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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

Gauge

15 stitches = 4 inches in herringbone stitch

Finished Size

14 inches wide and 58 inches around

Begin

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)...

...so it looks like this.

Continue

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!

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126 Responses to Big Herringbone Cowl


  1. purl bee says:

    Hi Sandy-

    Thank you for your questions. Here are some answers:

    Here is a link to our size 17 circular needles, and we ship to Canada: http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/item/8-Skacel-Addi-Turbo-Circular-Needles

    You can use any heavy worsted weight yarn, which would get 3.5 stitches per inch in normal stockinette.

    I'm not sure what you mean by the video, as this pattern isn't a video, and is written out. You might find it helpful to look at Joelle's book Last Minute Knitted Gifts, for another explanation of the stitch. The book is available here:
    http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/purl/products/item/635

    Thanks again. Happy Knitting!- Molly

  2. alke says:

    I just wanted to thank you for the picture tutorial.
    I knit for 30+ years, and now for the first time the herringbone, thanks to you.
    Very very nicely done. Thanks for the trouble.

  3. My DarlingKnits says:

    I love this pattern!! Too many things on the go right now to start, but it's definitely going in my faves!
    The picture tutorial is excellent! Rarely are photo tutorials so large and clear. It really makes it easy to follow. I have a feeling I'll be back to your blog!

    ~ Jessica

  4. Monika says:

    I found several tutorials on youtube, and as the recipe says, when you're working on a circular needle, just knit in the back loop instead of turning you work as you would if you we're knitting back and forth.
    Search for “my so called scarf” for tutorials.

  5. Vesna from Germany says:

    Hello there!

    thankfully to your blog, I just discovered the herringbone stitch and fell in love with it. I would like to use this to outline the stockinette stitch blanket I plan to knit soon – so my question is, how I do the row 2 of this stitch? Just P2tog as Sierra proposed?

    I am sorry if the question was already answered :)

  6. Malena says:

    Love this! THANK you for the awesome pics – removes all doubt!

  7. purl bee says:

    HI Cathryn,

    Thanks for your kind words! We unfortunately don't have a video showing how to unknit the Herringbone Stitch, but I did offer some advice to a reader a few comments ago. Here's what I said:

    Working with the wrong side facing you, insert the right needle purlwise into the two stitches below the one you're taking out, and let that stitch fall off the left needle. Then push the right needle back to free it from the stitch that is remaining on it and insert it purlwise into the two stitches beneath the next stitch you're removing.

    That last step of pushing your right needle back happens quite naturally, so that as you get into the rhythm, it just seems like you're inserting your needle into the two stitches below the one you're unknitting.

    I hope this gets you on the right path! Thanks for asking and good luck!

    Whitney

  8. purl bee says:

    Hi daphne,

    Do you mean that the knitting feels tight and that it's difficult getting the tip of your right needle into the stitches? If that's the case, then you probably need to try even bigger needles. For this stitch I used needles that are five sizes bigger than I would normally use with this yarn!

    I hope this helps. If not, please let us know and we'll try to get you on the right path! Thanks for your question!

    Whitney

  9. Alice says:

    I would like to make this into a scarf and keep the herringbone oriented in the long axis as pictured. Do you think that would be too big? Also, I knit very loosely, so do you think it would take the same number of skeins?

  10. purl bee says:

    Hi Alice,

    If yours ends up being 58 inches like this one, then no, that's not too long at all! And yes, you'll probably need the same number of skeins, although you could leave one unwound and exchange it if you don't end up using it.

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

    Whitney

  11. Erin says:

    Lovely pattern that has proven a nice challenge for a beginner.

    I have a question about round 2 (K2tog through the back loop): Your instructions say to knit "to last stitch." Does that mean to knit until 1 stitch remains before the marker (as with the previous round) or to knit the last stitch prior to the marker AND the stitch after the marker?

    Perhaps it doesn't matter, but I'm relatively new to knitting and trying to avoid more mistakes. Thanks.

  12. purl bee says:

    Hi Erin,

    Work "to last stitch" means to work until one stitch remains before the marker (as for the first round). When you remove the marker, you will be knitting together through the back loop the last stitch of Round 2 and the first stitch of the next round.

    I hope this helps. Please let us know if you have anymore questions and good luck!

    Whitney

  13. ararat23 says:

    Gorgeous, unbeleavable !

  14. Char says:

    Hi Purl Bee!

    This is a beautiful pattern and I can't wait to try it. Some questions though, I would like to do this project as a short cow. Is it possible to do this, and if so, what multiple of CO stitches would this pattern need?

    Thank you so much for your patterns and ideas!

