Lovely Ribbed Cowl

I came to the surprising realization last winter that I am someone who prefers a cowl to a scarf. Perhaps it's because I live in a drafty old house and always want something toasty around my neck, something that stays put, something chic and easy, something that doesn't find its way into the soup I'm making or the dog food I'm pouring!

So I decided to make a cowl that is as simple to knit as it is to wear. I love the idea of a vertically ribbed cowl that gently hugs your neck like your favorite turtleneck sweater. However, one thing I definitely didn't want was a whiplash collar, so this cowl is knit in a relaxed gauge that creates soft, billowing ripples. With a very loose bind off, it subtly widens at the bottom for an easy and totally comfy fit. Beginners will love the do-able challenge, and old pros will appreciate the late-night-movie no-brainer!

The simplicity of this pattern serves as a great platform for gorgeous yarn. I spent a lot of time talking through the options with all of our wonderful knitters at Purl Soho. Yarn aficionado, Faye, suggested one of our all time favorites, Blue Sky's Suri Merino. With its wonderful drape, soft halo and palette of lovely vintage colors, everything about Suri Merino is perfect for this Lovely Ribbed Cowl! Be cozy! -Page

Update: September 2013


Here's another idea! Try the Lovely Ribbed Cowl in Purl Soho's very own Worsted Twist, a gorgeous 100% merino wool that knits up with crisp definition and classic simplicity. Plus, it's incredibly soft and cozy, just what you need in a cold autumn breeze!

Pick up two skeins of Worsted Twist right here, and use the same easy-as-pie pattern as the original Suri Merino version!


Suri Merino Version


Worsted Twist Version


8 1/2 stitches = 1 inch in 2 x 2 rib (unstretched)


16 inches high and 18 inches in circumference (unstretched)


With the smaller circular needle, cast on 156 stitches.

Place a marker and join for working in the round, being careful to not twist the stitches.

Round 1: *K2, p2, repeat from * to end of round.

Repeat Round 1 until piece measures 16 inches from the cast on edge.

Using the larger needle, bind off loosley in rib pattern. (Using a bigger needle for the bind off causes that edge to flare out slightly, giving your cowl some pretty, subtle shaping. Make sure to wear your cowl with the bind off edge at the bottom and the cast on edge at the top.)

Weave in the ends and you're done!

38 Responses to Lovely Ribbed Cowl

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  1. Yarnvixen says:

    Can you please define the weight of the yarn specified? Is it DK weight?

  2. Melissa says:

    I have size six circular needles already. Can the pattern be adapted for smaller needles?

  3. purl bee says:

    Hi Melissa-

    Needle size is always a suggestion rather than a firm direction. The important thing with any pattern is that you're getting the same gauge. In this case the gauge is 8.5 stitches per inch in the pattern. If you can get that wil your size 6 needles you're in the clear! Otherwise you can always just cast on more stitches in a simple pattern like this, just make sure you cast on a multiple of 4.

    Thanks you for your question!


  4. cheryl says:

    hi, i would love to make this for my 4 and 6 year old daughter, any suggestions on how many stitches to cast on to scale it down? thanks, cheryl

  5. purl bee says:

    Hi Cheryl-

    Figure out how large (in inches) you'd like the circumference of the cowl to be. Then multiple that number by 8.5 (the stitches per inch), round to the nearest multiple of 4 and that's how many stitches you will be casting on.

    For instance, if you'd like the cowl to be 15-inches around:
    15 X 8.5 (stitches per inch)= 127.5 rounded to the nearest multiple of 4= 128 stitches to cast on.

    You will also need to make sure that you are using a circular needle small enough to fit your circumference. Circular needles come in lengths as short as 8-inches. You can see our selection here:

    Please let us know if you need any more help and thanks for your question!


  6. RosieB says:

    Hi! Fabulous and simple pattern. It looks just right to get back into knitting. But as an English knitter could you give me ideas on how much a USA skein weighs/measures? Much appreciated

  7. purl bee says:

    Hi Yarnvixen-

    This is a DK weight yarn. Thank you so much for your question- sorry it took a couple of days to get back to you!


