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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)

I just posted a video tutorial on how to perform this stitch. Come by and check it out.
February 22, 2011 | Unregistered
HI Vesna -

Yes, Sierra is right! For Row 2 you would p2tog instead of k2tog. Your blanket sounds beautiful - good luck!

February 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
I would like to have a method for making this pattern on standard knitting needles.
If anyone has done this or worked it out I would be very interested.
February 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCraig
This pattern looks really awesome! And I love that you included pictures on how to do the Herringbone Stitch.
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
I really LOVE this pattern, but there is NO WAY I could afford to purchase the yarn you suggest. Is there an alternative yarn one could use that will produce similar results that is 1/4 to 1/2 the cost?
March 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhambyla
Hi Hambyla,

Yes! Use just 1 skein of either Cascade's Eco+ ( or Cascade's Ecological Wool ( . Each is just $16.50 for a skein and will be nice and soft and cuddly!

Thanks for your question,
March 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
I love this! I had trouble putting this down this morning so that I could go to WORK! LOL! I am making it with a light purple single ply and can't wait to see how it turns out. I LOVE this blog and the store! Gorgeous ideas!
March 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPolly Kramarsic
Thanks to everyone posting on how to do a horizontal herringbone stitch! Sally
March 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersally
Hi Whitney,
Thanks for a gorgeous pattern - I'm on my 5th row and am wondering about this funny little seam at the transition spot between the k2tog rows and the k2tog tbl rows. Should there be some symmetry to it, or is it ok if it looks a bit disheveled? I think I'm following the pattern correctly and the rest of it looks beautiful. Love the blue sky yarn - first time to use it and it is worth every penny!
March 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
Hi Katie,

Like most knitting in the round that involves a stitch pattern or stripes, you will see a bit of a "seam" at the transition. 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. Thank you for making the Cowl and good luck!

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
I am having a terrible time understanding the second row instructions. I do not understand how to remove the stitch from the needle and twist-and does this have to be done after every stitch in this row or just the first one?
Thanks for any help you can give me.
March 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary
Hi Mary,

You only remove the stitch and twist it at the beginning of each round. The rest of the round you repeat "K2tog through the back loop (K2tog tbl), slipping the first stitch off the left needle" - don't twist the stitch that you slip off the needle, just let it off the needle!

Please let us know if you are still having trouble - and good luck!

March 30, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thanks Whitney! I do have another question. After knitting this pattern for quite a few rows I am if I should be twisting the stitch before each round 2 or only at the first round two and the very last round two. I just noticed that the pattern says "repeat rounds 1 & 2 until piece measures 14" from cast on edge, ending with ALL the steps of round 2".
April 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary
Whit-can you give me quick instructions for how to do the pattern in the round contenintal style? Knitting in the front or through the back each produce left slant stitches. Ripping out right now.... Thanks!
April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFelicity
Thank you for this lovely description of the herringbone stitch.
Love the cowl.
April 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Do you have instructions to make larger for a man?
April 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranon
Hello Anon.-

This pattern only comes in one size, but it's pretty large so it might work for man.

April 25, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Yikes! I have successfully gotten about 1/4 of the way through this three times and it looked beautiful. Until I dropped a stitch. I tore out a few rounds but could not figure out how to start back up to save my life. There are always two loops over the yarn connecting my left and right needle and I know I need to pick one of them up but I can't seem to make it work. Can anyone help?
May 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKC
Hi KC,

Instead of trying to pick up live stitches you may want to try slipping your needle through the entire round below the live stitches, making sure you don't skip any. Then rip out all the stitches until you get to the round that is resting on the needle. You might find this much easier!

Good luck!
May 16, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
If I wanted to make the cowl say six inches shorter, how many stitches would I need to cast on. The pattern is gorgeous but looks long for a short person like me.
June 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlice
Hi Alice,

You should cast on about 198 stitches. If you're curious how I figured that out, the math is: 3 3/4 stitches to the inch, times 6, equals about 22, and 220 minus 22 equals 198! By the way, this pattern can be worked on any number of stitches (it's not reliant on a certain multiple).

