Cygnus Cowl – A Swan-inspired Accessory

Hello dear fellow knitters, nature lovers and other readers.

Today’s blogpost is again part of my effort to keep at least this little corner of the world as normal and uplifting as possible. So here is my Cygnus Cowl, the new knitting design I’ve been working on for about four months. I’m not a quick designer. I like to sketch & swatch and test & tweak until every detail is just right.

As I told you last week, it was inspired by one of the inhabitants of the reedlands close to our home – Cygnus olor, better known as the mute swan. Here it is, sailing along regally in a still wintry landscape.

Mute swans can produce a weak trumpeting sound, and hiss when provoked, but are mostly silent. Hence their name. I know that they can be aggressive, but from a safe distance they look like fairy tale creatures.

In Dutch they are called knobbelzwaan, for the black knobbel (knob) at the base of their bill. They are fairly common around here. Do they live in your part of the world too?

I have photographed them in different seasons. In June last year, I spotted a nesting pair through some reeds.

And on a sunny summer’s day, I took this picture:

I asked the swan to please pull up its leg, because it looked silly with its foot sticking out from between its feathers. But it refused to oblige.

Now, a little more about the cowl. You’ve already seen it at the top of this post, and here’s another picture, with the model’s hair tucked inside to show it in its entirety:

And this is what it looks like from the back:

The lovely model is our daughter, and I’ve designed the Cygnus Cowl with her in mind.

The yarn I used is Rowan ‘Brushed Fleece’, a bulky wool and alpaca blend. Two balls of 50 grams each are enough for the cowl and several swatches. It already feels nice on the ball, but after soaking and drying it is as soft as swan’s down.

The cowl consists of two parts. First there is the cowl body, knit in an all-over cable pattern resembling rippling water:

And then there is a long swan’s wing feather, knit separately.

Here the Cygnus Cowl is laid out flat. It has a narrow indentation on one side and the feather is wrapped around it later. White is hard to photograph – I hope you can see the details clearly:

It isn’t a beginner’s knit, but for a slightly more experienced knitter it is totally doable. I’ve explained the cables and several other knitting techniques in the pattern. And the description of how the cowl is finished is accompanied by photos.

The above pictures were taken indoors. It was early March and our plan was to take lots of photos outside, but the weather was uncooperative. It was a cold, blustery, rainy day. Here’s an impression of our outdoor photo shoot.

Raindrops on the lens and icy hands made it hard to take clear pictures. There were puddles everywhere and the ground was muddy. The wind tugged hard at our daughters red cape (a thrift-shop bargain made with cashmere, squeee!)…

… and made her hair fly all over the place.

In the end we found a sheltered spot behind a reed-roofed barn, but by that time my model/daughter was chilled to the bone. And how to get onto firmer ground again without sliding into the mud?

We had to work fast, and fortunately ended up with enough usable pictures. And in spite of the unpleasant circumstances we had a lot of fun.

I realize that white isn’t for everybody. If white doesn’t suit you but you like the design, why not make it in the colour of your own favourite bird – flamingo pink, raven black, dove grey, owl brown or teal blue?

You can find the Cygnus Cowl pattern here on Ravelry.

As always, thank you for reading. Please take care and stay healthy!

A Blogiversary Gift for my Readers

Hello dear readers. I’m so glad you’re here today, because I have something to celebrate. And it wouldn’t be much fun without you to celebrate it with.

Today, it’s been exactly a year since I started blogging!

I’m usually more of a behind-the-scenes kind of person, so for me, showing myself and the things I do here has been a real adventure. On the whole, despite some jitters now and then, it’s been a very interesting, fulfilling and enjoyable journey. What I’ve enjoyed most of all is looking at the world around me through the lens of my camera and writing about the things I do and love in my own words. As a translator, I always worked with other people’s thoughts and words, and it feels wonderfully liberating to be able to do my own thing here. 

I expected to be doing this more or less for myself, at least during the first year or so, but to my surprise and delight I actually seem to have some readers already. Thank you so much for spending some time here, for reading, and for all of your kind comments!

To show my appreciation I’ve made a small gift for you. I’ve learnt a lot during the past year, but what I haven’t learnt yet, is how to post things in 3D, so that you can unwrap it yourself. So I think I’d better do it for you, shall I? Here we go:

It’s a small knitted drawstring bag. Or rather, the pattern for a small knitted drawstring bag.