  15. judy says:

    I have made one of these cowls, using the Blue Sky and I love, love, love it. However, to more experienced knitters, it might be like the old saying "a face that only a mother could love"….. as it's full of mistakes… some identifiable (picked up my knitting and started off with the wrong row- more than once!) and some not so identifiable to me- (a fairly novice knitter) leaving holes and gaps and gnarly spots. It is still lovely though, and when it's on…. no one would notice the fair amount of imperfections!
    I'm just starting my second, again with the Blue Sky, to give as a gift- and this time I'm determined to minimize the mistakes- so it looks as nice off as it does on! I just want to say that I've read through all of these comments- and Whitney- you are the best. I'm so impressed with your patience, not to mention the real help your answers are to me : ) Just a thanks- love the pattern, love the yarn, so appreciative of your input here!

  16. purl bee says:

    Hi Char,

    This stitch pattern can be worked on any number of stitches (it's not reliant on a certain multiple). To figure out how many you want you should multiply the gauge (3 3/4 stitches to the inch or whatever gauge you're working at) times the length the want and cast on that number.

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

    Whitney

  17. Andrea says:

    I read comments here about the shedding tendency of certain yarn choices for this amazing cowl – specifically I have read here that Cascade Eco Wool had a high shed factor. Is this true of all alpaca blends? Is it true of Blue Sky? Can you also recommend alternatives in animal fibers that would give this cowl the loft and luxury it deserves that have a low to no shed factor? (If the alternatives could be price-ranked for the necessary 500 yd quantity, whether high to low, or low to high, that would be a bonus). Thanks!

  18. purl bee says:

    Hi Jaclyn-

    Normally you are right, a size 17 would be very large for this yarn in stockinette or garter stitch. But because of the density of the herringbone stitch a larger needle is needed.

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

    Best-

    Molly

  19. valeria says:

    hello.i started knitting this cowl, but when knitting k2tog the stitches don't have the same leaning as when knitting the k2tog tbl.the stitches k2tog tbl are inclined to a bigger angle.is it supposed to look like this?thank you.i love your site :)

  20. purl bee says:

    Hi Andrea,

    It is true that because alpaca fibers are long, alpaca yarns do tend to shed. However, because Blue Sky's Worsted is a merino blend and also because of the way it is spun, it doesn't shed as much as most alpacas.

    Some other options would be:

    Cascade Eco Cloud (a bit of alpaca, but a woven spin)- http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/item/8065-Cascade-Yarns-Eco-Cloud

    or

    Swan's Island Bulky- http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/item/4038-Swans-Island-Bulky-Indigo-Dyed AND http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/item/8384-Swans-Island-Bulky

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

    Whitney

  21. purl bee says:

    Hi Valeria,

    While the k2tog's should lean right and the k2tog tbl's should lean left, they should both have the same tension, and as you can see from the pictures, the overall effect should be fairly even.

    If this isn't the case for you, perhaps you're not making the k2tog tbl's correctly. The Purl Bee doesn't have a tutorial or video for that particular technique quite yet, but Knitting Help does: http://www.knittinghelp.com/videos/decreases

    I hope this helps. If not, please let us know and we'll try to work it out! Thanks for your question!

    Whitney

  22. Ali says:

    I absolutely love the look of this cowl, so luxurious. Just a quick question for you, though I do love the color and texture of Blue Sky's Worsted Hand Dyes, it is on the pricier side. Could Blue Sky's Worstes Cotton be used as an alternative? Would the cotton provide a similar weight and drape the same way the wool blend would? Thanks so much!

    Ali

  23. Lori says:

    This is such a beautiful scarf. Can I make it shorter by casting on less stitches? Does the amount of stitches matter (short of being an even number)?

    Thanks!!

  24. purl bee says:

    Hi Lori,

    You sure can! And no, the number of stitches doesn't matter, so just go for it!

    Thanks for asking and good luck!

    Whitney

  25. Andrea says:

    Hoping for help and advice – I am planning to make this cowl with Cascade Eco Wool. I love this yarn already but have not yet begun to knit with it because I am new to alpaca-containing yarn and first want to ask: do you recommend knitting the garment and then washing and blocking, or do you recommend washing the yarn first before beginning the project, in case it would control any shedding or stretching? Does this yarn tend to stretch? (the cowl unblocked is pretty long as it is) – just wondering what the best way is to work with it. Thanks!

  26. purl bee says:

    Hi Andrea-

    We always recommend knitting and then washing/ blocking. It's almost never a good idea to wash the yarn before you work with it. Also please keep in mind that this yarn is handwash only so make sure to wash it by hand!

    Thanks for your question!

    Molly

  27. Andrea says:

    Thank you for all of the help so far! I have two more questions today:

    1) What is the most invisible join you have found when it comes to joining in the next ball of yarn?