Thanks for your question and good luck!
June 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
just finished this cowl. thank you so much for the pattern. it took weeks of trial and error and a few all-out failures (i'm a new knitter), but i finally finished it. the only thing is that i used a #15 circular needle, and merino/acrylic blend yarn that was a little lighter than the recommended yarn, and the effect is slightly different and definitely not as pretty as the picture. also it took a lot longer than i suspect necessary (not including my mistakes). now that i've done it once, i'm going to try again using a #17 and the right yarn.. thanks again!
June 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermm03
Hi, I'm new to your website and think it's lovely:) I'm excited to try this scarf! I saw the recommendations you made for a shorter scarf. I'm thinking I'd like to go even smaller than that, (I'm only 5'2 and live in San Diego). My question is--do you think I'd need five skeins, or could I get away with three or four? If so, do you have any recommendations for a good number of stitches to cast on?

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNadia
Hi Nadia,

I think you should be alright with four skeins. Keep in mind, though, that if you end up using only three skeins and the fourth is still in its original skein, you can return it for store credit!

As fas as sizing goes, I would wrap a scarf twice around your neck, letting it hang the way you want the cowl to, and measure the length. Multiply the length by 3.75 and cast on that number!

Thanks for your questions! Let us know if you have more!
July 8, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Wow, this is definitelly on my to-try list. I just need a bit more practice before I can tackle something like this! Love it!
July 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaja
the scarf in the picture looks beautiful- and not fuzzy in the slightest. is it just the picture, or is this yarn an especially non-fuzzy/lint-y kind?
July 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermm03
Hi MM03-

This yarn is definitely not too fuzzy. It has a smooth soft feel that is really wonderful. Thank you for your comment!
July 11, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hello! I came across this via Pinterest and I am in LOVE! I do not knit and was wondering if you would make one and sell it to me and if so how much would you charge? You can email me directly

Thanks in advance for your time!
July 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEclectic
Wow, simply stunning knit.
Can any one help with how the colour looks?
Is Blue Sky Alpaca's ecru a white, or more of a duller off white.
I need to wear quite bright colours or I look really dull... and as I have to order the yarn online I can't see it.
Thanks for your help
July 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteph
HI Steph-

The ecru is not a bright white. Red, Strawberry, and Tangerine are all pretty bright. You can see all of the colors here:

Thanks for your question!
July 25, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I purchased the yarn & needles recommended for this beautiful project & am having a terrible time with the needles twisting! I just had to take off a few rows & need to start at the beginning. What can I do to prevent this from happening?
I'm a new knitter and am nervous about starting again without some advise first.
Definitely don't want to scrap the $100 plus already spent on this project.
Thank you!!!
July 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergs
Hi gs,

I'm not totally sure what you mean by "needles twisting". After joining to work in the round, it really doesn't matter what your needles are doing, your knitting will be fine. If the work spins around the needles, don't worry, just keep knitting with the right side facing you and you'll see that it all ends well!

If there's a problem I'm not imagining, please fill me in and we'll see what we can do!

Good luck!
August 2, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Whitney,
This is beautiful!
One question though: I've done the first few rounds a few times now & am fairly confident that I'm reading the instructions properly for changing rows- but the tail from my first cast on stitch seems to be getting further away (not aligning) with the first stitch of new row. It looks like it's moving over one stitch per row.
For example, I'm about to start row 4 now & tail is dangling 4 stitches to the left- is this ok/correct?
If not what could I be doing wrong?
Thank you!
August 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRiver
Hi River,

Yes, that's right! You're on the right path!

Thanks for asking,

August 9, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Love this pattern!

The part I do not understand the second row, the K2 tog stitches,slipped of the left needle onto the right and the twist part,Have practice with no luck,when I do the pearl version it loses the continuity.
August 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEthelle Henderson
Hi Whit,
How do I join a new ball of yarn for this project?
I usually use the felting method but that doesn't seem to work with this yarn- I'm assuming it's because of the Alpaca in it.
Could you describe how best to attach- I've looked on-line but couldn't find much advice for joining with circular needles.
Thank you!
September 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergs
Hi Ethelle,

I'd love to help you get it right, but I'm not sure where you're having trouble. What part of the second round is tripping you up? And what do you mean by "the purl version"? If you could be more specific, hopefully I can steer you on the right path!

