Sunset Mesa Cowl

Today I have a new project off the needles:


I recently came across some designs by Native American knitting designer Jennifer Berg.  I was particularly taken with her Sunset Mesa Cowl, which is inspired by a type of traditional pottery made by the Acoma Tribe.  

Native Knitter

© Jennifer Berg

Doug and I are both familiar with this style of pottery and felt that the cowl really captured it.  I was also totally captivated by this beautiful model who posed in some of the pattern photos:

Native Knitter

© Jennifer Berg

I ordered yarn for this project within 10 minutes of first coming across the pattern, which is not something that I usually do.  (I tend to agonise over possible new projects for days and weeks before actually buying anything.)  I ordered exactly the same yarn as in the pattern photos: Malabrigo Rios in Sunset and Sand Storm.  This is a hand dyed yarn and so always comes with a warning about each skein being unique.  Unfortunately, I lost the yarn lottery; this is the yarn that arrived:


You can see that the grey yarn used in the sample, shown in the pattern photos, is a very dark grey with small amounts of variation.  The Sand Storm skein which I received is extremely variegated, with beige, various tones of grey, greens, yellows, creams.  I really dislike it.  (Long-time readers will know that I am not a fan of variegated yarns.)  I never would have bought this yarn from a yarn store.  Instead I would have picked a yarn which resembled the skein which was used in the pattern photos.  I should have just held off and waited to knit this until I was able to get to a yarn store and buy a more suitable yarn.  But, I loved the pattern, I was very impatient, and given the broken ankle, I was also highly grumpy and unlikely to hit another yarn store soon.

From the moment I started knitting, I was annoyed by the colour variation.  I even noticed that I had a skein of Malabrigo Rios in a nice vivid turquoise and tried casting on with that in place of the Sand Storm:


You can see from even these few rows that the pattern really pops when the yarns are solid shades.  Doug and I debated for a long time about whether I should continue with the blue or go back to the grey.  In the end, we decided that one of the things we most enjoyed about the pattern was the resemblance to the Acoma pottery, and that is lost with the blue.  So, I continued to knit with the Sand Stone, even though I complained a lot while knitting.  You can see from my finished cowl below, that the variegated yarn hides a lot of the detail of the pattern:


In the end, the cowl turned out nicely, even if it is not quite how I envisioned it.  Here is a close-up:


Despite my complaints about the colour of the one skein of yarn, the yarn itself is lovely and soft and thick.  It has a great feel to it and with the stranding, it makes a very warm fabric.  The pattern is easy to read and well-written.  The cowl is warm and comfortable.  One of the things I particularly like about this cowl is that it is unisex.  I think it looks pretty nice on Doug:


I knit it exactly to pattern, using a US 7 needle.  It was a super fast knit, taking a few evenings to complete.  The pattern is very simple, despite appearances, with small repeats, so does not take too much concentration, and can easily be knitted while watching TV or chatting. 


Jennifer Berg is definitely on my radar now.  I will be following her as she releases new patterns, and hope to get another one on my needles soon. I might even try this one again with a different set of yarns.


We are expecting torrential rain this afternoon and tomorrow, so I am happy to have had a window in the weather to take these photos.  My ankle is healing, but I plan to put my foot up and knit for the rest of the weekend.  Go ahead and rain!

16 thoughts on “Sunset Mesa Cowl

  1. Bummer about the yarn. I love variegated yarns, but this is one of those cases where it doesn’t work as well if it’s too variegated. I think the final cowl still looks great. Thinking I should look for this pattern myself. Thanks for sharing your experience with it.

  2. Your cowl looks wonderful. I do have to agree with you that a more solid dark gray would make the cowl look more like the pottery. However, the turquoise blue and sun gold looks fabulous together. Perhaps you should make a second one with it.

  3. This cowl is superb, and I totally understand the frustration with the yarn. It suits you both, so I guess you’ll have to knit another one soon! 😉 Take care of yourself and your ankle.

  4. I’d been thinking about ordering some malabrigo yarn for a new project – I have not used it before but it always looks so lovely. I’m a bit nervous now, though, about that massive colour variation. Have you found it to be reliable in the past?

    • I think that they have both semi-solid and variegated shades. In general, I find it difficult to order any variegated yarns, and to some extent any hand-dyed yarns, sight unseen. I bought two different shades of Spincycle yarns over the internet last year and hated them both – they didn’t look anything like the skeins which were used for the photos. That said, Malabrigo is very nice yarn, extremely soft and warm (although it has a tendency to pill). I used it years ago, before I started blogging, to make a lovely pullover for Leah. I also used it, held double, to knit a cowl which I discussed in this post: I would definitely use it again. For me, however, I think I will stick to buying it in person when the opportunity presents.

      • thank you – that spurs me on to carry on with my malabrigo thoughts, albeit with caution! I think one of the Edinburgh indie yarn shops stocks it so will go and investigate… 🙂

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