Monday, December 30, 2013

I Double Dog Dare Ya: The Khajiit Cowl

I have to admit: 90% of all the knitting I've done since June has been, well, less than a challenge for me. Easy-peasy stuff. The old knitting mojo was at a low point, and we were traveling a goodish bit, which always puts a kink in my knitting time. That, and I just can't focus as well on the run as I do from the comfort of my well-broken-in knitting chair.  Excuses, excuses. Such a wuss, right?

That is all gonna change. Today.

I would still be a lazy knitter if left to my own devices. But while visiting us at Christmas, our middle daughter announced a trip she is planning to Prague, Moscow, and Altay, Kazakhstan in MARCH. This March. I am thrilled she is taking such a neat and interesting expedition, but in MARCH? I love that she's planning some of her trekking on the Trans Siberian Railroad, staying in hostels, hiking rural areas generally off the beaten path. Seriously proud of her, actually. 

I can't help that the mom thing kicked in, my adrenalin soaring through the roof as my brain buzzed "MUST knit something WARM ... must knit something SERIOUSLY warm .... RIGHT NOW".  Looking at the Altay weather archives for March 2013, the high for the month was 38 degrees Farenheit, the low -12!!! Most of the time, the mercury hovered in the low teens and twenties. Moscow was just as daunting: It never went above 40 degrees for the month of March. Most of March averaged consistently in the low twenties. And Prague? Warmest high temp was 40, lowest was 19. Mainly low 20s and 30s throughout. Brrrrrrrr.

Not comforting to a mom.  At. All.

I casually mention that I'd be happy to knit her a hat or whatever she wants for her trip. And I also open up the Ravelry pattern tab, type hats into the search box, tick off the aran and bulky weight yarn tabs, with stranded colorwork thrown in as an option for good measure. All the while my brain is screaming "IT HAS TO BE  WAAAAAAARM." But I am calm and impassive. Nothing makes a kid balk faster than knowing mom is trying to be protective. 

She already had some ideas. 
One was a hat much like Botticelli's A Boy
"A round, flat topped, straight sided, squat, felted hat, in navy blue, oh, and with earflaps" was her idea of a perfect hat. Could I do that? 

Well, sure. 

She paused, took a good look at me, mentally measuring my demeanor. "Or, how about a hood of some kind?"

All those well-below freezing temperatures were dancing before me, taunting. A hood could be pulled up securely over the head, or bunched up around the neck, or pulled down around the torso, used as a shield against the wind and blowing snow, bundling my dear daughter in woolly coziness. 

Now yer talkin. 

She searched the patterns database for hoods. Most of them were fairly decorative things; lacey, even. I felt slightly ill. Then the Khajiit Cowl popped up, and my daughter immediately said "I REALLY like this one."  

I peeked over: Bulky yarn, cables galore, could be pulled down over the body like a capelet, with a deep, short-row shaped hood to stay put on the head, knit in a stiff, wind rebuffing gauge. Its slightly Renaissance-y, monk-ish feel  satisfied her penchant for something along those design lines. 

I felt some measure of relief. She wanted a "warm neutral color". The designer designated Cascade Ecological Wool. After an extensive internet search looking for options with a smidgeon of alpaca or cashmere in them and finding nothing suitable, she went with the color Mocha (8085) in the Ecological Wool. I pressed send on the order button, and sat back to await its arrival. 

The fat envelope with two hanks arrived today along with another envelope bearing an order of Hiya Hiya circular needles. My lazy days of mindless knitting are over. Kaput. We are now in serious warmth mode, serious cable mode, serious short-row mode. This could be my biggest challenge ever. I'll definitely be on a huge learning curve with those pesky short rows incorporated into complicated cables. 

For anyone else contemplating this pattern, I suggest you take a good, long look at the KAL posts on Ravelry. There are definite hurdles, and the designer did not have the cowl test knit before releasing the pattern. There have been several revisions since the relatively recent release, and all of the KAL participants have found the short row directions somewhat inscrutable to the point where folks have drawn their own maps for that elegant curve at the back of the hood. The cowl is so lovely, though, that the extra preliminary sleuthing is worth the effort, as is knitting a gauge swatch of Chart B, as suggested. Before knitting a single stitch, my pattern is already a labyrinth of notes, numbers, color-coding and cross references. 

Time to get a move on. All those frigid temperatures in Prague, Moscow and Altay will keep me knitting. And knitting. Stay tuned.