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The Pleats and Ladders Cowl

A reversible cowl is a fine thing. Read how Katrina created a colorful gradient, and get the pattern, too!

Katrina King May 30, 2024 - 8 min read

The Pleats and Ladders Cowl Primary Image

Spin up a gradient yarn for this Pleats and Ladders lace cowl. Photos by Matt Graves unless otherwise noted

Editor’s note: Sylvia Smith created the Au Lait Scarf for our Summer 2024 issue using her handspun ombré yarn and a fun stitch motif that looks as great on the wrong side as on the right side. We included instructions in Spin Off for working the Pleats and Ladders stitch motif both flat and in the round. Katrina King, assistant editor of our sister publication, PieceWork, put her own spin on Sylvia’s scarf by turning it into a colorful cowl worked in the round. Current subscribers to Spin Off can log in to find bonus instructions for spinning and knitting the cowl version.

Sylvia Smith’s Au Lait Scarf using her handspun ombré yarn.

With so many fabulous colors of dyed fiber out there, how do you choose? I must admit that my color skills are not very strong—I have yet to outgrow my childhood love of rainbows! To me, more is better. When the opportunity came up to create a colorful cowl version of Smith’s beautiful Au Lait Scarf, I knew I had to be more selective in my color choices. Nature is a great place to look for inspiration, and I leaned on an old favorite from my days as a cake decorator: the flame rose.

The flame rose is golden yellow rose with deep red tips, which provided inspiration for Katrina’s color palette. Photo by Couleur via Pixabay

Katrina’s Blending and Spinning Notes

The base of the flame rose is a bright yellow, with tips that gradually shift to a deep magenta at the top of the petals. When I found some solid, handpainted combed tops from Greenwood Fiberworks in magenta, coral, and gold, I knew it was just the right fit! The squishy Ramboulliet would be perfect for a long cowl wrapped twice.

By following the coloring of the rose, I knew that I would need more gold fiber than the other colors, and I would use the coral as a transitional hue between the gold and the magenta. However, the shift between these three colors would appear more like stripes than a smooth gradient, so I needed to do some problem solving. I wanted to spin singles for chain-plied yarns, so I pulled out my handcards to try creating some color blends.

I finally settled on a blending sequence (see image below) that created five transitional hues by decreasing the amount of gold and increasing the magenta, with the coral as the bridge between. Since I did not want a section that was only coral in the middle, the center section would then be a blend of all three colors, with coral dominating. I settled on two-thirds coral to one-sixth units of gold and magenta for this center section.

Katrina’s five transitional blends create graduated steps that shift from gold to magenta. Photos by Katrina King

The spinning itself was an absolute joy as Ramboulliet is so bouncy! This crimpy fiber made it easy to stay above my default laceweight gauge and plumped into a beautiful three-ply after the skeins were washed and dried.

To stay true to my flower inspiration, I spun from the gold through my blends into the magenta and knitted in the same direction. This stitch motif and easily adjustable pattern can be adapted to whatever gauge and cowl size you prefer. The pattern below includes the details for my DK-weight handspun and a cowl that easly wraps twice around my neck.


Pleats and Ladders Cowl

The Pleats and Ladders stitch motif is wonderfully reversible and easily worked flat or in the round. Find instructions for both flat and circular in Spin Off Summer 2024. This pattern can be easily adjusted for any yarn, any gauge, and any cowl size. Have fun and give it your own spin!

To change the gauge or finished circumference: When working in the round, simply knit a swatch in the stitch motif to find stitches per inch and estimate how many inches in circumference you would like your cowl to be. Multiply these two numbers and then adjust the cast-on number to be a multiple of 8 sts.


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