Cold weather brings seed catalogs – and warm cowls

Knitted cowls in Zinnia Cowl pattern against a page of zinnias in a seed catalog

Zinnia Cowls and their inspiration, a seed catalog.

The polar vortex is still with us. In the midst of really cold weather, the mailbox bears seed catalogs and with them the hope of summer. A page of zinnias seemed especially cheerful. I wanted more cowls and used the fresh colors of zinnias in knitting two new cowls. One is a one-color, one-skein cowl with a knit-purl texture. The other uses two colors and a gradient pattern. Both are available together as Zinnia Cowl.

The samples are knit with Berroco Ultra Alpaca, a warm, soft yarn that comes in a vast array of great colors. I chose colors from the page of zinnia flowers. I am eager to knit more of the two-color version in other color combinations. One friend immediately said her version will be blue and green. Another said two greys, or maybe a grey and a taupe, or maybe two different greys. Limitless possibilities, for two-color and one-color versions!

Knitted cowl in pink and yellow gradient

Zinnia Cowl in two warm colors: Grapefruit Mix and Melon Mix.

Stranded knitting in a gradient pattern is key to the two-color Zinnia Cowl. Fear not! This can be a knitter’s first-ever stranded knitting project. Why?

  • All colorwork is done from the knit side. No purling while also stranding.
  • None of the floats (the horizontal loop of yarn at the back of the work between two stitches of that color) should be caught in. None! Even long floats are intentionally left long.
  • The pattern is both written in text and charted. Choose which way helps you best, or go back and forth between chart and text.
  • The gradient pattern is intentionally asymmetrical. That means that, if the knitter gets lost on a particular round and knits the two colors in a different order, it does not matter. Catch up when you can. Do not bother to rip out any work to make it match the pattern exactly. Your own color asymmetry will only add to the gradience as an improvement.
  • The pattern includes suggestions for keeping gauge even and color dominance consistent throughout.
Knitted cowl in purple

Zinnia Cowl in one color, here Orchid.

For knitters who want to wrangle only one yarn throughout, the one-color version has a great texture, again in both text and chart. It’s a one-skein pattern, which so many of us appreciate.

Zinnia Cowl uses a bold edging along both edges of the cowl, worked in garter stitch with large eyelets. Both cowls measure 8 1/4″ to 9 1/2″ by 26″ (20-24 cm by 66 cm); either could be made longer by adding pattern repeats — and using more yarn, naturally. Neither has seams, grafting or other semi-tricky techniques.

A cowl just like the zinnia itself, uncomplicated, highly decorative, easy to grow, and prolific (two cowl patterns, not just one, in the same pattern). Which colors would you use?

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