Search The Purl Bee
Sign up for our newsletter!

Idea Center
Follow The Purl Bee
« Molly's Sketchbook: Felt Hot Pads | Main | The Purl Bee's Best of 2010! »

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)

Hi! I love this cowl and want to try to make it w/ blue sky bulky yarn. Would this work well? I would some input and direction on the subject because I am still learning the ropes. Thank you!
August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristina
Hi! I'm very interested in trying this pattern with your yarn but don't see that you have the "Ecru" color (#2003) like in the pattern listed. What is the closest color you carry to the Ecru and have at least 5 skeins available? I want to pick this up while your sale is still running. Thanks so much!
Oh... Is there a video tutorial for this particular pattern? I'm a visual learner and it seems that this pattern is a little complicated, so was hoping it would be easier to watch someone knitting this stitch.
August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrandi
I think I would go with Putty, number 2015. There are currently 12 available online.
August 3, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Chirstina,
You would need to use even larger needles for the Blue Sky Bulky. This would change the gauge and therefore the finished dimensions. The 'Worsted' is actually quite heavy. It's not a typical worsted, it is close to a chunky yarn. I highly recommend it! It's a shop FAVE. -Laura
August 3, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thank you so much for your help and response! I understand how the bulkiness would affect the outcome. However, being a broke college student I cannot afford 5 skeins of the lovely yarn. What would be a cheaper replacement? Sorry for all the questions and thank you again for your help. I love your site!
:) Christina
August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristina
Beautiful cowl! Do you have any yarn recommendations other than Blue Sky?

Thank you in advance!
August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia
Hi Olivia and Christina. Below are a few options! Essentially, you're looking for a thick worsted or thin bulky...
Swan's Island's Bulky
Blue Sky's Suri Merino
Cascade's Eco Cloud (a really popular alternate)
August 6, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hello! I am knitting this cowl right now. I think I might have dropped a stitch or something but I can't figure out how to fix it. I don't want to restart the whole thing because of one little error! Can you help me? Thanks!
August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
I ended up with the Cascade 220. Came in the mail today and cant wait to start!
August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristina
HI Megan,

Picking up a dropped stitch in this situation would definitely be tricky and impossible to describe in writing. So, I would recommend either taking out the knitting until you get to the dropped stitch. Or If your stitch pattern is somehow undisturbed by the dropped stitch, I would find the dropped stitch, sew it down neatly to the inside of the cowl, and pretend it never happened!

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

August 13, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi - I'm trying to view some video tutorials before I get going, and many seem to be showing "knitting in the back." Can I k2 the way I normally do, or do you recommend knitting in the back? I can probably just work this trial and error, but was curious before I get going.
- Nancy
August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNancy
Hi Nancy,

You do have to knit through the back because that makes the stitches lean left. Try googling "knit through the back loop". You'll find lots of helpful videos there or check out our "kfb" tutorial here: .

Thanks for asking. Please let me know if you have more questions and I'll be happy to help!

August 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
What size yarn is the Blue Sky worsted? I bought some pure alpaca yarn from an alpaca farm but it had no size information. Compared to a known size, it's just under a 4 (medium) in thickness. I started row 2 on the cowl and the gauge comes to 3.5 inches per inch. (I didn't use a test swatch like I should have). Should I continue or go down to a smaller needle, like 13.
September 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
Hi Karen,

Normally you would knit Blue Sky Worsted with a US #9 or even #10 needle. It is considered a heavy worsted (on the big side of a 4).

To me, it sounds almost impossible to measure your gauge on just the second round; so much changes in the first couple of inches! But if you like the way it is looking, the worst case scenario is that your cowl will be a different length than ours. But if you really care about the size of the cowl and the look of the stitch pattern, you should probably knit a gauge swatch. Don't you hate when people tell you that?

Thanks for asking!
September 10, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi, I would like to try this wonderful cowl with Blue Sky Suri Merino, which needle would you recommend and how many stitches would you cast on in order to have a similar finished size? # 13 circular needle and 300 stitches would be fine? Thank you very much Lorenza
September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLorenza
Thanks for your response Whitney. I'll continue and worst case, it will come out a different length. But I don't think it will as I'm already using the right length of needle and it's filling up fast. If you don't mind me saying, I developed a joke for knitting: When is your hair style like your knitted project? Answer: it never comes out the way they did it.
September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
HI Lorenza,

I'm sorry to say it, but you'll have to do a gauge swatch. Try the stitch pattern with a #13 needle and if you like the way it looks, measure how many stitches you're knitting per inch. Multiply that number by how long you'd like your cowl and that's your cast on number! Someone should invent a different answer to this question!

