Big Herringbone Cowl

This winter New York City streets are filled with people who have learned the secret of keeping warm. They are all wrapped up in the big soft folds of the oversized cowl. A long loop that you twist and double around your neck, it's definitely a glamorous touch in a what can otherwise be pretty frumpy season. Don't you love when fashion and function meet in such happy harmony?

This cowl was inspired by Joelle's classic Herringbone Poncho from her very first book, Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I have always been so taken with the drape and texture of Joelle's poncho that I was really excited to borrow her idea for this project!

I stuck with Joelle's choice of yarn, Blue Sky's Worsted, because it is by far one of Purl Soho's softest, most cuddly yarns, perfect for wearing around sensitive skin areas like your neck. A blend of fine merino wool and royal alpaca, it has a beautiful weight that creates cascading, dramatic fabrics. Just what I was looking for!

The cowl's final look keeps one foot in the past with a traditional herringbone stitch. It's such a distinctive stitch on such a powerful garment, you're going to feel about one foot taller when you wear yours!

The Materials

The Pattern


15 stitches = 4 inches in herringbone stitch

Finished Size

14 inches wide and 58 inches around


Cast on 220 stitches. To ensure that your first round isn't too difficult, cast on fairly loosely; your stitches should easily slide up and down the needle.

Join into the Round

Make sure the stitches aren't twisted around the needle, and slip the last stitch you cast on from the right needle to the left needle (so that it is next to the first stitch cast on).

Place a replaceable jumbo stitch marker on the right needle.

K2tog and slip only the first stitch off the left needle (leaving the second stitch on the needle)... it looks like this.


Round 1: *K2tog and slip only the first stitch off the left needle, repeat from * until 1 stitch remains.

Remove the stitch marker and k2tog, slipping the first stitch off the left needle. Place the stitch marker to the right of the first stitch on the right needle.

The next stitch looks like this...

Remove that stitch from the needle and twist it so it looks like this...

Round 2: *K2tog through the back loop (K2tog tbl), slipping the first stitch off the left needle, repeat from * to last stitch. Remove the stitch marker and k2tog tbl, slipping the first stitch off the left needle. Place the stitch marker to the right of the first stitch on the right needle.

The next stitch looks like this...

Remove that stitch from the needle and twist it so it looks like this...

Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until piece measures 14 inches from the cast on edge, ending with all the steps of Round 2.

Here's what the right side of Herringbone Stitch looks like:

And here's what the wrong side looks like:

Bind Off

NOTE: You will continue to work the Herringbone Stitch for the bind off.

Bind Off Round: [K2tog and slip only the first stitch off the left needle] 2 times, pass the first stitch over (just like a normal bind off), *k2tog and slip the first stitch off the left needle, pass the first stitch over, repeat from * until 2 stitches remain (1 stitch on the left needle and 1 stitch on the right needle), knit the last stitch tbl and pass the first stitch over. Cut the yarn and pull it through the remaining stitch. 

Weave in the ends, gently block and then bundle up!

130 Responses to Big Herringbone Cowl

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  1. purl bee says:

    Hi George,

    Like most knitting in the round that involves a stitch pattern or stripes, you will see a bit of a "seam" at the transition (in this case it's a diagonal seam). However, I found that giving an extra tug to the first stitch of every round really helped clean up the "jog".

    Please let us know if you have any more questions and thanks for this one!


  2. Chaela says:

    If you are knitting this on straight needles, how do you end the first row when you are down to one stitch?

    The normal pattern on circulars requires that you remove the marker and start another k2tog, but you can't exactly do this on straight needles. Also, do you need to twist on straight needles?

  3. purl bee says:

    Hi Chaela,

    On the knit side, you should knit the last stitch through the back loop, and on the purl side you should purl the last stitch normally.

    And I think you're also asking if you should twist the first stitch of each row the way you do here for the first stitch of each round, and the answer is no. If you are knitting flat, you don't need to twist any stitches!

