For the moment, I'm going to ignore the fact that these were supposed to be a birthday present for N, whose birthday is in mid-November, and just enjoy the fact that I have another FO. N, I hope you like your birthday/xmas present.
Here's the back:
This shot makes it much more clear that I flipped the colors for pillow #2. The venezia pattern is so well-balanced that you have to look closely to see which color is dominant. Not so with the lozenge pattern on the back. And that's a big part of how I avoided "second pillow syndrome." It's much easier to knit #2 when it's not exactly the same as #1.
The yarn, Cascade 220 Heathers, performs very nicely in stranded colorwork. Far better than I had expected, actually.
This was definitely a pattern mod, albeit a heavy modification of Eunny Jang's gorgeous Venezia Pullover (ravelry link). I'm not going to put out a pattern on this one (even a free pattern) since that comes far too close to a copyright violation for my liking (also, any "pattern" should really include a copy of the chart that I put together and that would definitely violate copyright).
All that said, I will happily share my notes/design process for anyone who wants to make some of these. Here goes . . .
How to Make Venezia Pillows
Yarn: 1 skein each of a Main Color and a Contrast Color in Cascade 220 for one pillow. To be on the safe side, shoot for 2 pillows (2 skeins of each color). The venezia pattern is balanced, i.e., it uses up the same amount of each color. The lozenge pattern on the back is not balanced - it uses up far more of the main color than the contrast color. I was able to finish the first pillow with only one skein of each color but had to steal a bit of those leftovers in the main color to finish pillow #2. If you like living on the wild side, go ahead and try one pillow (just don't say I didn't warn you).
Needles: I used size 6 circular needles for the striped top and bottom (more on that in a minute) and size 8 circular needles for the colorwork sections. That was what I needed to maintain consistent gauge. Of course, use whatever combination works for you.
Gauge: I got 5.5 stitches per inch in the venezia chart pattern on size 8 needles. Stitch gauge is what matters here. Row gauge is pretty much irrelevant since you just knit until the piece covers your pillow form.
Here's a quick cheat on figuring out gauge (yes, do a swatch, but this will help you figure out which needles to start with so that you only need to swatch once): I like the way Cascade 220 knits up on size 7 needles - I get 5 spi with that combination. Since I know that stranded colorwork compresses stitch gauge, I went up one needle size to get something close to 5spi (I ended up with 5.5 spi). And because I know that I get 5spi with size 7 needles, I needed to go down to size 6 needles to hit 5.5 spi to match my colorwork gauge.
Figuring out how big to make your pillow (aka, how many stitches you need to cast on):
1. Measure your pillow form. I bought 14" pillow forms, which measured 14.125 inches on a side (28.25" total).
2. Chart out the venezia pattern (yes you will need the actual sweater pattern for this - it's in an old issue of Interweave Knits (check out one of the links above for details)). I made a 73-stitch chart (one right side, one left side, and one center stitch). Happily, the lozenge pattern also worked out to 73 stitches (it's a multiple of 6 plus 1).
3. Multiply the number of stitches in your venezia chart by your stitch gauge. Subtract this number from half the circumference of your pillow. Now add about half an inch worth of stitches to this number (ease). This tells you how many extra stitches you need to add. Finally, figure out a stripe pattern to act as a filler for those extra stitches.
I used this border/side pattern: 2 MC, 1 CC, 1 MC, 1 CC, 1MC, 1 CC, 2 MC (9 stitches).
When visualizing the pattern, it goes something like this: 9 border stitches, 73 venezia chart stitches, 9 border stitches, 73 lozenge pattern stitches.
Actually Knitting the Thing:
1. Cast on 164 stitches with the center color from your border pattern using the smaller needle size (that's my number - you should use whatever you need for your gauge and your pillow form). In my 9 stitch border pattern, the center color is CC. Join, being careful not to twist, for working in the round.
If you leave a very long tail here, you can use it to close up the bottom of the pillow cover later.
2. Work half of the border pattern, starting with the center color. In my case the rows looked like this: 1 CC, 1 MC, 1 CC, 2 MC
3. Switch to larger needles and work colorwork pattern (9 border stitches, 73 venezia chart stitches, 9 border stitches, 73 lozenge pattern stitches).
4. Keep knitting until the piece is long enough to cover your pillow form. Actually, when you're an inch or two away from that point, measure the length of your striped section at the bottom of the tube. Now subtract that number from the amount you need to knit to cover the pillow - this will tell you where to stop the colorwork pattern and work border stripes like you did on the bottom (just reverse what you did below).
5. When you've knit enough to cover the pillow, turn the work inside out and close with a 3-needle bind off.
6. Lightly steam block to even out the stitches.
7. Put the pillow form in the knitted cover and sew the cast on edge shut. I did something that vaguely resembled kitchener stitch and that worked out pretty well.
8. I hate to say this, but tie a knot (or three) in the end of your yarn and hide the knot under the edge of the pillow cover like you would when sewing or quilting.
9. Flip the colors (if desired) and knit a second one.