Just in time for holiday knitting, the MacMahan Collection of three cowl patterns is now available! In late September I spent a weekend on MacMahan Island, in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and in the company of three of my college roommates (but that's another story!). The cowls in this collection were inspired by the island's rugged coastline.
The Boothbay cowl is worked in the round from the top down, and uses a variation of the feather-and-fan lace stitch pattern (minus purl ridges) to suggest gently rippling waters. Increases and ribbing shape the cowl so that it flares slightly at the bottom, and narrows at the top; increases are carefully set up so that the ribbing flows nicely into the main stitch pattern. For this cowl I used Madelinetosh Tosh Chunky, worked on US size 9 needles, in the "Well Water" colorway, a lightly variegated spectrum of steely blues that nicely suggests the ocean's surface on an overcast day (unfortunately, the sun showed itself for a total of about 10 minutes that whole weekend--no exaggeration!).
The Rockweed cowl is named after a type of brown seaweed which is ubiquitous in that area of Maine. Also known as bladder wrack, the clumps of rockweed I saw were not just brown, but also included a wide range of other hues, from olive to pistachio to gold-- a color spectrum almost perfectly captured by Madelinetosh colorway "Filigree." And when I found the stitch pattern “vines and eyelet rib,” in the Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume 1, its waves and and eyelets reminded me, not of vines, but of clumps of rockweed. I modified the stitch pattern by removing the columns of faggoting, making the fabric warmer and denser (yet leaving the appearance of the stitch pattern virtually unchanged). Madelinetosh Tosh DK yarn is held doubled for this cowl, which is worked in the round with self-finished edges.
Finally, the Schist cowl was inspired by the rocky ledges along the island's coast (formed largely of, yes, schist). To create the layered look of this cowl, I experimented with different combinations of knit and purl stitches, finally hitting upon a pattern of wide, shallow knit/purl triangles that creates natural folds. This cowl is knit flat and sideways, and then seamed; the pattern gives directions for a provisional cast on, so that the seaming can be done via three-needle bind off, but a conventional cast on and seaming technique could easily be substituted.
Madelinetosh Tosh DK yarn was also used doubled for this cowl; the "Whiskers" colorway, a combination of different shades of beige and light taupe, suggests the color variations in the sections of rocky coastline which lie above the high tide mark.
The Boothbay and Rockweed cowls each use less than a skein of yarn, and the Schist cowl uses just about one skein; all three work up quickly, with a difficulty level of advanced beginner. The collection is priced at $7.00 for the trio of patterns, and includes both written directions and charts for all three. Cowl patterns are also available individually, for $3.50 each.