The Ravine Cowl



Seed stitch: so simple, so beautiful. Anything but basic, seed stitch is a wonderful way to show the natural beauty of Hinterland's luscious Ravine yarn. Made from a blend of some of my favorite sheep fibers (Targhee, Rambouillet, and Columbia) as well as alpaca raised on Vancouver Island, BC, Ravine is the epitome of rustic yarn at its best.

Seed stitch cowls are not uncommon on Ravelry (with the Gap-tastic cowl amongst one of the most popular knits, and Jane Cochran's Thirty Eight one of the loveliest), so I'm absolutely not trying to reinvent the wheel here. I'm providing this free "pattern" as a way to share my favorite cast on and bind off tricks for seed stitch in the round, as well as a starting point with stitch counts for two different cowl sizes made with the wonderful Ravine yarn.

If you'd like to learn more about this beautiful yarn from Hinterland Farm, I highly recommend you listen to Episode 24 of the Woolful podcast. In this episode, Ashley interviewed Hinterland's Hanahlie Beise, and it was great to be able to hear about how Hanahlie came to raise (and shear!) her own alpacas. The wool in Ravine was all sourced from Canadian farms, supporting the Canadian fiber industry. It's such a treat to be able to listen to the podcast about Hinterland while knitting with the yarn!

The Ravine Cowl can be made in two sizes: small and large (see below for more info on each size). The stitch counts are subjective, you can make changes to the finished size of the cowl by adding or subtracting stitches to the total count. The beauty of seed stitch in the round is that as long as you use an odd number of stitches, you're good to go.



Here's a breakdown of the both sizes stated in the pattern:

Small: A single-wrap cowl, just the right size for slipping around your neck when you need a bit of warmth. The small cowl adds a little bit of texture to any autumn outfit, without overheating you on those not-too-cold days. Knit to 27" in diameter and 9" tall, blocks to approximately 29" in diameter and 8" tall. The small size cowl is shown in white.

Large: A perfect length to wrap around your neck twice. With more warmth than the small cowl, the large size really shows off the rustic beauty of the Ravine yarn. Knits to 50" in diameter and 8.5" tall, blocks to approximately 52" in diameter and 7.5" tall. The large size cowl is shown in tan.




I'm a very loose knitter (thank you, continental style!), so the needle sizes I've recommended are a bit larger than what I used in the sample knits. (You can see my own version of these cowls on my Ravelry project page.) I definitely recommend swatching so you don't end up with a cowl that's too big or too small. Feel free to ask questions if you've got 'em! I hope you enjoy this "pattern." :)


The Ravine Cowl

Two sizes: Small (Large)

SUPPLIES:
1 (2) skeins of Hinterland Ravine (purchasing info below)
One 24" (32") circular needle, size US 10/6mm (or whatever gives you gauge*)
One 24" (32") circular needle, size US 11/8mm** (for cable cast on)
Several stitch markers
Two point protectors
Tapestry needle

GAUGE:
Before Blocking:
12.5/13 sts and 24/25 rounds per 4 inches
After Blocking:
11.5/12 sts and 25/26 rounds per 4 inches


*You can use two separate needles for this pattern, or do what I do: one interchangeable cable, and two different size tips. It's easier to just exchange tips on the same cable, if you already have the interchangeable; otherwise, two different needles will work just fine.

**I used needle size US 10.75/7mm for my cable cast on. My knitting style does run loose, so I've recommended you use a size US11/8mm for the cast on; but use whichever size achieves the results you want. The cable cast on is fairly firm (but not tight!), in comparison to a long tail, for example. I've chosen it for use in this pattern because it produces such a beautiful edge, and I prefer the firmness of the cable cast on for the upper edge of the cowl (while worn); just be sure it's loose enough to allow the cowl to stretch for wrapping around the neck. A cable cast on that's too tight will be very disappointing when you go to wear the cowl.

