Editor’s note: Marie made three versions of the Cross-D cowl. Check out that design and free pattern on its own page.
You’ve been looking at a certain pattern. It calls to you. but the yarn recommended by the designer is not available, or maybe it is, but you’re eager to go stash diving, because you know you’ve got wonderful hanks languishing, waiting to see the light.
You look for the yarn weight of the pattern, but you can’t find one you like in your stash. You do, however, have perfect hanks slightly heavier or lighter than the designer recommended. You think about the adjustments you might make— a larger or smaller needle, an increase or decrease in number of stitches in your cast on, and you know that you’ve already altered the lovely pattern you started out to knit in the first place.
Never mind, here is where your creativity and the serendipity of circumstance meld to produce a finished object you love.
I’ve made several cowls to show how changes in yarns and/or needle sizes can produce a garment clearly derived from the one you admired in the pattern photo.
The first cowl was knitted with the recommended yarn weight: DK. The yarn used by the designer was not available to me, so I chose one that closely imitated it. Three Irish Girls DK is a hand dyed, superwash merino yarn with a nice twist and visual glow that gives great stitch definition. It is also thinner than other DK yarns. Here is where you must be aware that not all yarns of the same weight are equal, especially when you consider ply and fiber content. The reasons for this are worthy of a separate study. (read our article to dive more into these and more).
For now, keep in mind that a thicker DK will respond differently than a thinner DK at the same needle size. I chose the Three Irish Girls because if most closely resembled the yarn used by the designer.
Size 10 needles are recommended, but I don’t have size 10. I do have size 10 1/2, and I know I am a tight knitter. I felt confident to make this adjustment and still produce a cowl duplicating the one in the design photo.
Here is where you must realize whether you are a loose knitter or a tight knitter. You can get away with a needle size just larger or smaller than the recommended needle if you know how you knit naturally.
This pattern instructs an aggressive block in order to emphasize stitch definition. My cowl needed only a light blocking. You can see that it resembles the original photo nicely. Knitted as closely to the pattern instructions as possible, my cowl does not need the suggested aggressive blocking in order to resemble the stitch pattern of the designer.
Then, I made two more cowls, one using fingering yarn with a size eight needle, and the next using a worsted yarn with a size eleven needle. The photographs show the differences obtained with these deviations from the pattern suggestions.
These cowls illustrate how easily one can deviate from a pattern and still produce a lovely garment. They also show how one can produce three or more different garments from the same pattern, yet look as siblings— similar, yet each with its own beauty. Each can serve different purposes, too. The DK weight is what the designer recommended, and I’ll let the reader decide whether this was the best weight for this pattern. The fingering weight cowl could work on a dressy outfit, while the worsted cowl seams like a good choice for a sporty look. The worsted cowl is long enough to wrap double. I placed buttons on all three cowls, as a matter of consistency, but you could just as easily sew the short sides together for a decorative panel, especially because the buttons hang and add weight to the cowl.
One caveat must be mentioned. In order to make changes in yarn weight and needed size, and expect a nice result, you must use a design that has a repetitive stitch pattern, and one that does not need sizing. Simple cowls and shawls are perfect for using creative deviations from pattern instructions. Once you’ve ventured into your own creative styling, you’ll be unafraid to experiment with needles and yarn weight, close or open a seam, add or subtract buttons, shorten or lengthen a side, etc. Yarn color, of course, is a choice of its own, one of the first pleasures we learn, but not the last, in creating unique hand-crafted items items.
About the writer: Marie LaConte
Marie knitted as a teen, and explored other art forms over the years. Now retired, she’s knitting again and making up for lost time. She’s narrowed her interest to scarves, shawls and cowls, with socks and sweaters on the bucket list. She’s also started to design her own patterns.