    Thanks so much for your questions and please let us know if you have any more!


  4. Shannon says:

    This is knitting up gorgeously, except along the seam. Should there be a visible seam? I just want to make sure I'm doing it right before I get any further along.

  5. Sarah says:

    Would Cascade's Eco Cloud be suitable? Or would I need to go up a needle size?

  6. purl bee says:

    Hi Shannon,

    Yes, as with most stitch patterns worked in the round, you will have a "seam". This one is on a diagonal. I gave the first couple of stitches in each round a lttle extra tug to keep it neat!

    Thanks for your question!


  7. purl bee says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Cascade's Eco Cloud would be lovely! It is a bit thinner than the Blue Sky Worsted, so you may need to go down a needle size, actually.

    Try a couple of gauge swatches and see what you like. Then once you have the number of stitches you're getting per inch, multiply that number by the circumference of the cowl you would like and cast on that number. This stitch pattern works with any number, so you don't have to worry about that at all!

    Thanks for your question and please let us know if you need any more help!


  8. Judy says:

    Does this need to be blocked?

  9. purl bee says:

    Hi Judy-

    Yes, it should be blocked.

    Thanks for your question!


  10. Michele says:

    What is the preferred cast on for this cowl? Is long tail the best way to go? What about cable cast on?

    • Whitney from the Purl Bee says:

      Hi Michele,

      Like I almost always do, I used a long tail cast on for this cowl. I hardly ever use a cable cast on (except in the middle of knitting) because I find it a little less tidy than my long tail cast on.

      My advice for this cowl is to use whatever cast on you like as long as it has some stretch, and if you’re not sure what to do, I say, go with the long tail!

      Thanks so much for asking and please let us know if you have any questions!


  11. Shayne says:

    I’ve made this before with a comparable yarn to the one used in the pattern and I LOVE it. I just bought some lighter weight cotton yarn (4-5 stitches on 6-8 needle) that I want to make a lighter-weight version of this beautiful cowl. How many stitches would you suggest casting on if I were to use a size 10.5 needle… or should I go up/down in needle size? I’m having some trouble figuring out the conversion.
    Thanks in advance for your help, and for your beautiful patterns!

    • Whitney from the Purl Bee says:

      Hi Shayne,

      I always hate to say this, but I’m afraid you’ll have to make a gauge swatch in order to answer your questions! Making a swatch will, first, help you determine what size needle you’re going to like with the yarn you’re using; and second, let you know how many stitches you get per inch. Once you know that, you can multiply that number by the circumference you would like your cowl to be and cast on that number. For example, if your new yarn gives you a gauge of 6 herringbone stitches to the inch and you want a 54-inch cowl, you would cast on 6 x 54 = 324 stitches. (This stitch pattern can be worked over any number of stitches, so you don’t have to worry about that!)

      Please let us know if you need more help along the way and thanks so much for your questions!


  12. Jill says:

    I am very excited to try out this pattern – thanks for posting it! I noticed the yarn in the pattern is worsted weight but calls for size 17 needles – is that to make is loose? Thanks :)

    • Molly from the Purl Bee says:

      Hi Jill-

      You use large needles because of the stitch pattern. It’s a very thick and layered stitch so you need the extra room that the needles create.

      Good luck with the pattern and thanks for writing in!


      • Jill says:

        Thank you! If the yarn I’m going to use calls for a size 8 needle (it’s Lamb’s Pride worsted), do you think a 13 or 15 would work well?

  13. Krissi says:

    I am really excited to make this, it looks gorgeous and perfect for winter! Quick question: I wanted to make this using Cascade Yarns Ecological Wool. Its weight is bulky and I have 478 yards of it. Would this still work? Should I keep the same needle size or go down one?

