Skip to content

Dear Ann,

Last Friday’s Treeline Cowl workshop with Lorilee Beltman was the burst of joy I needed to get me off my swatching jag and properly into knitting full-size projects from MDK Field Guide No. 25: Botanica.

In a habit held over from my school days, I rolled into class with my homework barely started, hoping to slouch quietly in a back pew and catch up on the ribbing of the cowl while Lorilee dropped wisdom on us. Lorilee had told us all this was ok, I promise you—she’s like my understanding high school English teacher, Mrs. Godowski.

Working the ribbing kept my hands busy while I absorbed Lorilee’s fast-flying tips and tricks and kept an eye on the Zoom chat, which was lively and engaged. What a nice bunch of knitters! What a lot of cowls we started!

The workshop left me so inspired that I spent the rest of Friday evening knitting the colorwork on the Treeline Cowl. I was in the zone, Ann, and I was not going to stop until I scaled the summit. I hope it’s ok to play favorites, because Dee Hardwicke’s round, friendly trees, standing protectively above tidy houses, absolutely is my favorite motif in the book. I mean: trees! and houses! It’s so fun to think that our wide-ranging conversations with Dee played a part in her creative process.

On Saturday, while sloshing around in the rain running errands, I finished the top ribbing. Since I want to wear my Treeline Cowl at Wool & Folk and Rhinebeck this weekend, I got straight to the end-weaving and blocking portion of the program. And voila:

Isn’t she pretty?

The yarn is, of course, Atlas—in an impromptu colorway of Peat, Leek, Cedar, and Pear.

A quick finish is one of the most satisfying feelings in knitting; it leaves you wanting to do it again, right away.

What’s Next

So now I’m all fired up for my next project. I’m still noodling around my plan but I’m pretty sure it will involve a very long cast-on, like the Autumn Garden Stole, and that I’ll be knitting Dee’s round trees and little houses in the round. A mashup is in the works!

A conversation with another Autumn Garden Stole knitter about that long cast-on led me to a little idea.

What if you knit the seed stitch edging of the Autumn Garden Stole flat, back and forth, before joining to knit in the round for the steeked version?

That way, you wouldn’t have to worry about getting a twist in that long cast-on, if you’re the kind of knitter who worries about such things.

To test out the idea, I made a little swatch, two of them in fact. (I know, WHO AM I?)

Let’s Pretend that I knit these in the round.

I wanted to see whether the edges of the flat-knit border would line up neatly with the edge of the steek after it was cut and folded to the back of the piece. Would it look nice? Would it behave in a clean and crisp fashion that would do honor to Dee’s design?

Here’s how it went.

With no securing of stitches of any kind, I cut the teeny steek:

I folded the cut edge to the wrong side of the piece:

I picked up stitches in the flat-knit seed stitch edges, and across the fold of the steek:

I knit a seed stitch edging for the “short” end of the piece:

Result: it works just fine, and it’s going to look even better with a little blocking. (Wouldn’t we all?)

I’m putting instructions for this variation here in case anyone else wants to do it that way. (I’m looking at Judy F. in Atlanta, who likes to cast on 300-stitch projects while sitting on bleachers watching children play sports, a situation in which the danger of twisting at the join is heightened.)

If you want to start your Autumn Garden Stole this way, follow the directions for the steeked version on page 34 of the MDK Field Guide No. 25: Botanica, with these modifications:

  1. Instead of casting on 325 stitches, cast on 320 stitches.
  2. Work the seed stitch edging flat, back and forth in rows.
  3. At the end of the last row of the seed stitch edging,  cast on 5 stitches for the steek.
  4. Join to knit in the round—no danger of a twist now!— and continue with the directions for the steeked version as written.

When you get to the end of the colorwork repeats, bind off the steek stitches, and work the top seed stitch edging flat, back and forth in rows, just as you did at the beginning.

There are always many ways to do anything in knitting, but I think this way of doing the edging is very nice.




  • Kay: Brilliant! This is a definite keeper.
    Which reminds me of my oft-repeated plea: Please, somehow, someday, make it possible for us to Search just our saved articles. It’s wonderful to save them, not so wonderful to find the exact one I want out of many (backwards, no less). I know, it’s a big deal. But Someday?
    Many thanks for another Brilliant Kay Tip!

