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Whit's Knits: 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!

Reader Comments (276)

Does this yarn pill? A lot or a little?
January 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
That looks so soft and gorgeous! Might have to attempt this one before winter's over :)
January 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAudrie
This is a beautiful stitch! I've never seen it before! I'll have to give this a try.
January 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah H
This is a great looking stitch, looks very unusual. Do you think it would work on a hat?
January 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen
That looks so great! New to me and looks a little bit complicated but I'll give a try with your good photos! Really beautiful cowl!
January 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTeje
So beautiful!
January 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterArndís
Hello - are there any other suggestions on what yarn I could use? I am based in the UK and this yarn is not easy to come by...i am also relatively new to knitting so not great at finding substitute yarns.

thanks for the pattern - it looks so beautiful!
January 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterclare s
I LOVE this pattern! Have never seen this stitch before and cannot stop looking at it. Thank you!

I have 29" #17 needles- Would that be too much of a squeeze? 220 is quite a lot of stiches...

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHayley
Super awesome! Thanks.
January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeanie
I love anything in herringbone and this, my friend, is particularly gorgeous. Thank you.
January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy
mi piace tantissimo questo punto a ferri!!! ma non riesco a capire, visto che sono italiana, l'esecuzione del punto specialmente l'inizio e i primi due passi...potrei avere una maggiore spiegazione??? anche in video Grazie!!!
January 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterflavia
I love your site and the way your pattens are photographed. every thing is so beautiful. This scarf is awesome, but I think I need a video tutorial for the pattern. Your instructions are always clear, but this confuses me a little. I would love, love, love to make this scarf.
January 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrose
i darn say it...but i'm confused too. also can you share what the gauge should be in stockinette stitch.
January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCayenne
Did you use all 500 yards or close to? The yarn I've chosen....well 2 skeins are 420 yards. Is that enough? Oh I hope it is. Please let me know! I'm ready to CO!
January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeah
I'm ready to make this beautiful cowl - do you have any other yarn suggestions from your site?
January 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
I tried finding the size 17/32" circular needles on your site, and you don't have them. Any suggestions. Not an easy size to find.
January 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTara
I'm also a little confused! How is the second of the k2tog stiches slipped off the left needle onto the right? I've read and re-read the instructions - am I missing this somewhere?
January 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDianna
I have a terrible time knitting in the hand cramps up horribly! How would one do this stitch to make something flat such as a scarf?
January 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
This is beautiful!

I just re-read the pattern, and answered my own question.
Finished Size
14 inches wide and 58 inches around

I have 60" circular needles, so I'm going to stretch it out and try ... looks like it should fit.
(of course my yarn is too bulky ... so that will add to the size )
... either way I'm going to enjoy trying the herringbone stitch
January 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
I also don't know what to do with the second stitch... Do you use it to K2tog with the next stitch?
January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiana
This cowl is absolutely gorgeous, and I desperately want to make it. I just have one question. As a broke college student, are there any yarns you can suggest substituting? Or qualities I should look for in a yarn? The yarn and needle you used would be most of my paycheck. :(
January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
Hi Diana,

Yes, you've got it - your next k2tog is made with the second stitch from the previous k2tog plus the next stitch! It ends up that each stitch actually gets knit twice.

Please let us know if you have any more questions - we'd be happy to help!

Thank you for your question,
January 13, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thank you! Lovely post, and I've learned a new stitch. I've taken to making my own yarn and using whatever needles are available to make things.. so I've adapted a bit of this to make a neck warmer.. thanks again.
January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTara
I saw this post after i bgt some yarn from your website, ready to knit a scarf! I bgt Manos Del Uruguay handspun semi solids. Any idea if i can use that for this crowl? and i can only find a 9mm needle at the yarn store. Will that do? how do i know how much to adjust for the pattern?

Thank you in advance!!!=D
January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKitty
Whitney and friends! This cowl is beautiful. I just knit the whole thing with a different yarn (same weight as the Blue Sky) and the recommended needles following the instructions exactly. At the end I decided that with the yarn I was using I could stand to use size #15 needles instead (it's too loose and seems to be vulnerable to pulls) and is about 5 inches too long (I like them so that I only twist it twice and it hugs my neck- this one is long enough to twist three times.
That said I used Stitch Nation "Full o Sheep" yarn and it only took two skeins to make the whole thing. I am planning on redoing it with the #15 needles taking out about forty stitches and I think then it will be perfect for me!