    2) My stitches on cast-on do not go all the way around the 32" cable. So to join in the round (being scrupulously careful not to twist my stitches), do I divide my cast on stitches in half and pull out a "mini-loop" of cable between the two halves to make it possible for the stitches on the needles right and left meet up for the join?

    Since I am waiting to hear the answer before I start the join, I am not sure how the cable being longer than the stitch circumference works out as the knitting commences. Can you say a word about how it will work?

  28. purl bee says:

    Hi Andrea,

    I always join a new ball the same way, which is to just start knitting with the new yarn (leaving a generous tail). This leaves a hole in the work which is later remedied when you weave in the ends.

    If you're having trouble with your stitches reaching around the circumference of your needle, then yes, you can pull out some cord in a "loop" and join that way. But having said that and reading on to your final question, I'm a little confused. You should actually have no trouble reaching 220 stitches around a 32-inch needle. Also, the final circumference of the cowl is 58 inches, much longer than the cord. Did you cast on fewer stitches? If so, maybe you do, in fact, need a 24-inch circular needle.

    Thanks for all your questions. Please let us know if you need any more help!

    Whitney

  29. Andrea says:

    Greetings, Whitney, and thanks for answering. I feel more confident now about what to do when it comes time to join; I was not sure how to keep "weaving in" invisible in this amazing stitch, it sort of leaves no place to hide and I did not know if spit splicing or doing any other kind of yarn join was preferred to leaving a long tail and just starting to knit with the new ball.

    And regarding my question about cable circumference vs cast-on circumference, I did not mean to confuse the issue – but what I was doing was testing out the herringbone stitch with lighter weight yarn on smaller needles that happened to be joined by a cable that was longer than the swatch. So it may indeed not apply at all to the actual cowl, though I have seen posts where other knitters have said they needed to go up to a 40" cable and some went down in cable length, too. I am pretty new to knitting in the round on circular needles (mainly I have used DPNs to knit socks) and was trying to go through the mental exercise of picturing how it would work before I went through the physical attempt itself.

    In the meantime, I did go through the physical attempt (yowza, what a cool stitch!) and found some videos on YouTube regarding "traveling loop" that were able to answer my question. I am good with my fingering weight trial on US 10.5 28" cable and am so excited now to get started on my Eco Cloud on US 17 32" cable since my fingers are smarter now.

    I also must credit the YouTube video on knitting this magnificent cowl that was made by iKNITS for showing in action how to form this stitch. That, plus your clear photos, are really launching this wonderful piece and I can't wait to present it as a gift!

  30. Lori says:

    Thanks Whitney for answering my post. I have started it as a cowl. It is a beautiful design.
    Is there a video or directions on correcting errors either on the row you're working
    or errors a row or more away?? :0
    Thanks!

  31. Lianne says:

    @Andrea – I've also knit this with Eco Cloud and it is THE MOST comfy, cozy thing to keep you warm! I'm in love with it.

    @purl bee – I have blocked it but the rolled edges keep coming back. Have you found if tension or binding perhaps, has an effect on the edge?

    An absolutely beautiful stitch/pattern. Thank you!

  32. purl bee says:

    Hi Lori,

    We don't have a video or tutorial for fixing mistakes in this stitch, but here's what I can suggest…

    It's most likely that you'll have to unkit your work back to the place where you made the mistake. I've given some advice to other readers on what to keep in mind when you're doing this. Here's what I've said…

    Make sure that you slip your needle through the TWO stitches below each stitch that is on the needle. It may help to remember that each stitch is made by knitting two together, so you'll need to pick up both of those stitches.

    I hope this helps! Thank you for your question and good luck!

    Whitney

  33. purl bee says:

    Hi Lianne,

    There are a couple of additional things you could do to tame your edges. One is to add an Attached I-Cord. We have a tutorial on the subject here: http://www.purlbee.com/knitting-tutorials-advanced-te/2008/1/23/attached-i-cord-tutorial.html

    Or you could add a round of single crochet to each edge.

    Neither solution will work a miracle, but both will help with the problem you're having!

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

    Whitney

  34. Lori says:

    Hi Whitney
    Thanks for getting back to me. I was in the store the other day and was relieved to hear the seasoned knitters working that this pattern can bring one to their knees! All three said "make a mistake just forget it and keep going….don't look back"!!!
    I am just about done with a herringbone cowl and I will absolutely knit more. It's sooo pretty. I just made myself check every row that it looks ok on front and back so I don't have to "undo" or worse rip out!!!!

  35. Valerie says:

    Hi!

    I am a huge fan of your projects (I've made quite a few! ) and love your store!

