The quick Christmas cowl

… which can be worn all year round, with the right yarn. And it’s easy.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned these cowls, which I’d been making for a craft fair. They’re really popular and a quick knit. Just right for that emergency present – and I promised the pattern would be up here ASAP.  They are what I call ‘yarn dependent’, in that the right yarn makes them delicious or doesn’t quite work. I’ve found what I think is the best solution, something which works in summer and winter, and which isn’t too bulky (often a problem with cowls – you can feel swamped or have lots of flapping fabric). But they work just as well with a nice tweedy aran.

For myself, I settled on Colinette Giotto, a tape yarn, a blend of cotton, rayon and nylon. Ideal for people who are either iffy with wool or who are sensitive about scratchiness. Warm enough for winter, cool enough for summer evenings.

cowl 1

The cotton stops it being too glittery and gives it depth, and I am completely hooked on it. As a result, I sometimes end up with part of a skein left over, and I find these simple cowls ideal for using them up. They’re very adaptable – can be made thinner or fatter or even longer (I wrap them round twice, until they stretch, but I’ve one which goes round my neck three times), depending on how much yarn is hanging around in the stash waiting for a good home. Colinette says that Giotto should be knitted on 8mm needles, but don’t you believe it.

Incidentally, gauge / tension is relatively unimportant; you want a fabric that has some drape without it being too thick and solid. Do a quick pattern repeat to see how it feels and adjust the needle size if necessary. My cowls, knitted like this, are 12cm wide, but I have made them wider.

Here goes:

Christmas Cowl
You need about 75g of Colinette Giotto – that’s about 105 metres, and a pair of 5.5mm needles (old UK size 5, US size 9).

Cast on 20 stitches.

Row 1 (right side): knit
Row 2 (WS): K1, purl to last stitch, K1.
Row 3 (RS): K2 *P4, K2, rep from * to end
Row 4 (WS): K1, P1 *K4, P2, rep from * to last 2 stitches, P1, K1
Rows 5 and 6: repeat rows 3 and 4.
Rows 7 and 8: repeat rows 1 and 2, the stocking stitch rows.
Row 9 (RS): K1, P2 *K2, P4, rep from * to last 3 sts, P2, K1.
Row 10 (WS): K3, *P2, K4, rep from * to last 3 sts, K3.
Rows 11 and 12: repeat rows 9 and 10.

That’s the pattern repeat, a simple basket weave, with line of stocking stitch between the two halves:

basket weave

Follow the pattern until your piece of knitting is as long as you want it to be – generally about 95cm – and ending, always, on Row 12. Cast off.

Oversew the cast on and cast off edges together neatly on the WS, ensuring that the pattern flows on the RS and making as flat a seam as possible. Don’t use back stitch or mattress stitch; they will be too bulky. (Oversewing is sometimes called ‘overcasting’, ‘edge to edge’ or ‘making a flat seam’. It’s the simple method most of us were probably taught not to do as soon as we started knitting properly, but it’s vital in some circumstances.) That’s it!

Notes and adaptations:
Always, but always, knit the first and last stitches of every row, even the purl rows, to give you a neat edge. That’s written in here.
• If you wish, use a provisional cast on, and then graft the two ends together. I usually forget and cast on as normal, because I’m on automatic pilot.
• You can also do a three-needle cast off. Again, I usually forget. It is important that the oversewing is neat, however.
• Because knitting is elastic, the cowls will stretch; just wind them round more in wear. However, the stretching means they get thinner, so I recommend 20 sts as the minimum cast on.
• Casting on 26 gives a wider cowl, ideal for people with bigger necks (chaps, generally, or tall thinnies with long necks). This adds an extra repeat to the pattern going across but doesn’t alter it in any way. It also takes more yarn, of course, so bear that in mind. And you may need to make it longer, say 100cm or more and adding another full pattern repeat, if you’re dealing with a rugby player.

Enjoy – any problems, let me know.

(The pattern’s just been added to Ravelry’s database, by the way. Hopefully that will help other people looking at a part skein of Giotto and thinking ‘now what?’)


9 thoughts on “The quick Christmas cowl

  1. Elaine

    Thanks so much for this pattern. I’m always looking for stash-busting quickies and this truly fits the bill.
    Happiest of Holidays to you!!

  2. Elaine

    Me again. I just read your posting from 2011. Are you familiar with
    Great for designing your own lopapeysas, Fair Isle and just plain fun to look at!! Enjoy.

      1. Elaine

        Perhaps I can use it with my tablet. Haven’t had it too long but after the holiday season I will sit down and study the book to see what all I can do!! Also, there are free patterns for Lopi yarn Scandinavian sweaters on Istex website.

  3. Jacinta

    Thank you so much for this pattern, I was just about to de-stash my Giotto yarn. But now it will be made into these cowls 🙂


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