Knitters in the US can purchase Ravine in Tan or White from the Woolful Mercantile; Canadian knitters can purchase directly from the Hinterland website. Ravine is available in either white or tan; I used tan for the large version of this cowl, and white for the small. (Note: There is a Ravine available in black, but that's a 2-ply worsted weight. For this pattern, you want the 3-ply aran weight Ravine.)

One last note on the yarn: I used nearly every yard of each skein, in both sizes. I did have slightly more left over after finishing the large size cowl; I had about 16 grams of usable yarn left after weaving in my ends. The small, though, used pretty much all of the yarn. If you're unsure about yardage, I recommend buying an extra skein for insurance.

Also, this yarn has quite a few knots in each skein. The good news is that Ravine joins beautifully using the spit splice; the bad news is, you'll have to account for the knots when calculating yardage. Normally a knotty skein would turn me off from using any particular yarn; but I promise, the Ravine is worth it. :) If you decide to play yardage chicken, go for it! I did the same with the small size cowl sample, and it worked out great (though I did have to tear out my swatch for the yarn to finish the cowl with). And if you decide to purchase an extra skein, you won't regret it; it's truly lovely stuff. You'll have plenty left over to make a Beau the Bunny (or two)!


DIRECTIONS

Using your larger needle and the cable cast on method (see Knitty or The Purl Bee if you've never used this cast on before), cast on 86 (156) sts.

I use a simple trick for counting cast on stitches: Place a stitch marker every 20 sts. I like to use a neutral color for the counting markers, and a single bright marker at the beginning of the round; that way, when I remove the counting markers during the first round of knitting, I don't accidentally remove the beginning-of-round marker along with them.

To join in the round, first be very sure that your stitches aren't twisted. The cable cast on produces a lot of very twisty stitches, so take extra care when straightening them out for joining in the round. I like to fold the cable and start at the bend (putting point protectors on the needle tips first; you don't want to lose any of your cast on stitches!), straightening out the stitches from the folded point outward toward the needle tips as I go. I double- and then triple-check as well, since I really despise going back to fix a twisted cast on. (I've had to do just that more times than I could count, unfortunately.)

See? Twisty!

                    


Once you're sure your stitches aren't twisted, join in the round like this: Hold your two needle tips next to each other, because you'll be swapping the very first and last stitch in the cast on from one needle to the other. Make sure the edge of the cast on (the side with the bumps) is facing up toward your face, with the loops facing downward.

First, take the stitch at the very end of your left needle (bump side up, loop side down), and carefully pull it off of the left needle on place it onto the tip of the right needle. Take extra care to make sure that the stitches don't become twisted at this point, and avoid twisting the individual stitch as you swap which needle it's on. The goal is to slip it purl wise.

                    


Second step: Now you'll be pulling a stitch from the right needle, as if to swap needles, just like you did in the previous step. Locate the very first stitch you casted on using a slipknot; it's on the right needle, directly underneath the stitch you just moved from the left needle to the right. Find this stitch, and pull it up and over the previously swapped stitch. But instead of swapping this one, just let it fall off and hang in between the needles. This extra stitch will help fill in the gap that's created when using cable cast on in the round, and it will make your cast on edge prettier once you've woven in the ends.

                    


At this point, I put the point protectors back onto the needle tips, and check the stitches one last time to ensure they're not twisted. It may seem excessive, but a little extra time spent checking for twisting can save you a whole lot of headache later!

Now your stitch count is at the proper amount for knitting the cowl: 85 (155) sts. Be sure to place your beginning-of-round marker now.

If you've added or subtracted stitches to the stitch count according to your preferences, just be sure that the original cast on has an even number of stitches, so that you're left with an odd number once you drop the stitch off of the right needle while joining in the round.

Now, on to the knitting! Remember to remove the counting markers as you knit the first round, but leave the beginning-of-round marker in place.

                    


Switch to your smaller size needle (or swap your larger interchangeable tips for the smaller size tips). You'll use the smaller gauge needle for both the cowl knitting and the bind off.

ROUND 1: *K1, P1* around to last stitch, K1
ROUND 2: *P1, K1* around to last stitch, P1

Repeat these two rounds for the entirety of the cowl until it's 9" (8.5") tall.