To give you an idea of the size and what you could use it for, here it is with some knitting tools I stuffed into it. It may look incredible, with all these things spread out beside it, but the bag really is big enough to hold them all. (It isn’t quite as magical as Hermione Granger’s bag in Harry Potter, though. I tried to stuff a tent and a few sets of spare clothes in, but that didn’t work.)

Pattern notes

The Blogiversary Bag is worked in the round from the top to the bottom, using a long circular needle and the magic loop technique. If you’re unfamiliar with this technique, you can find a short and simple video showing how to do it here on YouTube. Alternatively, you could use a set of double-pointed sock needles.

This isn’t a very difficult project, but some experience with knitting in the round will help. If you can knit socks, you won’t have any problems with it. Knitting it in a single colour will make it easier, because adding in new colours every few rows is a bit fiddly.

The bag starts with several rows in stocking stitch and a row of eyelets that are folded down and sewn to the inside to make a picot hem. For the sake of clarity I’ve divided the instructions up into 5 sections (A-E, see drawing below).

Gauge: 27 sts x 40 rows = 10 x 10 cm (4” x 4”) in stocking stitch worked in the round.

Finished measurements: Top to start of base 11 cm (4½’’); width 20 cm (8’’) around; base diameter 7 cm (2¾’’).

Yarn, needles and notions

Needles: 3.5 mm (US 4) circular knitting needle at least 80 cm/32″ long.

Notions: Tapestry needle, 1 bead with a 5 mm hole (optional).

Suggested yarn:
A total of approx. 17 g of fingering-weight yarn in 5 colours, for instance Manos del Uruguay ‘Fino’ (70% wool; 30% silk; total yardage/weight approx. 450 m/490 yds/100 g). I used some left-over yarn from Tellina, the simple cowl I made earlier this year, in the colourway ‘Flora’, in this order:

  • Colour 1: Tincture (darkest green)
  • Colour 2: Velvet Pincushion (medium green)
  • Colour 3: Crystal Goblet (pale green)
  • Colour 4: Folly (dark turquoise)
  • Colour 5: Watered Silk (pale turquoise)

I used a little more of colours 1 and 4 (approx. 4 grams each) than of the others (approx. 3 grams each).

This is an ideal project for playing with all kinds of left-over bits of yarn. I think it will also work very well in a self-striping (sock) yarn – that will save weaving in a lot of ends! You may have to choose a different needle size, though, and the bag may turn out bigger or smaller.

Abbreviations:
K = knit
K2tog = knit 2 stitches together
P = purl
Rnd(s) = round(s)
st(s) = stitch(es)
yo = yarn over

Instructions

Section A:
Cast on 56 sts with colour 1.
Rnd 1-4: Knit.
Rnd 5: *K2tog, yo; repeat from * to end of rnd.

Section B:
Change to colour 2 and knit 5 rnds.

Section C:
Change to colour 3.
Rnd 1 and 2: Knit.
Rnd 3: *K4, K2tog, yo; repeat from * to last 2 sts, K2.
Rnd 4 and 5: Knit.

 

Section D:
Change to colour 4.
Rnd 1: Knit.
Rnd 2: * K1, P1; repeat from * to end of rnd.
Rnd 3: *P1, K1; repeat from * to end of rnd.

Repeat rounds 2 and 3 nineteen times more in the following stripe sequence: 2 rnds colour 5; 2 rnds colour 1; 2 rnds colour 2; 2 rnds colour 3; 2 rnds colour 4, ending with 2 rnds in colour 5.

Section E:
Change to colour 4.
Rnd 1 and all odd rnds: Knit.
Rnd 2: *K2tog, K5; repeat from * to end of rnd.
Rnd 4: *K2tog, K4; repeat from * to end of rnd.
Rnd 6: *K2tog, K3; repeat from * to end of rnd.
Rnd 8: *K2tog, K2; repeat from * to end of rnd.
Rnd 10: *K2tog, K1; repeat from * to end of rnd.
Rnd 12: *K2tog; repeat from * to end of rnd.

Cut yarn. With the tapestry needle, thread yarn through the remaining 8 sts. Fasten off.

Finishing

Weave in all ends.

Fold section A to the inside halfway through the eyelets and sew in place with small invisible stitches.

Below there’s another picture of this step, showing what the top looks like before (left) and after hemming (right).

The cord

Thread a cord of approx. 40 cm/16” long through the holes. Use either I-cord, twisted cord, or some shop-bought cord or ribbon.

A twisted cord like the one I used, can be made as follows:

  • Cut five 1 m/40” lengths of yarn in each of the 5 colours.
  • Make a provisional knot at one end and fasten it with a safety pin to a heavy object, like a chair.
  • Twist the threads as tightly as possible.
  • Place your index finger in the middle, fold in half and let the doubled threads twist around each other, smoothing with your hands, if necessary.
  • Remove safety pin and thread the cord through the holes.
  • Untie the provisional knot and thread both ends through a bead, if you like. This makes a nice closure, but is not absolutely necessary.
  • Knot both ends of the cord together and cut off to a nice little tassel.

And that’s it, the Blogiversary Bag all done.

I hope you’ve enjoyed that. If you have any questions about the pattern, please leave a comment and I’ll try to answer as well as I can.

I’ll also add the Blogiversary Bag as a free pattern to Ravelry, so that you can add you own projects there if you like.

A Morbihan Shawl for Every Budget

‘Pssst! Hey! Take me home with you!’ the ball of yarn in a gradient of blues whispered. It happened at our regional annual crafts fair. ‘I don’t think so,’ I said, ‘You’re far too expensive, and what would I do with you?’ The yarn ball wasn’t impressed. It kept up its insistent whispering, and after walking around it for about a dozen times, I said, ‘Okay, I surrender. I can’t deny that you’re gorgeous, and you can come home with me.’

It would have been so nice to tell you a romantic and poetic story about the inspiration behind Morbihan, my new shawl design. About how I was inspired by the sea – by its myriad shades of blue and its waves lapping the shore. But you may already have gathered from my previous post that it didn’t work that way. It was the other way around. It was the yarn itself that made me make this shawl, and it was only later that I made the connection with the sea.

The yarn that seduced me was Lang Yarns ‘Puno’, a blend of wool, alpaca and silk. What I love about this yarn is, first of all, its gorgeous colours, and also its drape, its softness and its subtle sheen.

And after knitting and blocking, I noticed how beautifully the lighter bits of this semi-solid yarn undulate along with the waves of the lace pattern, especially in the simple stocking stitch sections of the shawl.

This yarn cost € 49.90 for a single ball (or rather ‘cake’). Gulp! Granted, it was a generous 200 grams and 800 metres, but still… Not exactly a bargain.

Because I didn’t have any spare yarn for swatches (I wanted to use up all of this precious yarn for my project), I first tried out my ideas with some yarn scraps. When I had a clearer picture of what I wanted to make, I still hesitated about using the Puno. I didn’t want to spoil the yarn by ripping out my efforts several times. So, I bought some inexpensive yarn for a trial version, and it looks like this:

This is Drops ‘Flora’, a blend of wool and alpaca, with a similar weight/metreage ratio as the blue yarn – four 50 gram balls of this yarn are the equivalent of one ball of Puno. This was a bargain. I bought 4 balls with 30% off for the grand total of € 7.44.

Although this was only meant as a trial version, it has become a lovely shawl in itself. What I like about this yarn is its woolly cosiness and how beautifully it shows the lace pattern.

And it didn’t end there. After I’d decided to publish the Morbihan pattern, I wanted to make absolutely sure that there weren’t any errors in it, so I decided to make another one to check it.

This time I used a cotton yarn. I wouldn’t normally choose cotton for a shawl, but during a very hot period this summer, I started looking for yarns that wouldn’t stick to my hands and found this. I don’t know if your screen is big enough to read it, but the card behind the yarn cake says ‘handmade’.

Huh, handmade? Yes, this yarn cake really is handmade! And it’s organic too!

Saskia, the owner of Wol zo Eerlijk, a yarn shop specializing in fair trade, organic and otherwise sustainable and animal friendly yarns, makes these yarn cakes herself. She combines several threads of a very thin cotton yarn and winds them into fabulous colour gradients. There are over 25 colourways to choose from.