    I would love to turn this into a baby blanket. After reading through some of the comments, I just want to make sure I'm getting this right. If I want a 36" blanket, would I cast on 135 stitches, not join in the round, and knit until I'm at the desired length? Is there anything else I would need to do for edges or would a border be necessary?

    Thanks for the help!

  36. Kristan says:

    Thanks for the pattern! Love this herringbone stitch. Must say that it is VERY important to stitch loosely. My round 2 was slow going because I had my stitches too tight.

  37. purl bee says:

    Hi Valerie,

    Yes, exactly correct! Make sure that on the wrong side rows you p2tog instead of k2tog; and on the right side rows you K2tog tbl (like in the pattern). I would think that 5 or 6 rows of garter stitch at the beginning and end and on the sides would be a very nice touch!

    Sounds beautiful! Please let us know if you have any more questions along the way and thanks for this one!

    Whitney

  38. Roya says:

    Hi,
    I was wondering could I knit this with a category 5 yarn? I started one with a cotton category 4 yarn, but it seems to be really holey ( if that makes sense).
    Thanks, Roya

  39. purl bee says:

    Hi Roya-

    You should knit this in whatever yarn size and needle size gets you the correct gauge which, for this pattern is 15 stitches = 4 inches in the herringbone stitch.

    Thank you for your question!
    Molly

  40. Tieta says:

    Is there any way to print out the directions, or just write them out? Pictures are great and helpful

  41. purl bee says:

    Hi Tieta-

    Yes, you can print this out in one of two ways:

    1- Click the "print" button at the bottom of the story just before the comments. This will print all of the photos at their large size so it will be quite long.

    2- Copy and paste just the text and photos you want into a Word or Text doc. This will be fewer pages.

    Thanks for getting in touch about this!
    Molly

  42. Bettina says:

    Thank you for the pattern, its very beautiful despite my mistakes – dropped stitches and gaps during that tricky twisting stitch-traveling marker, but I think I know understand how the marker and have even fixed some dropped stitches (but only on the Row 2).

    I have two questions First, my wrong side does not look like braiding rows, but braiding row, purl row, then braiding row – however the right side looks like the herringbone on the picture – do you think this because of differing tension of the rows or because of looping (I loop the yarn on top of the right needle on both k2tog and k2tog tbl)?

    Also, do you have any insight or suggestion how to use two colors (i.e., could one introduce a new color at the marker or would it be better to start a new color in the middle; also would one change color every two rows or very one row?)

  43. purl bee says:

    Hi Bettina,

    It's possible that your back looks slightly different from our picture because of tension issues, but feel free to send us a photo of yours if you want to double check! (You should, by the way, wrap your yarn over the right needle in a counter clockwise direction for both rounds of the stitch.)

    And I haven't tried to knit this stitch with two colors. I imagine that the "jog" (i.e. the disruption in stripes that happens when they are knit in the round) would form a diagonal line and would be pretty tricky to rectify. However, I encourage you to experiment! Maybe first try something with way fewer cast on stitches, like a hat, and if it works, then you have both a hat and an exciting new idea!

    Thanks so much for your questions and good luck!

    Whitney

  44. Lee says:

    Hi! I love this pattern and would like to make it using Blue Sky Suri Merino. How many skeins do you think I will need? Thanks!

  45. purl bee says:

    Hi Lee,

    Three skeins of Suri Merino should be just enough, although you might be safer with four. Also, in case you don't know, the Suri Merino is a bit thinner than the Worsted Hand Dyed. It's a good choice, but you may want to go down a needle size and/or cast on more stitches.

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

    Whitney

  46. Stacey says:

    Not sure if I'm asking this right but …What's the pattern count ( number of stitches per repeat ) as ild like to make this a bit smaller …

  47. Rana says:

    I haven't read other comments, but I'm wondering if there is a trick to keeping the edges flat. I've tried gently blocking but the edges still seem to curl. Anything else I could try? This is such a beautiful pattern! Thanks!

  48. purl bee says:

    HI Stacey,

    You can actually cast on any number of stitches you'd like and the repeat will work!

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

    Whitney

  49. purl bee says:

    Hello Rana

    The edges of the cowl do curl a little bit (especially the bind off edge), but with blocking, plus the weight and size of the fabric it does end up nice and flat. Because the Herringbone Stitch is essentially all knitting on one side and all purling on the other, it will have the tendency to roll.

    Thanks for asking!
    Whitney

  50. George says:

    Love the pattern, and it would all be coming along nicely except one problem: after a couple of rounds, I've noticed a problem going up right along the join / where I change from round 1 to round twothere's a messy-looking break in the pattern. What am I doing wrong and how can I fix it?

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