  8. purl bee says:

    Hi Rosie B-

    All of the info on this yarn can be found here:

    Thanks so much for writing in and please let us know if you need any more help!



  9. Agata says:

    Very nice and beginner-friendy pattern :) But here's my problem: I have four skeins of nice yarn (baby alpaca + silk) but it seems to be slightly thinner than in the pattern… 167m per 50g, recommended needle size US 4. Should I change the number of cast-on stitches or needle size? Thanks.

  10. Margaret says:

    I can't seem seem to find 20 inch circular knitting needles. Do you think 24 inch would be ok to use?

  11. Taryn says:

    This will be my first attempt using a circular needle. Will a #7 24 inch work for this pattern?

  12. purl bee says:

    Hello Margaret and Tatyn-

    Unfortunately a 24-inch needle will be too long for this project. We are currently sold out of the #7 in the 20-inch length but they should be back in stock soon. Please email customerservice AT purlsoho DOT com if you'd like to be informed when they are back.

    Or alternatively, you could use a 16-inch length.

    Thank you for your questions!


  13. KJ Heald says:

    I cannot find the US #7 in the 20 inch length. Any suggestions?

  14. purl bee says:

    Hi KJ-

    You could use a 16-inch #7. Or if you would like to be informed when we get the 20-inch length back please drop us a line at customerservice AT purlsoho DOT com.

    Thank you!


  15. Chris says:

    I'd love to make a smaller version of this for my grandchildren as well. So I measured their heads at the largest diameter (20″ each child) and neck diameter (10″ each child), so what should I target for my stitch count? I do understand how to do the calculation, I'm just not sure if I make it to fit the neck and just assume that it will stretch to fit over their heads easily because it's ribbed? Is that a reasonable assumption?

  16. purl bee says:

    Hi Chris-

    It will stretch easily around their heads but I'd aim for a circumference in between the head and neck size- perhaps 14 or 15-inches?

    Thank you for your question!


  17. Alison says:

    This is a beautiful cowl. Can you suggest any other yarns that might work besides the suri merino? thank you

  18. Birgitte says:

    Hello! I have just discovered this fantastic blog!! There are so many great and inspiring knitting and sewing patterns – I don´t know where to start and stop … I have just finished the cowl and it is so soft and beautiful. I think I will be wearing it every day (and night) throughout the ice cold Norwegian winter. Thank you! Love, Birgitte

  19. Val Hall says:

    I just finished your "Eleventh Hour Scarf", it came out beautiful. I am now ready for this cowl, but don't want more wool around my neck. I just found your alternative..Jade Sapphire Zageo 6-ply cashmere. I love the new gorgeous "Primordial". The pattern calls for 328 yards total, this new color comes in 150 yds. If I get two skeins there is a 28 yd deficit. Do I have to buy a third skein? At $50 per skein that would put it out of reach for me.

  20. purl bee says:

    Hi Val Hall-

    You can probably get by without getting a third skein. You might want to cast on less stitches. Just make sure that you cast on a multiple of 4. It also might not be quite as tall but it will still be totally beautiful!

    Thank you!


  21. Stephanie says:

    I know you mentioned that US #7 16inch can be used in place of US #7 20 inch. My question is can the pattern be adjusted for the use of US # 8 16 inch I would like to adjust to make a bit chunker.


  22. purl bee says:

    Hi Stephanie-

    The needle size is just a suggestion, the important thing is to be getting the correct gauge which is listed under The Pattern heading. If you are getting the correct gauge on a size 7 and move up to a size 8 it will make the fabric more open and airy, not more chunky. If you'd like a more chunky cowl you could use a thicker yarn and the appropriate needles for that yarn and then cast on a different amount of stitches. This pattern will work with any multiple of 4 stitches.