The colourway I chose is called Planet Earth, and goes from a medium green through blue to almost (but not quite) black.

The thin threads that the yarn is made up of, are not twisted around each other, and I was a bit concerned that the yarn would be hard to knit with. I expected to stick my needle between the threads and miss one or two here and there, but personally, I didn’t have any problems.

Because this yarn is handmade, the cakes do not all have exactly the same weight. The ball band says ‘approx. 225 grams’, but mine was 235 grams. This meant that I could add quite a few extra rows to the border (the pattern explains how to do this) and it has become quite a big shawl.

At € 29.95 per cake, this yarn is rather more expensive than that of the grey Morbihan. But considering that it is handmade and organic, and has a generous metreage, I think it really is a bargain, too. It would be an ideal choice for warmer climates, vegans and people allergic to wool.

Well, those are my three versions of Morbihan. I think it will work in almost any yarn – cotton or cashmere, sheep’s wool or silk, viscose or vicuña, alpaca or acrylic… Wait, no, not acrylic! That’s about the only yarn type that I wouldn’t choose. I don’t think it’s very suitable for lace knitting, because it will bounce back after blocking.

Should you decide to make your own Morbihan, in whatever yarn takes your fancy, I wish you happy knitting!

 You can find the pattern here on Ravelry.

Note: This post isn’t sponsored in any way. The descriptions of the yarns are based on my own experiences with them, and represent my own honest opinions.

Morbihan – The Little Sea Shawl

Hello! Good morning, good afternoon or good evening, depending on where in the world you are and when you can find a moment to read this.

Today, I’d like to tell you about a shawl I’ve designed. I’ve called it Morbihan. As you can see, it’s an asymmetrical triangle, and it is knit in a combination of stocking stitch and a traditional, wavy lace pattern.

But before I tell you more about the shawl itself, I’d like to tell you how it came by its name.

I designed and knit the (then nameless) shawl in the early summer of 2018, months before I started this blog. I made it for myself, but at the back of my mind was the thought, ‘Who knows, maybe I’ll publish the pattern someday.’

That summer, were going to spend our holiday on the south coast of Brittany, France, and while I was packing I decided to add the shawl to my suitcase for chilly evenings. We were to spend part of our holiday in the region of Finistère, and part of it in the region of Morbihan.

The coastline over there is so, so beautiful, especially that of Morbihan. There are rocky stretches…

… as well as wide, white sandy beaches.

In the Breton language the gulf of Morbihan, which gave the region its name, is called Ar Mor Bihan, meaning ‘the little sea’.

What I love most of all about the coast in this part of France, is the clear light and the vibrant colours. Very different from the generally more muted colours of my own country. The bright red of a fishing boat…

… but especially the many, many shades of blue. The translucent blue of the sky. A blue shutter on a white building. And the ever changing blues of the sea, of course. Sometimes pale and in stripes…

… and sometimes a much darker blue shading to turquoise.

We didn’t spend our entire holiday staring at the sea, though. While we were there, we just had to pay a visit to the famous standing stones of Carnac. The sheer number of upright stones, all neatly arranged in rows pointing in the same direction, is amazing.

There were some interesting museums and galleries, and we also visited a stately manoir, with a granary (below) that was even more beautiful than the house itself.

And then there were the delicious thin pancakes called crêpes, the tempting restaurants, and the lovely fishing villages. In one of these villages I took this picture of a shop window:

It’s an ‘upcycling’ shop, where they make and sell wonderful creations from second-hand clothes. Here, too, it was all about blue.

But, all in all, we spent most of our time on the coast, either walking along the coastal path

or strolling along the beach, camera in hand, taking pictures of the sea, rock pools and birds, and just soaking up the sun and gazing out over the sea.

On one of these beach days, I asked my beloved private photographer to take some pictures of my shawl. You’ve already seen it in its entirety at the top of this post, but here’s another picture of it fluttering in the sea breeze.

The triangle starts with just 3 stitches and gradually grows wider with increases along one side. The lace pattern I’ve chosen is an all-time favourite called Old Shale. The body of the shawl consists of stocking stitch sections alternating with sections in Old Shale, and it ends in a border knit entirely in the wavy lace pattern.