    • Good news: the search feature on the website works much better than in the past. Ability to search your saved articles must remain a dream for the moment, as we’ve spent every last nickel of the web design budget, and then some!

      • MY HERO

  • Ditto, brilliant Kay! I love your thinking to modify for this fiddly bit, well done!

  • What a helpful idea, Kay! I’m getting ready to cast on for the Treeline Cowl (though that number of stitches is much easier to avoid twisting!).

  • You are one smart woman, Kay!

    An idea for saved articles — I save the email in my Mail folder. Rename it to indicate the piece of wisdom. Always options.

  • Kay! You are inspiring me to actually swatch. Thanks for the tip.

  • I love your color choices in the cowl, Kay. The trees and houses really stand out!

  • Love that cast-on idea. I have fiddled with that idea with less than perfect results in non-steeking projects. But it works brilliantly with steeking! And although brown and gold are not my “colors”, I’m a winter, not an autumn, I really like how those four colors look together. Reassuring, somehow. Thank you, Barbara Smith, for pointing out the trees and houses. I tend not to notice motifs all that much. It’s the effect of the colors that hit me smack in the eye and mind on any given project. But now that you mention it, the trees and houses are ADORABLE.

  • Excellent Kay!!

  • Kay, i love the colors you used in the cowl. I am wondering how it would look with a shade of orange for the trees….

  • Kay I always knit up a few rows before joining to avoid twisting when knitting in the round. Your swatch saved us all who prefer the safety of joining that way! Now I’m adding this stole to my list of winter knits. Thanks!

    • I always knit the first 2 or 3 rows of ribbing flat before joining in the round. The one time I didn’t, which was a month ago, I didn’t notice that I had twisted the stitches, even after checking them, until I was an inch into the garment. Grrrr! Ripping out the entire things was a good lesson to just knit flat for a few rows 🙂

    • Me too! And yes, on occasion I have not seen the twist for a bunch of rows. But if the garment is steeked, I just cut open the steek, untwist and keep going. Good for cardigans, not so much for pullovers. With good wool those steek stitches aren’t going anywhere. I love that there is always another way to do ANYTHING in knitting.

  • This is genius! I can’t count how many linen stitch “use up those sock remnants “ cowls I have had to rip out because of the dreaded twist.

  • Great idea! A logical mind at work!

  • The cowl looks great, but the next photo had me wondering why you were knitting finger and knuckle bandages. Do you think Johnson & Johnson will start advertising that you can cut steeks in Band-Aids?

  • I agree, brilliant! And your colors for the treeline cowl are superb! I am inspired to speed through my WIPS and cast on!!!

  • Years ago, someone in my LYS told me to knit the first 2 or 4 rows flat, then join in the round (to avoid twists), so I do that for any piece I knit in the round. It really helps – even for cuffs on mittens and socks.

    • I do that too, although I didn’t have expert advice. I did it as an experiment and loved how easy it was.

  • Excellent idea! Thanks for sharing this tip! Also less daunting for us beginning steekers.

  • Brilliant! I love your tiny swatches; that’s the best for figuring stuff out.

    I designed my Sheepy Steeky Coasters to be knit back and forth (garter stitch top and bottom) before joining to knit in the round, to spare my students the purling for garter stitch in the round. I’m nice that way!

    Your Tree Line Cowl is lovely. Knit on, Rhinebeck-bound! We just had Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. Someday I’ll go to Rhinebeck, too.

  • I start almost all my in-the-round knitting that way. I love your swatches and and squishy cowl! Wish I could see it in person. (boo)

  • I do a similar thing when knitting anything in the round. I leave a long enough tail to sew it up afterwards, & no one’s noticed it yet.
    Plus no more worries about twisting before joining.

  • You are very clever Kay!

  • I really love the color combination of the orange and purple in the garden stole swatch. Can you tell me which colors you used?

    • The background is Whisper, the leaves are Clementine (orange) and the flower is Merlot (t0 my eye, Merlot is burgundy with a purple cast).

      • Thank you so much! Sometimes devices show colors true and sometimes not so much. Beautiful!!!

  • You forgot to tell people to size down their needles for the seed stitch portion. Looking at your sample, it does the typical “bloom” in stitch size due to all the front-to-back-to-front yarn direction changes taking up more room. Either use wide ribbing or garter stitch, or adjust needle size.

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping