Cowls: A Manifesto
December 10, 2013
Today, reader Susan S. stood up on Instagram and called me a “cowl enabler.” [beams with pride]
Back in oh-nine or twenty-ten, when cowls were The Latest Thing Since Fingerless Mitts, I believe I may have told you, in one of my more candid, low-blood-sugar moments, that “the only reason for cowls is that knitters like to make cowls.” (I know! As if that is not a more than sufficient reason! Low blood sugar!) But at the time, I honestly could not see a reason for cowls, as a garment. Where was the value added? Do we not have écharpes? Whither the jabot? Is the turtleneck no longer a viable neckline? But then the scarves fell from my eyes, and I saw clearly.
Now, as 2013 draws to a close, and for quite some time, I am practically knocking on doors preaching Good Tidings of Great Cowls. Life is like that. Never say never. I now vastly prefer cowls to scarves, as garments, and as knitting. I think it’s the way a cowl has the ability to look like it is being worn by a French woman, without the involvement of an actual French woman. Cowls just sort of arrange themselves nicely no matter who is wearing them. And if you leave them hanging loosely around your neck because it’s hot in the subway, they don’t get their ends uneven and fall off as you exit the train. I have seen lost scarves on subway tracks and parking meters, but never a cowl. They are like stringed mittens for adults.
But they are also fun to knit. It is inherently more pleasant to knit something in the round, in a nice manageable circle on your lap, to a reasonable length, and then bind it off, than to knit back and forth on a skinny piece, FOREVER, until it twists and tangles and drags on the floor of the subway (a lot of my knitting problems involve the subway), or even worse, to knit a long scarf horizontally. (O THE HORROR. Why is that horrible? I don’t know. It just is.)
I’m not trying to convince anybody about the virtues of cowls. The world already loves cowls. Or infinity scarves, as they are sometimes known. But did you know that cowls look fantastic under water? (I win non sequitur!)
Just in time for last-minute gift knitting, our dearly beloved Belinda has released Tamatori. It’s the Official Cowl of Mason-Dixon Knitting. It’s a Japanese stitch pattern that is fun to knit and will teach you to make the neatest, most intuitive centered double decrease (“CDD”) ever. You can knit it in fat juicy Purl Super Soft Merino, and it will take you 3 nights or less, or 5 subway aller-retours. Or you can knock yourself out and knit it in a lighter weight yarn, which yields a more delicate fabric and takes a little longer. It comes in short or fat, long or skinny.
Did I mention that you can wear it underwater?
(Photos by Paul “Cousteau” Bergmann.)
You can also wear it the usual way.
I have given away two of them so far. The second one was meant for me and then I needed a Special Birthday Present.
Everybody hurry up and get their Tamatori knitted up, because I have a cowl design coming out soon, hopefully in time for Knitting With Family Over Christmas. We all need something to Knit With Family Over Christmas. I recommend: a lopapeysa or six, or a very voluminous cowl. Sneak preview:
P.S. Speaking of rag balls, there are still places left in my log cabin/rag ball knitting workshop at LF8 on December 19. There will be some crazy little women there, so please join us if you are in NYC.