I used a yarn in a gradient of blues, from a deep sea blue at the narrow end to a pale turquoise at the wide border.

Here’s a close-up of the border.

To an inexperienced knitter, it may look complicated, but it isn’t. It’s a fairly simple shawl, in fact, with the ‘action’ taking place in only one in every four rows of the lace pattern. For the rest it is just a matter of knitting and purling.

By now, you’ll probably understand why I’ve called this shawl Morbihan. Although I hadn’t planned it beforehand, the shawl and ‘the little sea’ turned out to have much in common. The colours, the waves…

… and also a certain soothing rhythm.

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally written out, tested and uploaded the pattern. If you’d like to knit a Morbihan shawl, too, you can find the pattern here on Ravelry.

The pattern has all the details about yarn, knitting needles etcetera, written instructions as well as a chart for the lace pattern, and a tip about making the shawl longer or shorter.

In addition to this one, I’ve made several more versions of Morbihan. I’ll tell you more about them and the yarns I’ve used soon.

Tellina – A Simple Cowl Pattern

Surprise! I’ve published a pattern on Ravelry! It’s a simple pattern for a cowl, knit in stripes of five different colours, and I’ve called it Tellina.

I’ve been working on this project for quite a while. The reason I haven’t mentioned it here before is that I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out and how long everything would take. And now, suddenly, it’s all finished.

At the top you can see the cowl in neutrals and pink. And here it is in blues and greens:

Before I show you some more pictures of the cowl, let me first tell you how it came about.

It all started with the yarn…

These days, my policy is not to buy any yarn unless I have a specific project in mind to make with it. But at a crafts fair in February, I fell head over heels in love with a yarn that came in sets of five mini-skeins. (I wrote about it in a previous post). It was soft, it had a slight gleam, it was hand-dyed and fair trade, and the colours! Oh, those colours!

The blues and greens reminded me of the sea, the sky and the marram grass on sand dunes on a sunny day. (The day we took these pictures wasn’t all that sunny, so the colours below are a bit more muted than those of the yarn.)

And  the grey, fawn, cream and pink combination made me think of seashells. To me, seashells are some of nature’s small miracles, with all of their different shapes and  subtle colours. I keep some in jars on my window sill – souvenirs of many trips to the seaside, in the Netherlands and abroad.

So, I caved in and the yarn came home with me. At first, I only looked at it and petted it. Then I played with it for a bit, just for the fun of seeing the colours of the shells and the yarn together.

And then I started thinking about what to make with it. I looked around on Ravelry and in my pattern books, but couldn’t find anything that spoke to me. So I decided to design something myself. It couldn’t be a big project, or I’d have to buy more yarn to go with it. (I only had 100 grams of each colour combination.)

I soon decided that a cowl would be perfect. It would be a lovely thing to make and to wear, and I could use up as much of the mini-skeins as possible.

I made swatches in all kinds of stitch patterns. I daydreamed, sketched and coloured. I knit more swatches, to try out different needle sizes. I cut some knots (figuratively speaking) and knit a prototype. Then I finally knit the actual cowls. Here you can see them side by side (click on images to enlarge).

The cowl is knit in the round, in a combination of broken rib, stocking stitch and rows of slipped stitches. Here you can see the different pattern stitches and the subtle variegations in the yarn from close up:

The pattern owes its name to a group of shells commonly found along our shores, called Tellina in Latin. One of them is the thin tellin (Tellina tenuis), a small, delicate shell with bands of colour in various shades. My favourites are the rosy pink ones, like the top left one in the photo below:

The cowl is suitable for all levels. For experienced knitters it will be a breeze to knit. And it’s totally doable for inexperienced knitters, too. (Only if you’re really new to knitting, I’d suggest asking a slightly more experienced knitter to cast on the stitches and knit the first two rounds for you. After that you should do fine.)

For those of you who’d like to make their own Tellina, you can find the pattern here on Ravelry.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Should you decide to knit this pattern, please don’t throw away the scraps! There won’t be a lot of yarn left over, as I’ve tried to use up as much as possible, but it would be a shame to throw away even the tiniest amounts. I’ll try to think up something to do with them. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be yet, but I have some ideas and hope to publish a few small projects here on my blog during the summer months.

As always, thank you for reading!