more visual interest. Experiment! Try stuff out! These chain sections are easy to remove if you don't like the direction it's going. :)

A few last tips before we do the big reveal. If your chain loops are bunching up, that's normal, especially when you're using a bulky yarn. If you're worried that the whole project might pop off your niddy noddy, you can tie scrap yarn around the center T and the wraps.

If you're worried about chaining the front wraps with the back wraps, place a piece of paper between the layers so that won't happen. I found that the paper being there helped me go faster since I wasn't always checking to make sure I didn't accidentally grab a wrap from the bottom level!

Here's the finished Charlotte Cowl!

I hope you enjoyed working through this project. Share pictures of your Charlotte Cowl with all of us over on Facebook! Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for this project. I plan to do more of these 'no knit, no crochet' projects in the future! <3