Thanks so much for the pattern, other Whitney!
Happy knitting,
-Whitney S
January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWhitney S.
seems like everyone posting blogs could print the pattern ,but me! what a beauty! you gave such great instructions, that it seems that it's available straight from the site--beautiful site, by the way!
January 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbarbara robbins
are there any video tutorials for this stitch? i think i had the first row correct, but when it came to k2tog tbl i kept getting a double stitch...twisted etc. i have to start over now!
i'd love to just be able to see details for the tbl row...

January 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterabbey
O, so beautiful. Will keep it in mind!
January 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlightbluegrey
Which cast on do you recommend? I'm having trouble with backward loop on the circular needles and knit cast on looks too prominent.

Thanks for the beautiful pattern!
January 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristi
Thankyou, I am loving it!
January 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSian
January 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteraw
Hi Christi,

I would recommend using the Long Tail Cast On (for this and most every other project!). We have a tutorial here:

Thanks for your question and good luck!

January 19, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
This scarf is gorgeous! I'm just starting on my first knitting project, I think I'm a long ways away from figuring this out. I just don't understand how knitting in the round works.
January 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterorangesugar
HI Orangesugar-

Thanks for your nice comment. If you want to try knitting in the round a hat is a good place to start. Here is a fairly simple one:

These handwarmers would also be a good introduction:

Good Luck!

- Molly
January 20, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
To Rachel:

I adapted it for working straight by knitting the K2tog row as a P2tog (WS) and the K2tog tbl the same as in the pattern (RS). I hope this helps! It is certainly a beautiful stitch.
January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSierra
Sierra, I had the same question, thank you, it works great! What an elegant pattern.

Anyone have thoughts on needle size if making this with a chunky yarn? I have seven skeins of a beautiful very pale lavender alpaca that I'd love to use for this. I tried knitting it up on size 15s, and while I loved the look, the fabric was a bit too dense. Since I won't be able to use the needles I have already and will need to purchase a pair, I'd love any suggestions from folks who've worked similarly dense stitches with bulkier yarns. Thanks!
January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarvi
From the photo, it looks like the edges of the cowl lie flat. I've been looking for a nice stitch that gives weight to the finished project, and yet would lie flat for use in a scarf. Do you think this would work well for a scarf?
January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelen Onulak
Hi Helen,

My guess is that you would have trouble keeping a regular scarf flat with the Herringbone Stitch because the stitch is essentially all knitting on one side and all purling on the other. The edges of the cowl did 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, but I don't think you would have this kind of result with a traditional scarf shape.

Thanks so much for your question,
January 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
i got it!!
i was tring this patter 1 hour (*o*)omg
(i have many times because of catching influenza!)
i could not understand row 2
but now i can knit it !

so beautiful stitchs (^o^)
January 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermika
Thanks so much for the pattern. It is snowing right now and I am adding this to my list of must knits.
February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterToot Sweet
Having a horrible time with this. Using Addi circular 47" - should have plenty of room for the stitches-- but the needles are very crowded & twist like crazy. I'm casting on loosely as suggested. When it comes time to do the 1st round, my stitches keep slipping off my left needle- becoming a mess. I've had to start over 3 times now.
What am I doing wrong?
About to give up & just knit a long herringbone panel & sew the dang thing together!
February 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
Thank you so much for this pattern - I made it right away! Although it shows all my dropped stitches, (I am still very much an amateur) I just love how snuggly it is! Here is my full report. :) I really appreciate you posting lovely patterns like this and the way you photograph them is just beautiful. Keep it up!
February 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Mackay
Hi Jennifer,

I'm not sure that you're doing anything wrong - the first couple of rounds are a bit challenging, but if you get through them the knitting becomes a lot easier - I promise! I'm wondering if you know that after you join the stitches into the round it doesn't matter if your stitches twist around the needle - no need to tame them! And for the slipping, try holding the stitches on the left needle with your left index finger.

Good luck!
February 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Good Evening.. Like everyone I too love your Herringbone Cowl - It is so beautiful.

I am wondering if I might find the written pattern rather than trying to
follow the video..??

Also I have some Berocco Baby Alpaca yarn (3 Skeins)
Yards + 645 yds or 198 meters

I don't have your US Size 17 inch needle but have 10mm Addi-Turbo Circular
needles.. Does it matter?? I have no idea where I could find 17" inch US
circular needle (which is Size 12" mm) for those of us here in Canada

If I am not able to find the actual Yarn you used can I use another yarn?

Thank You..
February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSandy B
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:

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:

Thanks again. Happy Knitting!- Molly
February 9, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
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.
February 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteralke
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
February 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMy DarlingKnits
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.
February 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMonika
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 :)
February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVesna from Germany
Love this! THANK you for the awesome pics - removes all doubt!
February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMalena

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