Pacific Arches Cowl
Last year I was invited to design a special cowl pattern to celebrate Knit Fit, a Seattle knitting event, being held at the Seattle Center. The whole Seattle Center plaza is packed with iconic landmarks like the Space Needle, the brightly-colored MoPop, and an enormous lit-up fountain that's full of playing kids in the summer. But as I was looking over some old-timey photos and ads, one image of The Pacific Arches at the Science Center grabbed my attention. I love the Science Center (when I taught elementary school in Seattle, I took kids on field trips there), and the elegant spires of the arches created such a perfect image that I decided I wanted to depict them graphically in colorwork.
If you've read about my colorwork stitch dictionary, AlterKnit, you know that my husband Sean often helps me with color charts, but I created this one myself. I took inspiration from the artwork above, but instead of using blue for the background, I immediately grabbed a skein of Spincycle Yarns Dyed in the Wool in the color Stay Ready, which I loved from the second I saw it. It's a long-repeat variegated yarn with shades of brown, almost-black, and white, all blended together. It's a two-ply, and each ply changes color in a different way than the one it's next to, making a really fun and beautiful skein of yarn that knits up in unpredictable but spectacular ways. (You can read more about this yarn in my Swatch Project.)
I knew I wanted to interpret the arches fairly literally, so I used Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in its un-dyed form (the color is called Nekkid, which I find cheeky and hilarious). Both yarns are soft and springy and go together beautifully. I'd describe Artisan Sock as a heavy fingering weight, and Dyed in the Wool is listed as sport, but I've used it at fingering and DK weight gauges. It snugs in or plumps up really beautifully depending on how tightly I knit it, which makes it a really versatile yarn. Just to illustrate what I mean, the Pacific Arches cowl is knit at 37 stitches = 4 in/10 cm, but I've also designed a drapey shawl in Dyed in the Wool, Sunlight on the Forest Floor, that I knit at 16 sts = 4 in/10 cm! Just goes to show that it's important to think about desired function for a knitted project when thinking about how firm you want your gauge.
The cowl itself is knit as a tube, with the ends seamed together after binding off. I like this method for a fairly uninterrupted colorwork pattern because it's easy to use mattress stitch to line up the colorwork from the cast-on and bind-off edges. Here's what the seam looks like.
I love how the browns give the project an earthy feel (and I seem to be wearing a lot of brown lately!) but I've also seen it worked up with a bluer background and dark grey arches. terumiw on Ravelry used Dyed in the Wool in Overpasses and Artisan Sock in Quill. (Quill is a favourite of mine - see my Ciomara sweater.)
This cowl was originally exclusive to Knit Fit attendees, but it's now available for all knitters everywhere! It's become my go-to neckwear - it's so wearable because it's neutral, but also intricate and engaging. Here's how I wear it:
If you'd like to knit up your own Pacific Arches cowl and are contemplating what yarn to use, I love the Spincycle and Hazel Knits combo I used, but it can also be great for using those special skeins you've got! I'd love to see a speckled background with a solid pattern color. Use any two wool fingering weight yarns you love, but be sure they have a high contrast, at least most of the time. The color of Dyed in the Wool I chose, Stay Ready, does have some pale spots where the contrast isn't as strong with the white Artisan Sock, but it's important to have some high contrast to show off the pattern. And if you're new to colorwork, you may have better results with a grippier yarn like a woolen spun since those yarns tend to be more forgiving of tension inconsistencies than smooth super wash yarns or slippery fibres.
Want to learn more about colorwork? My book AlterKnit Stitch Dictionary has all sorts of great technical info (not to mention two hundred motifs and five projects!) If you want to learn in person, I'll be teaching colorwork at Beehive Wool Shop here in Victoria on March 31, 2018! (I've also got a section on March 24, but it's all sold out!)
You can read all the pattern specs here or just buy from the link below.
Happy colorwork knitting!