Knitting The Shift Cowl

The Shift is a cowl pattern by Andrea Mowry, it's a very popular pattern and it's not difficult to see why. It looks like an asymmetrical triangle shawl, whilst actually being an easy-to-wear cowl.

I've wanted to knit The Shift for a while, it's a unique looking cowl and the way the colours work together due to the use of Spincycle Yarns 'Dyed in the Wool' is very interesting. I really wanted to pick out a combination of colours and see how they would turn out in a Shift cowl of my own.

The Shift - front
The Shift - back

I've probably tried to pick out colours for a Shift a dozen times and never managed to decide. I find it so much easier to shop for yarn for projects like this in person, as I can hold the skeins next to each other and see how the colours look together, but with no Spincycle Yarns stockists near me I had to shop online. Spincycle Yarns 'Dyed in the Wool' is sport-weight yarn, which features colour changes throughout, each skein is unique so when ordering online you don't really know how the skeins you receive will look. I eventually settled on the colours 'Wallflower', 'The Saddest Place' and 'Nostalgia', each of these colourways included pink or purple tones; I thought they looked nice together whilst still each being quite different. I ordered from Figtree Yarns and was very impressed with their customer service. I'd ordered their last skein of 'Nostalgia' and as it was a lot less saturated than the photo on the website they emailed me a photo of it alongside the other skeins I'd chosen and a photo of an alternative option too in case I wanted a more contrasting skein. I still decided to go with 'Nostalgia' as I really liked it (even with it being less saturated), but I was very impressed that they had taken the time to ensure I'd be happy with the colours I received and wouldn't hesitate to recommend shopping with them.

Shift Cowl yarn used
Shift Cowl yarn used

For this project I decided to knit a gauge swatch, the pattern mentions that almost all the yardage is needed, so I knew correct gauge would be essential to ensure I wouldn't run out of yarn. I didn't actually have any 3.75mm needles when I started this project, so I tried 4mm needles and was lucky that I got gauge. I was still a bit nervous that I could run out of yarn, but I ended up with a bit left over at the end so really didn't need to worry.

I found the cowl fun and engaging to knit; I got through it quite quickly as it was a bit addicting. It does use make one left and make one right increases, which I always find a bit awkward, but they weren't frequent enough to get annoying and other than that I found it a very easy pattern to knit. The I-cord bind off did take me quite a while, but it really finishes off the edge of the cowl nicely so I think it was worth it.

To complete the cowl it needed to be blocked to match the measurements given in the pattern and then seamed. I probably could have blocked my cowl to match the measurements exactly if I'd tried, but I mainly focused on making sure it was wide enough and that the two edges I needed to seam were the same and correct length. The height of the cowl was a bit shorter than the measurements, but I didn't really think this was a huge issue, so didn't adjust it too much aside from making sure all of the edges were straight and even.

Wearing The Shift cowl
Beginning The Shift cowl

This was my first project using Spincycle Yarns and I found it really fun to knit with. It was exciting to see the colours change as I worked and I really loved the pop of blue in the middle of my skein of 'The Saddest Place'. One section did end up being quite low contrast, I think it still looks nice but I probably prefer the higher contrast areas and am glad my cowl has a mixture of high and low contrast sections. I did find that the weight of the yarn does vary quite a bit, so sometimes you're working with a very thin strand and sometimes it's quite bulky, however this did seem to even out once the project was blocked. The yarn was quite soft, although I did find the back of my index finger (where I tension my yarn) was getting a bit sore after a while where it started to feel a little bit abrasive. It's worth bearing in mind if you have very sensitive skin like me, but probably isn't an issue for most people and I definitely think the yarn feels softer after blocking. This project has really made me understand why Spincycle Yarns are so popular, the yarn is very interesting to work with and I'd definitely like to use it for future projects. It is quite expensive in the UK, at £28 for a 200 yard skein it's around £10 more than most skeins I purchase from UK-based dyers and has less yardage, however it's quite unique and is lovely quality so I'm sure I'll be purchasing more in future.

Overall I really enjoyed knitting The Shift, as soon as I was done I wanted to knit another and can understand why I've seen so many people knit more than one. I really liked the colours used in the original sample, but wanted to pick out my own combination of colours for my first shift and had decided if I enjoyed it I could knit a second one in the original colours, so I think next time I have the budget for some yarn purchases that's exactly what I'll do. I haven't worn my cowl much yet, as it's summer I've only had a couple of days chilly enough for it, but on those days I did find it very comfortable and easy-to-wear. I can see myself getting a lot of use out of it and would certainly recommend this pattern and would also recommend using Spincycle Yarns for it to get those interesting fades of colours.

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