Maple Leaves Forever – Adapting Patterns

As 2017 approached I knew that I wanted to do some Maple Leaf knitting to mark Canada’s 150th Anniversary. I had already fallen in love with, and subsequently ruled out Margaret’s Gift from our very talented Canadian Designer, Sally Melville, featured a few months ago in the KnitTraders monthly newsletter (If you don’t get our newsletter, be sure to sign up today; you don’t know what you’re missing.).

Being realistic about what I was looking for, I knew that it couldn’t be a big undertaking as I had several other big (non-knitting) projects in my life for this coming year. I also suspected that a couple of smaller different projects might hold my attention better than a single larger one.

Obviously, my first stop was Ravelry where I was pleased to discover that there was a manageable number of choices for maple leaf themed knitting. I found the Canucklehead Cowl to offer a sensible, clear and slightly stylized graphic chart version of our beloved Canadian Flag. Very classic and traditional.

And to bring a more artistic flair into the mix, I chose this stunning Maple Leaf Cowl by Wendy D. Johnson. If you look closely, you can see that she used a gradient dyed yarn for the background – not in our most traditional colours, but still very effective.

Of course, the trouble came when I concluded that neither of these accessories could be knit in colours that would work with either of my winter coats. And a cowl is not something that can clash with what you are wearing with it. Besides, I’m not a fan of cowls…I love big drapey scarves and shawls, not cowls.

I have, however, come to appreciate the value of a good headband. It’s far enough away from your outer garment that it doesn’t really have to coordinate like a cowl would. It generally doesn’t give you hat head nearly as much as a hat does. It’s easy to shove in a coat pocket if you don’t need it, and in a pinch you can scrunch it up around your hands and make a muff of it.

What I also love (and no one cares what colour these are) is knitting and wearing mittens made of fine fingering weight yarn with the stranded/Fairisle technique. They are shockingly warm for such fine yarn, and knit up relatively quickly as compared to a sweater. And finally they are easier to transport and I wanted these projects to be travel friendly as I’ll be spending quite a bit of time on the road over the next few months.

So I have now purchased the 2 patterns with different maple leaf graphs.
I have a head band in mind as well as fine Fairisle mittens.
I have disregarded any colour “matching” issues.

So on to the task of adapting these chosen patterns to create what I really want to make. Let’s begin with the easiest: The headband using the Canucklehead Cowl pattern.

The Canucklehead Cowl was actually designed using Estelle’s new Worsted Weight yarn, which is one of our best selling yarns and a personal favourite. So Estelle Worsted in traditional red and white, it is. I will simply make the size (they offer 6 sizes, after all) that will fit my head, and not drape around my neck.
I’ve decided to begin with a provisional cast-on (you’ll see why in a minute.) The cowl seems a bit wide for a headband so to narrow it down a bit, I’ll cut the length of the red ribbing by half; work the centre graph part; finish the top ribbing to the same length as the bottom.
I like a nice thick headband so I’ll then PURL ONE ROW to create a nice clean line that will allow a fold for an inside layer of fabric that I will then knit using one size smaller needles. This inside layer will be worked to the corresponding number of rows as the outside, omitting the maple leaf stranded work. I’ll then finish off by removing the provisional cast-on to then join the first row to the last with a purlwise Kitchener stitch.

The mittens require a much bigger job of adapting.

Essentially I plan on using one of the fine yarn mitten patterns from Patons Next Steps Seven book for Mittens and Gloves. I’ll use the graph from the Maple Leaf Cowl on the back of each mitten but…

…What I’m discovering while doing my swatch** is that the maple leaf in the fingering weight yarn (much finer than the cowl calls for) is just a bit more than 1/2 the length of the mitten, so too small to have a single maple leaf, yet too big to fit 2 of them comfortably one above the other.
(**Oh yes – believe me, when it comes to fingering weight stranded knitting, you want to take all the time necessary to swatch and avoid surprises if you don’t want to end up with your single, almost finished mitten in the garbage and all of the time and yarn wasted.)

I can see myself with colouring pencils and knitters graph paper, recreating the motif to perhaps overlap the 2 leaves, or even begin the lower one in the cuff. And really, the design on the left hand should be the mirror image of the right hand one. Argh!
Whatever it comes to, you can be sure that I’ll have a very clear layout on paper of where I’m going with the design before I even cast on the cuff.

So those are the plans. My purpose in sharing this with you is that many things are possible in adapting a pattern. One method is to choose something that is almost exactly what you want, as with the Canucklehead Cowl, and tweak it a little bit to suit your needs.

The other way of approaching it is to find components from several patterns that fulfill your requirements, then swatch for as long as is necessary until you are sure that what you envision is possible.

Oh yes – and most important of all: WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING – before you do it; while you are doing it; and perhaps even after you redo it. As sure as you decide to “just wing it” without taking notes, you may achieve levels of perfection, but I can guarantee that you’ll never be able to reproduce them without precise notes to follow.

And as a wise teacher once told me: you can never underestimate the learning value of a major mistake!
Go for it.

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