    • Whitney from the Purl Bee says:

      Hi Krissi,

      I’ve never knit with Cascade Ecological Wool, but reading about it, it looks like it’s exactly the same weight as the Blue Sky Worsted. However, regardless of what yarn you use, it’s always a good idea to make a gauge swatch so you can make sure that you get the right gauge for the pattern (or in this case, you can just make sure you like the look and feel of the fabric with the needle you use, measure the number of stitches per inch, multiply that by the number of inches in circumference you would like you cowl and cast on that number). And finally, you should have just enough yarn with the one (mega!) skein of Cascade Ecological.

      Please let us know if you have any other questions and thanks for this one!

  14. Jen says:

    I just finished mine and for some reason I’ve got it curling in towards the right side of the pattern. Not really sure what this is about. Maybe I stretched it too much? :/ it’s frustrating! It looks gorgeous until it’s hanging. It happened once I cast off and completed it. I didn’t however knit it in the round.

    • Whitney from the Purl Bee says:

      Hi Jen-

      Hmmm… That’s odd! I’m not totally sure what you mean or how you knit your piece… Do you mean that it has a bias type lean? Or is it curling toward an edge? Which edge: the cast on or cast off edge or a selvage edge? Do your rows alternate between right-leaning and left-leaning stitches? Did you make a rectangle and then sew it into a cowl?

      If I had some more info I could maybe diagnose the problem a little better, but without really knowing what’s going on, I would suggest blocking your finished piece to see if that resolves the curling issue!

      Thanks so much for getting in touch!

  15. Hayley says:

    I am new to knitting but wanted to attempt this beautiful scarf. I just finished and it looks great except for the edges curling over. I have never had to block before, so I wanted to ask what is the best way to do it? I really appreciate the advice!

    • Whitney from the Purl Bee says:

      Hi Hayley,

      To block your cowl soak it in warm water with some gentle soap for about 15 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water (don’t twist or wring the cowl, just squeeze!), then lay the cowl out flat on a dry towel. Make sure the edges are nice and flat and the cowl isn’t too stretched out when you lay it out. This will resolve the curling edges problem but maybe only temporarily. Some stitch patterns just want to curl!

      Thanks for asking and I hope you enjoy your cowl. Congratulations on having finished it!


  16. Jackie says:

    What’s the best way to join a new skein of yarn for this cowl?

    • Whitney from the Purl Bee says:

      Hi Jackie,

      You should join a new ball of yarn the same way you normally do, which is to say you should insert the needle into the next stitch (well, in this case, through the next TWO stitches), then use the new yarn to wrap around the needle and make the next stitch (leaving a generous tail to weave in later). Don’t be alarmed if your knitting seems loose here. When you weave in the tails, everything will get nice and tidy!

      Thanks so much for your question and please let us know if you have any more!


  17. lindsay says:

    Could you use the magic loop method for this or should you really do this the old fashioned in it in the round method?

  18. Whitney from the Purl Bee says:

    Hi Lindsay,

    I’m not much of a magic loop-er myself, but it is my understanding that the magic loop method is used instead of double pointed needles. In this case, I don’t think the magic loop would be any easier than knitting in the round on a circular needle.

    Magic loop-ers, correct me if I’m wrong!

    Thanks for your question, Lindsay!


  19. Sara says:

    Has anyone decreased the amount of stitches in this pattern? I’m not certain I want it to be this long. I was thinking about casting on 180 or so, but not 220. Does the pattern change if I decrease the amount of stitches?


    • Molly from the Purl Bee says:

      Hi Sara-

      You can certainly change the number of cast on stitches to make a shorter cowl. This stitch pattern works with any number of stitches so it’s an easy change!

      Thanks for getting in touch and please let us know if you have any more questions!


  20. Amanda says:

    I can’t get this to join in the round properly without the first stitch being loose and leaving a big, unsightly loop. Any advice?

    • Whitney from the Purl Bee says:

      Hi Amanda,

      Are you talking about the very first round, when you join your cast on? If so, the join often does look loose until you have knit a few rounds. Keep in mind also, that when you weave in the cast on tail, you’ll have the opportunity to tighten up any remaining looseness.

      Please let us know if this doesn’t answer your question and we’ll try again!


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