when cold winter winds howl, what could be more cozy than a pipeline of soft, warm wool for tucking in one’s neck, face, and ears?
hmm—maybe a cushy quilted cashmere or mink lining to sink into? silk will also add a nice layer of warmth and softness without weight, if that’s even easier to tolerate.
and likewise for hats—if you really want to ensure a warm shield from the bitter cold, doubling up the fabric with a lining is the way to go. a double fabric traps air between its layers, creating the perfect insulation—warm, but breathable, so that humidity can’t build up.
a lining also gives some body to a garment to provide backing and support for the outer shell; that enables a gaiter or cowl like this one to stand up around the face and ears in the wind, if desired. at the same time, that loose inner layer is able to mold itself around the contours of the body inside to shut out stray drafts.
and last but not least, a lining puts a neat finish on the back side of the fabric—especially nice on stranded color work pieces, where floats might be vulnerable to snags and pulls.
adding a lining to a simple cowl or hat structure is fairly easy and straightforward—with a little planning you can turn any such project into a coveted accessory of luxury level quality. the following is offered as a folksy, very casual recipe for knitting one—this is not a formal pattern and i am not selling it as gospel; your results may vary, so it’s a good idea to run a test drive with your materials, or to agree to sacrifice a small project (such as a baby hat) to experimentation.
when i started my kingston cowl (pattern to become available as soon as we can get some modeling shots), i knew i wanted to add a lining. the confection sport yarn i used for the outer shell is plenty soft enough on its own, but i was worried about snagging those floats on my earrings and wanted to protect them.
so just before my last row of hem ribbing was complete, i threw in a lifeline (in blue yarn, above) so that later, the stitches i’d need to pick up could be easily located. you could also use a double knitting technique of increasing on every stitch, then placing all those extra sts on a piece of yarn to be held aside til it was time to use them for the separate inner layer.
i then proceeded to knit the cowl to the top, ending just before the start of top ribbing. leaving those sts on the needle (or on a scrap yarn holder), i then went back to my lifeline and, with the back of the work facing me, placed each of the lifeline sts on the needles (i used the same needles i’d used for the ribbing—size 6US/4.0 mm).
once the sts were picked up, i took up some of our pura bella undyed mongolian cashmere fingering yarn and began to knit around (note: one skein of this yarn will produce three to five linings for smaller cowls and a couple of linings for longer cowls).
on this needle size, the cashmere fingering made a pretty loose fabric, but that’s what you want here—not so loose you could put a finger through it, but loose enough to allow the fiber to bloom and still have a very soft, drapy fabric (the better to trap air with, my dear).
when my lining had climbed to approximately the 25 percent point, i added a “quilting row”. this is something i kind of made up on the fly with an earlier piece, but i really like the result; it helps keep the lining in place while still allowing it to float and act as a separate structure, an inner gaiter, if you will.
as i knit around this one row, i periodically picked up a small float from the shell to knit together with the cashmere stitch—every twenty stitches, in this case—making sure i stayed on the same row of floats all the way around
this does not show or make a mark on the outer shell fabric at all—you won’t see it on the right side
it’s actually got a very loose connection that doesn’t pull at all on the fabric face.
at the same time, that lining will definitely stay put and will not be slipping down below the hem.
i repeated the quilting row at the half and three-quarter marks (roughly), staggering my pickups as i would with a tied quilt.
it seemed to take forever but that’s only because i didn’t work on it very much to begin with—once i buckled down and focused, it all went really quickly (and so worth the work, i’m telling you).
when i got to the top again. i dropped the cashmere and switching to the wool yarn, laid my smaller lining needle parallel with the needle holding the body sts.
i then worked a three-needle join, knitting together one stitch from each needle all the way around.
when i was done and all the sts joined on one needle, i commenced with working the top hem ribbing to finish off the cowl. now with this method, you do get a visible purl row on the back side of the join, which doesn’t bother me. but if you wanted a super neat finish, you could either graft the live sts all the way around or turn it inside out to knit the join underneath.
i have to admit, i was just too impatient to explore any of those options this time; perhaps in the future i will try. for now, i am quite happy with a neat, homely finish, such as this, but if it was a gift (and definitely if it was going to the fair, haha), i would probably work harder to make the join invisible.
what i was most anxious about was the fit—it’s so hard to tell while knitting it whether the lining will be the right circumference. after doing two of them on color work pieces, it seems that if i pick up from the ribbing and work with the smaller needle, the lining tube will turn out just the right size and once turned to the inside, it will produce little folds and puffs to fill in any excess space where cold air could get by.
and i’m equally sure that now i’ve said it, some reader or other will end up with a disastrously tight or loose lining. in other words, don’t just take my word for it and blindly knit away without checking your work as you go.
once all the ends are woven in, it’s time to wash and block. undyed yarns will often have a film of spinning oil remaining from the production line and cashmere may have quite a lot. this facilitates the knitting but detracts greatly from the final look and hand of the fabric, so a good wash in hot soapy water is called for.
in fact, the first wash water may become so dirty SO quickly, that a second wash is in order. my first wash even smelled a bit goaty if i must say so . . .
just keep changing til the wash water is clear—hot water, good wool soap (not detergent), and no agitation—just let it soak for a good hour or more. with no danger of running dye, you can leave it til the water cools on its own, then rinse with equally cool water.
squeeze as much moisture out of the piece as you can so that you can begin blocking.
i like to “encourage” the stitches to snap back into the shape the yarn is intended to be and to do this, i give my pieces several sharp tugs in every direction to begin bringing back the loft in the fabric.
a few good whacks against a hard surface will bring out the halo in fuzzy fabrics such as cashmere, alpaca, mink, etc. (see my blocking knits DVD for more fun techniques that really work).
you can see that in the “before” cashmere fabric (above), the stitches are less even and separate, almost stringy, compared to the same fabric after soaking and slapping around a bit
and this fabric isn’t even dry yet; when it is, it will be even fluffier.
not that i actually have time for this, but i love watching fiber dry . . .
cashmere is notoriously slow to dry and when doubled up in a fabric, it’s just excruciating. especially if you dry it flat—which also causes creasing and kind of deflates the loft you just “encouraged” into it. use oatmeal boxes or some other method to open up that fabric so air can circulate through and around it.
i found that if i hang cowls over my sleeve board that works a treat (i’m much too lazy to procure oatmeal boxes for this purpose, haha).
better yet, if i hang that cowl off the end of the pressing bench that’s next to the hot air vent, it works even better—the piece is constantly enveloped in rising waves of warm air which dries the lining in a fraction of the time.
i turn it inside out to let the shell dry as well.
and later, wah-LA! a beautifully finished piece that has terrific body,
a super-cush interior,
and which maintains just the right amount of slouchy drape.
this is so worth the trouble, especially for a classic piece that is unlikely to go out of style. it’s an especially nice addition to a special gift, one that shows your love and esteem by going the extra mile.
once you work one for a simple project like this cowl or a hat, try something a little more challenging, such as a mitten. i know you can do it and if you need a bit of hand holding (no pun intended), visit our ravelry mothership, where someone is always ready to try a fun new technique.