Finished Lava Flow Cowl

Lessons From The Lava Flow Cowl

It’s time to add another project to the “Done” list! This lava flow cowl, knitted for a special someone, is my latest finished knitting project, and my first foray into the world of cable knitting!

The pattern is a free download, available here on Ravelry. I learned a few lessons from this project, which I will elucidate for you here.

Lesson 1: The Provisional Cast-On

The provisional cast-on is a technique whereby you pick up and knit your first row from a crocheted chain. The idea is that later, you can unzip the crocheted chain and put live stitches back on your hook in order to do a graft (more on that later).

Lava Flow Cowl in Progress
Provisional cast-on and stitch counter are both visible here.

Picking up and knitting from a crocheted chain might sound very simple to those who know how to both crochet and knit, but there is one little trick to keep in mind: The stitches must be picked up from the back of the chain.

As Staci from VeryPink Knits explains in this video about doing a provisional cast-on, the knit stitches should be picked up from what she calls the “hyphens” on the back of the crocheted chain.

Of course, I hadn’t watched that video when I did my provisional cast-on. So “unzipping” my chain was more of a nightmare than anything. Oh well, you live and learn!

Lesson 2: Stitch Counters Are a Blessing (When You Remember to Use Them)

This pattern calls for repetitions of 21 rows of rib stitch knitting. As you can imagine, it’s easy to lose count if you’re not paying attention, and I’m still learning to count rows in knitting. So I got myself a handy-dandy stitch counter, which lives on your cable (or whatever you’re using to knit).

But of course, the trick of using the stitch counter is to actually update it at the end of each row. A tool is only as effective as its user makes it.

Lesson 3: Read Reviews of Yarn on Ravelry Before Purchasing

I picked the yarn for its softness and its color. It’s Diamond Luxury Fine Merino Superwash DK in a vibrant purple, and squeezing it in the yarn store was such a pleasure.

Sadly, though, part-way through the project I noticed that it was starting to pill! That’s when I went on Ravelry and read the reviews of the yarn. To my dismay, I learned two things: The yarn pills terribly and it loses its shape when washed and must be thrown in the dryer for a bit in order to reshape it.

Lava Flow Cowl Work in Progress
Already starting to pill…

Bummer! I was too far into the project to back out now, so despite the pilling, I kept going…

Lesson 4: Practice A New Technique First

While my mess-up with the provisional cast-on was annoying, it wasn’t too detrimental to the outcome of the cowl. What was a big mistake was my neglecting to practice the grafting technique ahead of time.

Failed Grafting
It’s not really supposed to look like this…

Grafting, or the kitchener stitch, is when you take two sets of “live” stitches (meaning they’re still on your needles) and graft them together with some yarn and a sewing needle, so that there is no seam.

Once again, I referred to YouTube and VeryPink Knits for some help. Her video about grafting in rib stitch is excellent, as are the written instructions in the video description.

But foolishly, instead of practicing a grafting on a couple of swatches of yarn like Staci does here, I decided to go ahead and do it directly on my work. As you can see from the photo above, it didn’t work out so well.

Despite All That, I’m Proud of My Lava Flow Cowl.

Despite all the mistakes made along the way, the final result turned out quite pretty:

Finished Lava Flow Cowl
Done!

The recipient, my colleague and friend Marjorie, is delighted with it. She says it keeps her nice and warm without itching, and the grafting is pretty well hidden when she wears it. So far, the pilling has not proved to be as much of a problem as I feared.

I didn’t mention the cables! They were actually super easy to knit, but the key is to keep your stitch loose. I’m still working on that as a relative newbie.

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I’m Morphing into a Knitting Fiend

Since I learned to knit earlier in the summer and made my first knitting project ever, I have morphed into something of a knitting fiend.

The Slow Road to Addiction

Knitted pot covers
I improvised these fun little fellows to hide a couple of ugly pots

Thanks to the lovely and talented ladies at the Stitch n’ Bitch in Montreal, I have converted to a bit of a yarn snob.

This is a problem, friends. “Why,” you ask? Because yarn is EXPENSIVE! Well, I should qualify that statement: *good* yarn is expensive. Now, I crave the softest yarns in the richest colors.

I am ruined.

Whenever I have an idle moment, I pull out my latest project and knit a few stitches. It’s hard to sit and not have my hands busy with a knitting project.

It has, quite frankly, become an addiction. But where on earth did this come from? As I wrote in an early blog post, crocheting has been a way to express love for the people closest to me.

But since learning to knit, it has also been a process of discovery. A whole new world of hand crafts has opened up and I just want to make more and more and mooooore!

Building Momentum

With each project, my ambition grows, and before you know it I’ll be knitting cabled sweaters that your grandmother never dreamed of making!

My poor Chico will be so decked out in knits, he’ll break into a sweat outside in the dead of the Montreal winter.

(I feel especially bad for my Chico, because he’s such a sweetheart that he simply won’t have the heart to refuse to wear all the ugly things I’m going to knit him.)

Work in progress
Beginning yet another project. Any guesses?

On a Practical Note (for anyone who’s interested)

My favorite yarn store in Montreal is Espace Tricot, over on Monkland Avenue. Recently, though, La Maison Tricotée opened on Gildford (much closer to home) and it is both a yarn shop and a tearoom.

I may as well kiss half my salary good-bye already. The only problem with la Maison is that they only stock natural fiber, made-in-Canada yarns.

What does that mean? You guessed it: $$$$$$$.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Who knows when this phase will end. But I’ve decided to enjoy it while it lasts. This fiber arts kick has brought me together with some awesome ladies who have helped to make Montreal feel more and more like home. So I think I’ll stick with it for a while.

If you’re related to me, expect something knit for Christmas. (Or perhaps your birthday, since I can’t possibly knit something for all of you by then. Good Lord, you’re demanding.)

And if we’re not related? Well:

Grumpy Knits

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First Knitting Project EVER!

I am SO excited! I have completed my first knitting project ever! It is a momentous occasion!

I taught myself to knit using a little book by Nomis Yarn Co. called Learn to Knit. What is great about this book is they give detailed drawings for both righties and lefties. They list common abbreviations and give a little guide to basic stitches, as well as some starter patterns. I chose the baby blanket.

First Knit 1
Yarn: Plymouth Yarn, Encore Knitting Worsted Weight, 75% acrylic, 25% wool. Color: 0678. Lot: 66848

The needles are US size 9, or 5.5mm. The yarn is machine washable, which is important when it’s going to a little baby!

Let’s not discuss how many times I had to pull it all out and start over again (okay, it was three times). In any case, it was an awesome learning experience and I’m excited to add knitting to my bag of tricks.

First Knit 2
Fancy artsy photo of the finished product

The pattern is a mix of knit and purl to create the patchwork look. The border is a simple garter stitch.

The finished blanket is wrapping up my friend Rosy’s baby and keeping him snuggly for the autumn days to come. I was pretty excited that my first ever knitting project turned out well enough to be able to give as a gift without being ashamed! The color, I suppose, is not very baby, but it was such a beautiful heather green that I couldn’t resist.

Finished blanket, being enjoyed by its adorable new owner, TK.
Finished blanket being enjoyed by its adorable new owner, TK.

After finishing this, I made another crochet chain link scarf in a vintage rose color. The yarn for that turned out not to be as soft as I expected, so stay tuned to learn how I managed to soften it!

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Check me out on Ravelry.com for more knitting and crocheting fun!

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