Feel free to make mods to the cowl height (width) as desired; just keep in mind that after blocking and wear, it will stretch in length, and narrow in width.

Once the cowl is as tall as you'd like, you're ready for the bind off!

I use Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off (JSSBO) when knitting seed stitch in the round, because it's so unbelievably flexible, and it makes a nice edge. If you're unfamiliar with this bind off, or need a refresher, here are some resources for you:

Cat Bordhi's YouTube video tutorial on JSSBO
A written JSSBO tutorial (with photos) on Knitty
JSSBO on Ravelry (read comments & forum posts)

Keep in mind that this bind off is so stretchy because of the extra yarn in between each bound off stitch, in the form of the reverse YO. So, you'll need to leave more yarn available for the bind off than you might with a traditional knit bind off. For the small size, I began the BO with 4g of yarn left, and had 33" of yarn left after trimming for weaving in the end.

I make one special mod to JSSBO for this cowl: before beginning the bind off round, I make one reverse YO (exactly like you do during JSSBO, but without any knitting) and leave it on the right needle. This extra reverse YO will travel around the needle as you bind off stitches, and as you come to the end of your bind off, you'll treat this reverse YO as the final stitch to be bound off. When you go to knit the stitch, it will seem twisted; just knit into the front loop as if it's a normal stitch. This extra reverse YO stitch will fill in a gap that's created by binding off in the round. When you go to weave in your end on this edge, you'll be left with a much easier (and prettier!) join in the bind off.

                    


Once you're finished binding off with JSSBO, you'll weave in your ends. On the bind off edge, you'll be mimicking the rest of the bind off in order to fill in the small gap left from the beginning & ending of the bound off stitches. Thread the end through a tapestry needle, and loop it through the open stitches on the left. (Don't aim for the closest "v" loop; aim for the loop one stitch to the left. The goal is to stitch the edge so that the cast off stitches line up with the seed stitch bumps below.)

                    


Then take the end down through the purl bump below and to the right, pulling the yarn through to the inside of the cowl. Be sure not to pull too tightly, your goal is to mimic the tension in your knitting so that the cowl doesn't have any tight spots from where you wove in the ends.

                    


Continue to weave your end in as invisibly as possible, since this cowl is reversible. Once your end is secure, snip it carefully and make sure it's tucked in well.

When weaving in the end from the cast on edge, you'll also be mimicking the cast on stitches, and your goal is invisibility here, too. But the stitches in the cast on were formed differently, so take a minute to look at how the yarn traveled in the surrounding cast on stitches. Do your best to mimic the stitches in the existing fabric, also taking care here to not pull too tight. Again, the goal is to match the tension in the knitting. Continue to weave the end in as invisibly as possible, and once it's secure, carefully snip and tuck it away.

Voila, you're finished knitting! Now, to block your cowl. I prefer a good (but gentle) wet blocking for this yarn, because the blend of alpaca and wool fibers bloom so beautifully once they've been washed. A good soak in some Eucalan will really soften up the yarn; I prefer to use the lavender version. Any appropriate wool soak will do, though.

As for blocking, I prefer not to pin my cowls while they dry. (A pattern with lace would be an exception.) I simply lay it flat on a clean, firm surface, and shape the stitches and edges into place. I get a little bit nuts about cowls while they're drying; I dislike leaving them in one position for too long, because they will get a crease at each folded edge. So, I shift the cowl's positioning every couple of hours, reshaping each time so the cowl is folded at a different point. It's kinda crazy, but it works!

I hope you enjoy this cowl, it's a fun knit that's perfect for traveling, since there's no real "pattern" to have to refer back to. Seed stitch can be tedious after a while, it's true, but it's the perfect stitch for TV knitting: not too boring, not too complex. After a handful of evenings of watching your favorite show (or listening to the Woolful podcast!), you'll have a lovely, simple piece for your wardrobe, made from an incredible natural yarn.

Happy knitting!


Ravine Cowl on Ravelry



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