September 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Hi gs,

For this project I joined new balls of yarn the same way I always do, which is to say, I just drop the old yarn and start the next stitch with the new one (leaving a tail). This leaves a hole in the work that is remedied when I weave in the tails, just by crossing the left tail to the right and the right tail to the left.

By the way, there's really no specific trick to changing yarns with circular needles, so whatever you find for straight needles will also apply to circular!

Thanks so much for your question and good luck!
September 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
I am having a confusing time understanding the second row instructions. I don't understand the "Remove the stitch from the needle and twist" part. Once I remove this stitch, would I then be placing this stitch back onto the needle; or does the "Twist" mean flipping the work over. I may over analyzing this part, but it annoys me that something so simple and I can't figure out.
September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErica
Hi there,

I absolutely love this pattern! I am pretty new to knitting, just done a few projects ( a simple baby blanket and a simple scarf) so maybe I am just not quite ready for this project yet, but I have been trying it and trying it and it just doesn't seem to be working. It looks to me like I am not really quite doing the swtich as both sides of my piece seem to have the seams from "the wrong side" and neither side has the nice criss cross pattern.

Also, the point were I joined the round seems to be out of sync, like I didn't line it up properly. The strange thing is that when I try to do it not in the round, the pattern comes out perfect. I really don't know what I am doing wrong... shows some pictures of my piece front and back as well as were I have joined the piece.

Also, I wasn't able to find as thick of wool, nor was I able to find as big as needles. So I am using # 4 weighted yarn and size 10 36" circular needles.

Any suggestions you could give would be very much appreciated.
September 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle
hello, just a questione, is the edge an i-cord? it looks so neat...thank you for the pattern it is fabulous!!!!!!
September 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrosanna
Hi Danielle,

I'm sorry you're having such a struggle! The good news is that, at least as far as your question about joining goes, the "seam" does shift as you knit. So there's nothing wrong with it "not lining up properly".

As for your other problem with the stitch pattern itself, the link you gave us isn't loading properly so I can't see what your piece looks like. It's hard to know where exactly you're misstepping, but I can suggest that if you are truly frustrated, you just go ahead and knit the cowl flat and sew the ends together when you're finished. As a third project, this one would definitely be a challenge!

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

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Hi Whitney, I'm at the end of my cowl! I'm having a little trouble with your bind off instructions--do I remove the stitch marker when there is one stitch left and twist the new stitch the way I have throughout the cowl? Or do I just remove the stitch marker and knit two together once I get to the stitch marker?

September 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNadia
HI Rosanna-

The edge is not an i-cord, it's just the edge of the herringbone pattern as written.

Thanks so much for your question!

- Molly
September 26, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Nadia,

When the bind off instructions say to "knit the last stitch tbl" (ie through the back loop), that's another way of saying to twist the stitch!

Thanks for your question and congratulations on getting to the end! I hope your cowl keeps you super cozy this season!

September 28, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I can't wear wool....would you be able to suggest a substitute yarn?
September 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary Ann
I am so making this because well it just gets so damn cold here in the mid west and well this would be perfect for this time of year. So I am currently making right now!
October 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristen
Hi Mary Ann,

Assuming you can't wear any animal fibers, I would suggest Blue Sky's Cotton ( Super soft and cozy, it would be a delicious substitute! You'll probably only need 4 skeins, and you may want to use #15 needles instead of #17. And since it's slightly thinner, you may also want to cast on a few more stitches - do a gauge swatch to find out!

Thanks for your question!
October 3, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi. I'm stuck at row 2 where it says to twist. I've read all the comments and just want to make sure that I'm actually suppose to be just dropping the stitch? Thanks so much!
October 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSue-Ann
Hi Sue-Ann,

If you are talking about the stitch at the beginning of the round that you remove and twist, then, no, you do not drop that stitch. You simply twist it and replace it.

If, however, you are talking about slipping the first stitch of the k2tog or the k2tog tbl, then, yes, you do actually drop it!

I hope this helps - please let us know if you need more help and good luck!

October 6, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

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