Scientific Swatching and a Como Cowl

Jane here. Last week I, rather excitedly, told you about making my first ever F.O. (finished object)

It’s time to move on to my second project. I’m working through the learn to knit book by PomPom – ‘Knit How’.

Project two is a cowl offered up in three different stitch patterns. I chose the moss stitch version because I like the look of the fabric it creates.

Pom Pom Press, who publish this book, are London based – so when they say moss stitch, they mean British Moss Stitch – which I believe is also known as American Seed Stitch.

Cast on an odd number of stitches and k1, p1 to the last stitch, k1. Repeat.

Perhaps you could tell me what this stitch is known as where you are?

The suggested needle size for this pattern is 8mm (US 11) and the yarn is chunky. The largest needles I have are 6mm (US 10) so I pop round to the nearest shop and pick up another new set of needles.

I wish I hadn’t bothered. I didn’t get gauge. After blocking the swatch I felt that I would need a 7mm needle to meet the required gauge, which I don’t have. I wonder, what will happen if I use the 6mm? Can you guess? Ah well. It’s a cowl – it doesn’t need to “fit” as such. I look at the two swatches; one over and one under gauge and decide I prefer the fabric made on the 6mm needles. In the image below you can see both swatches – I chose the one on the left.

Blue Moss Stitch Knit Swatches in Como Blue New Lanark Chunky Wool Yarn

Moss stitch creates an interesting textural fabric, very pleasing in look and feel. This is a stitch I think I’ll enjoy using in future.

The yarn I’m using is New Lanark Chunky 100% Pure New Wool, in Como.

Once I got into the rhythm of k1, p1 with this chunky yarn it was plain sailing. 

It’s one long length of knitting, mattress stitch the ends together and…ta da! I made a cowl. 

Another purchase, blocking mats and pins, came in useful to make the cowl nice and square after a quick wash.

Jane Knitting Moss British Moss Stitch Cowl in Blue, Como, Chunky Wool Yarn

I seem to have had a breakthrough with being able to read my knitting during this project. Maybe down to the chunky yarn, meaning the stitches are easier to see. I realise that this stitch pattern is essentially the same as 1×1 rib, but the resulting fabric is really different. By thinking about and understanding why this is, I eventually get the hang of looking at, and recognising, the stitch I’m about to work. I feel like I’ve cracked the code – thank you to everyone who has left advice about how to identify stitches!

Moss stitch – knit the purls and purl the knits. Rib – knit the knits and purl the purls. Bingo!

Rather than doubling the piece around the neck I decided to stop short of the pattern length to make a more snug-fitting, single loop.

The yarn is a dream to work. Quick and easy, in a lovely teal base with little bursts of orange, lilac, green and blue throughout. I think it co-ordinates well with the flecks in my Harris Tweed blazer.

Model wearing blue hand knit cowl and Harris Tweed Jacket

If you fancy giving the New Lanark Chunky a try you’ll find some of this Como Blue yarn in the shop. The pattern for the cowl is in the Knit How book, which we’ve also re-stocked after our first batch sold out.

My next project is going to be a hat – knit in the round. But I don’t have circular needles. While I weigh up the options I thought I would do some swatching.

Woman knitting swatch with Buachaille 100% wool yarn from Scotland

When making my mitts last week, I mentioned that my original swatch was useless because it was knit in garter stitch rather than stocking stitch. You may have noticed over the past few weeks that I’m quite methodical, if not scientific, in my learning. This is also how I work in my art practice. I’m making detailed notes and recording the outcomes of my knitting experiments. 

Inspired by a video tutorial I found online, I decide to practise the long tail cast-on and make some swatches to check how consistent my tension is. They are stockinette with a garter border, to stop the edges curling. 

Pink Heather (Hedder) hand knit Scottish wool yarn

After a wee bit of footering around, I’m totally sold on the long tail cast-on. It’s so quick and easy in comparison with the knitted cast-on I’ve been using up until now. 

Three swatches of different coloured yarn

And look at my lovely swatches!

I’ve since read various articles about how this type of swatching is not ideal but, heck, they make such pretty little objects. I love them. And, remarkably, the gauge is identical on all three.

So I record all the details – needle size, yarn type, etc – to affix to each swatch, and in my journal, for future reference.

Hand Knit Swatches in Stockinette with garter stitch border pink and grey

I very much enjoy this colour palette: three shades of Buachaille, 2 ply, worsted spun, 100% wool yarn in colours Squall, Hedder and Haar. Find them in the KDD & Co Shop.

I’m off now to learn to knit in the round!