Slowing down: Longma’s Shawl + Cockle Shell Shawl

Close up on Longma's Cowl, a repeating whale tail patterned worked in a grey gradient.

Knitting is categorically not a fast activity, even the simplest project requires time for the stitches to come together into a workable object. Several years ago, I think I accidently clocked a pair of socks by the number of graduate classes I was able to work the same pair through (it was taking me a bit less than a week and a half for those of you who are curious, now I can work the leg off a sock in a 45 minute tv episode if it’s simple enough). Despite this understanding, I have still been known to attempt to crank out a last minute knit or two during the holiday season.

When seeking a faster knit, I find the secret is in the similicity of the project. Anything worked in stockinett stitch in the round tends to jump off my needles a lot faster than something worked flat or with a pattern that requires more focus (I’m thinking of you, Leaves of Grass) and it’s not that I’m looking for speed when working on knitting projects, it’s just that projects that are typically good for zoom meetings are the same ones that fly off ones needles.

Over the last few months, I’ve started seeking out projects with stitch patterns that slow me down and require me to focus some energy on them. Sure, this means that it’s harder to throw them down when naptime is suddenly over, but it also means that I’m required to be more mindful about my craft. Focus on each stitch and relax into the design.

This started with Alicia Plummer’s Community Cardi, with knits and purls working together to form a waffle pattern and moved onto several other textured knits before moving into the land of lace stitches. Longma’s Cowl is a ten row lace repeat that forms a whale’s tail after the second repeat. The repeat is worked over and over again until you run out of yarn and honestly doesn’t take that long to memorize.

Longma’s Cowl was an interesting experiment in “what happens if I work a gradient set out of order?”. While I’m thrilled with the way the colors look together and the stitch pattern, I’m not sure I love the idea of the two together. I worry that the stripping takes away from the stitches, but perhaps that’s more of a me problem.

Close up of the cockle shell cowl, a lace shell pattern knit up in a light purple color.

The other slow knit I’ve completed recently, or rather ironically cranked out, is the Cockle Shell Cowl. I worked up the 9 inch single wrap, but highly recommend the 7 inch double wrap as it will end up growing width wise in the end. Another easy to memorize repeat, the main reason this project worked up so fast is due to the needle size the pattern calls.

Something about this purple colorway has made me obsessed with purple all of a sudden, I’m planning on using the leftover yarn from my cowl and the dark grey leftovers from my pivotal point shawl to work a hat (Harlow? Vintage Prim?).

All these samples later and I’m still obsessed with Wonderland Yarns — I literally find myself working up their needs before reaching for other yarns/projects in my stash. It’s been such a fun way to work with colors that are outside my typical comfort zone. Use the discount YARNVIP for 15% off your total purchase from Wonderland Yarns (discount not eligible on sale items, with other discounts, or on yarn clubs) :]

Diminishing Colors Cowl

A stripped cowl of grey and blue where the striped start with one color being larger and decreasing and the other color starting smaller an increasing.

Every so often, I love a good knitting challenge. They’re such a fun way to test your skills and can sometimes lead to a high level of satisfaction. This is all to say when Wonderland Yarns reached out to see if I could crank out a sample of their Diminishing Colors Cowl in less than two weeks, I couldn’t help but agree (spoiler alert: it took about 7 days)

This cowl has seen many a baby lead weaning meal, hours of a baby crawling around and a few hours sitting in the sun watching the world go by. It’s survived being thrown when a nightmare interrupted nap time, inquisitive baby pats, and being quickly stuffed into bags for commuting. And then it was done before I really registered casting off the last stitch.

I love being a mom and one of the interesting things I’ve started to see come out of it is a sort of blink and the world around me shifts. Blink she’s rolling over. Blink she’s crawling. Blink she’s sitting up. Blink she’s trying to go up stairs. Blink blink blink. I guess I always thought that when it came to crafting I would see the world slow down a little bit due to the time it takes to knit each stitch, instead, the stitches are flowing much like time is. Blink one color was done. Blink halfway done. Blink nearly there. Blink sewing in ends. Is time still broken from 2020? Am I the only person who’s noticed this about their knits? Is it simply what happens as you get older? Questions I honestly don’t spend too much time thinking about and perhaps aren’t restricted to knitting and parenting.

Use the discount YARNVIP for 15% off your total purchase from Wonderland Yarns (discount not eligible on sale items, with other discounts, or on yarn clubs). This one was a kit if you’re interested or can be worked up with two colors of Mary Ann (my favorite base!), worked up for a trade show so I can’t speak to wearing it all the time. I will, however, be making something for our daughter out of the leftovers because you end up only using a little over half of each skein.

