Fair Isle and other forms of stranded knitting produce beautiful results, but the cost of buying skeins of different colors, as well as the necessity of darning in all those ends, puts people off. If this is true for you, or if you are new to knitting with two strands at a time, why not try the “Faux Isle” technique? And, if you have a stitch dictionary that’s been tempting you, why not make up your own pattern?
You’ll start, as always, by gathering your materials. For a cowl that’s between thirty and forty inches in diameter, you’ll want to work with worsted-weight yarn. Get thee to your LYS (local yarn store), or shop your stash for around two hundred yards (two hundred twenty meters) of yarn in a background color. Then find one hundred yards of yarn in a contrasting stripe or print. You’ll want a twenty-four inch, size 7, circular knitting needle and a set of stitch markers.
Go through the stitch dictionary and find a pattern that looks interesting. Because you are using a print yarn for the color part, choose a pattern that’s more graphic than floral, as the yarn will change color on its own. Note the number of stitches in the repeat, and if possible pick a pattern where the strands will be four or less stitches long (if you are more experienced and feel comfortable with longer strands, you can disregard this piece of advice.)
If you are the intelligent, responsible sort of knitter that always makes a gauge swatch, you will then cast on enough stitches for three repeats of the pattern, using your plain color as the MC and your print as the CC. Knit the pattern through three times, and then measure. You can then determine how long you want your cowl to be by multiplying your gauge by the desired cowl circumference. You may then need to fidget the number a bit up or down to make sure that your cast-on number is divisible by the number of stitches in the repeat.
If you are the super-lazy sort who hates making gauge swatches, this is actually a good project for you because gauge is not quite as important as it is when creating a sweater. Consider that a size 7 needle on worsted wool generally gives somewhere between four and a half and five stitches to the inch. Take your pattern repeat and divide 180 by that number. If you end up with a fraction, go up or down until you have a whole number. If your gauge ends up five stitches to the inch, this will make a thirty-six inch cowl on 180 stitches; if you get five and a half stitches to the inch, your cowl will be around thirty-two inches. Sssshhh… no one will know that you fudged this!
After you’ve determined your cast-on number, cast it on and begin by knitting a k1p1 rib for five rows with your MC. Then knit a row in stockinette before beginning the stranded section, which you’ll knit until the cowl is as high as you desire. Finish with five rows of k1, p1 rib, and bind off in pattern. You’re done, and your neck will thank you!
For my sample project, I used Sublime Extra Fine Merino Worsted in Aubergine for the background, and a leftover skein of Liberty Wool as the print yarn. I chose a simple pattern out of the Alterknit Stitch Dictionary by Andrea Rangel, and cast on 180 stitches. Photos of the in-progress and finished project can be found on Facebook, on the Bella OnLine Knitting page.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with either the Sublime or Liberty Wool companies; nor do I know Andrea Rangel. I purchased my materials and the book with my own funds.