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


  23. Anita says:

    Hello there!
    I am quite new to knitting so please do bear with me! ;-)
    I have 3 balls of Sirdar Click DK:
    - (50g, 164yds each)
    - 5 1/2 stiches per inch
    - recommended needle size 4mm.

    Am I right in assuming that this would be a suitable yarn for this project as long as I manage to calculate the stitch gauge? Thanks heaps!

  24. Emma says:

    Hello! I am very new to knitting but I would really like to try this pattern. My only problem is I only have 29 in circular needles (and I can't buy new ones in the appropriate length). Is there any way I can modify anything to make these work?

    Thank you :)

  25. purl bee says:

    Hi Emma-

    I think this will be just a little short to stretch around your needles. You could try making it longer by casting on more stitches. This pattern will work with any multiple of 4.

    Thank you for your question!


  26. Arielle says:

    What does it mean when it says to bind off in rib pattern?

  27. purl bee says:

    Hello Arielle,

    Great question. The idea is that you maintain the k2, p2 pattern while binding off.

    It is very common for people to bind off in knit. But if you bind off in knit on a ribbed fabric, the gauge of your last row will be different than the gauge of your worked piece causing the bind off edge to flare out. What is best to do, when possible, is to bind off in pattern. So here that would mean for this project….

    Knit 2, with the tip of your left needle pick up the first stitch and pull it over the second stitch and off the needle binding off a stitch, then *PURL 1, pick up the first stitch on the right needle and pull it over the second stitch and off the needle binding off a stitch, PURL 1, bind one off, KNIT 1, bind one off, KNIT 1, bind one off, then back to PURL 1, bind one off, and on and on until you have bound off all your stitches.

    Hope this helps.
    Please let us know if you have any other questions.

  28. Laura E. Pate Bridgers says:

    Hello again. I am looking into knitting this scarf using Rowan Pure Wool Aran. Will this yarn give a similar drape to the cowl knit with Worsted Twist? I am worried about the difference in the types of wool; I am concerned that the Pure Wool will create a much stiffer or tighter cowl. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

  29. purl bee says:

    Hi Laura-

    We don't have any first hand experience with that yarn so we aren't sure how it will feel. The best thing to do would be to knit a swatch in pattern and make sure you like the drape of it before you get started.

    Thanks for your question!


  30. Dale says:

    What would the length be, in inches, needed for the cast on tail method, for the worsted twist yarn?
    Can you tell us a formula for figuring this out in general?
    Thanks so much!

  31. purl bee says:

    Hi Dale-

    To be safe, you want to use a tail that is 3X the width of the finished cast on edge. So in this case you'll need a 54-inch tail. There's nothing worse than running out in the middle!



  32. Diane says:

    Can this cowl be knitted flat and then sewn together?


  33. purl bee says:

    Hi Diane,
    Yes, it could. The pattern would need some modifications…

    Cast on 158 stitches.
    Row 1: *K2, p2, repeat from * to last two, k2..
    Row 2: *P2, k2, repeat from * to last two, p2.

    Those extra two stitches will get get eaten up when you use mattress stitch to seam up the side.
    Hope this helps.

  34. jen says:


    Would you tell me which cast on method you used? Long tail, as a commenter mentioned? I'm always confused about which method is best as everyone seems to have differing opinions!

    Thank you :)

  35. Anne says:

    Hi there. I purchased the worsted twist for this project but noticed the gauge for that yarn is 4-5 stitches per inch using size 7-8 needles. Does the 2×2 rib produce a smaller gauge? I'm confused!



  36. purl bee says:

    Hi Anne-

    Yes, the gauge listed in this pattern is in the 2X2 rib pattern. Ribbing creates a denser fabric so you get more stitches per inch. So make sure to do your gauge swatch in pattern!

    Thanks for this helpful question!


  37. Audrey says:

    You can shorten a circular knitting needle cable by pulling out a loop and giving it a twist. As you work round to the twist you will have to redo it each time. I have not done this myself but watched a German friend doing it.

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