Across the Pond Sweater

This past spring, I had the pleasure of test-knitting Alicia Plummer’s Community Cardigan (I wrote a post about my cardigan). Though the weather has been a little too warm for me to wear it, I have been drawn to the way each stitch caused me to slow down and enjoy the pattern I was working. Itching to work a similar pattern, I picked up In Stillness and thought: What if I worked the stitch pattern across the entire sweater?

The concept seemed simple enough, In Stillness doesn’t have waist shaping the way that many of Plummer’s sweaters do so I wouldn’t really need to worry about the textured stitches getting wonky. Once imagined, the next logical steps seemed to be choosing the yarn and then swatching for gauge.

With a small stash, you’d think I would know everything in it by heart. Or that I would have at least been able to acknowledge that I didn’t have a sweater’s worth of worsted weight yarn in there. Still, I recalled a few leftover skeins of Blue Sky Fibers Skyland from last year’s capelet KAL and was determined to make it work (this entailed buying a few more skeins, color was consistent across different dye lots!).

As predicted, it was easy to maintain the pattern across the entirety of the sweater. Other than the texture mod, my only other pattern modification was to increase two stitches on the back following sleeve separation and to skip the other waist increases. In the end, the sweater still fit as predicted by the schematic and I’m thrilled with the result. Still a little too hot to wear, but come winter I think this is going to be another wardrobe staple.

The interesting thing about suddenly taking so many pictures of oneself after a year of avoiding the camera (I didn’t really take pictures of myself while pregnant in an interest of keeping it off social media and in an attempt to maintain a healthy body image), is that it’s forced me to really look at myself again. Honestly, you don’t really realize how vain you are until you’re postpartum and you’re glaring down a pair of jeans that you want to fit again. True, all my pre-pregnancy clothes fit again now, but it’s amazing to go from thinking you had a healthy mindset around your body to realize that you had a healthy mindset as long as your body didn’t change.

Over the last several months, I’ve learned to appreciate each tired face (our kiddo’s got a cold and isn’t sleeping well) a little bit more. This is parenthood. It’s not always beautiful or perfect, sometimes I’m covered in spit-up and sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I have time to knit and sometimes I go a week without picking up my needles. It’s a dance that’s constantly changing, and yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Longma’s Cowl in Coal & Scuttles

Close up of the whale tail lace pattern of Longma's Cowl.

I’ve spent the last few months on a bit of a gradient binge, making up for years of not knowing how to work with the slow transitions. Other than being easier for the dyer, two of the rhetorical questions that have always been floating across my mind are: Why are gradients sold as mini skeins? What power does this hold for the knitter/crocheter?

The “easy” answers that comes to mind has to do with projects such as the So Faded sweater, where having the colors separate makes it easier to divide for the sleeves while setting colors aside to mirror the gradient later. It wasn’t until I was winding yarn for Longma’s Cowl that I realized the other benefit: you don’t have to work the colors in order.

Part of this realization came to me specifically because of the colorway I was working with, Coal & Scuttles by Wonderland Yarns is one of their choppier gradients and isn’t packaged in color order (it’s like they were trying to help me along to this realization). Since the gradient was going to cause some striping anyway, I found myself knitting the gradient out of order just to see what would happen.

I’m a huge fan of the final result and am absolutely going to attempt to push myself out of my comfort zone the next time I work with one of their gradient packs.

The cowl itself was a fun knit, I found working the lace pattern required a little bit of focus but not enough that I needed to pour over the pattern at the start of every row. In fact, I think I had the repeat memorized after working through the entire chart once. Definitely need to figure out a way to create a simple shawl version of this one!

Use the discount YARNVIP for 15% off your total purchase from Wonderland Yarns (discount not eligible on sale items, with other discounts, or on yarn clubs) :]

A young woman wearing Longma's Cowl, the oversized cowl drapes down past her chest and the grey gradient stacks on top of itself.

Geneva’s Cowl

A light and dark green textured cowl laying on a table. Slipped stitches are used to make forward and back slashes and seed stitches rows are worked with alternating colors to create subtle stripping.

One of the hardest things to do as an adult is to make friends, something that’s made even hard by living rurally. I think it has something to do with learning what you want out of life, it’s not that certain people no longer fit it’s that you need to have a certain level of things in common with them. Gone are the days where the connection of both liking blue crayons is enough, which if I’m honest is a little sad.

The flip side of this difficulty is how much you come to appreciate the friends that you do have in your life and all the little things they do for you. The “how are you text messages” take on a new meaning from the days of AIM because you know the person on the other side is ok with your honest reply.

Geneva is one of our most thoughtful friends — she’s witty, and strong and provides overly detailed instructions for reheating burritos. Rugged to withstand hours of working on the farm with her animals, with textured stitches to represent the embroidery she crafts in her spare time, this cowl was designed with her in mind.

Use two skeins of Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok Tweed (one in each color) to create the single wrap shown, or grab two extra skeins to work up a double wrap. Geneva’s cowl can be found on Ravelry.