Good luck! And please let me know if you need more guidance...
September 13, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Just tried casting on for this with some Blue Sky Worsted Cotton I bought when visiting your shop from the UK in July. I've stopped because, with the 12mm needle, it looks so loose it's crazy. The loops are huge and the yarn isn't that thick in comparison. Is this normal? Don't want to cast on 220 stitches then find it looks horrendous!
September 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Hmmm... So tonight I cast on with some 10mm fixed circulars but they're a bit short to comfortably hold all the stitches, and now I'm on the second row I can see that the loops being really big at first isn't a huge issue.

What I might do is cast on tomorrow on the 12mm interchangeable tips I have with the right length cable and a new ball of yarn, then keep whichever looks better after the first row.

One more thing: I don't have any stitch markers big enough to fit over my needle. I used a locking stitch marker and put it in the first stitch on the right needle rather than in front of it, but I think this might get confusing. Is there something else I could do?
September 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Hi guys. I am at the beginning of my cowl and need some advie. I put the cowl down and have just picked it back up only to realize I can't remember if my last row was a k2tog or a k2tog tbl. I can't tell which way the stitches on the needles lean. The row I can tell (right below the left needle) leans left. So I started a k2tog row. Except the stitches that are showing up on the right needle as I knit are leaning right. So now I'm confused, I think I should be doing a back loop row instead. Do you ave any advice for deducing Sherlock Holmes style what row I am on?
September 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJean
This cowl is absolutely beautiful. I've been knitting for almost a year now and am really getting into patterns. I have already started on this and cannot wait to see how it comes out. Also, this site is so lovely!
September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
Hi Jean,

The k2tog round leans right and the k2togtbl round leans left. If the round below the left needle leans left, then you're correct to start a right leaning round, ie a k2tog round. All sounds good! Please let me know if it's not...

Thanks for making the cowl and for your question!
September 19, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
HI Rachel,

I hope you've resolved your needle issues! As for the stitch marker, I do think it might be confusing to put it on the stitch rather than the needle. How about a big paper clip?

Thanks for your your question and good luck!
September 20, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Why is it that the yarn shown in the finished picture seems to be quite bulkier than the yarn in the step by step instructions? Also, do you have to block after you finish this?
September 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
Hi Karen-

The stitch makes the yarn look bulkier than it might in the step by step instruction pictures. We do recommend that you lightly block it after you're done knitting.

Please let us know if you have any more questions and thanks for writing in!

September 25, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Fell in love with this cowl. Decided to try it with Berroco's Ultra Alpaca. I got half way done and I dropped multiple stitches on a few rounds without realizing it. I ended up taking it ALL out.:-( Is there a tutorial somewhere that explains how to fix a dropped stitch in this herringbone stitch. I am nervous about starting again, but I love the way the finished product looks in your pictures.
Any pointers on picking up the dropped stitches????
September 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhyllis
Thank you very much for this lovely free pattern. I am half-way through, using Patons Classic Wool. Stitch definition with this is really nice. I am looking forward to wearing it and I've bookmarked your site. (and regarding large stitch marker...I just drape a piece of contrasting wool in between the stitches. It works fine.)
October 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBabs
Hi Babs,

What a tough time you've had! I admire your persistence!

Trying to pick up the dropped stitch in the conventional way would be very challenging - not impossible, but very challenging. The easiest way to fix a dropped stitch is probably to unknit until you get to it, remembering as you go backwards that you'll insert your needle into two stitches at a time.

Also, since this stitch pattern works on any number, if it's not very noticeable you could just sew the dropped stitch neatly into the inside of your cowl and move on. Although, I can tell from your question, you'd probably be unlikely to go down this path!

And then there's always making very sure that you don't drop a stitch!

Thanks for your question and good luck!
October 4, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I am totally in love with this cowl...found it on Pinterest actually :) I hadn't really knitted since my mother taught me as a young girl. So I taught myself to knit on the round and began experimenting with this stitch. I can see the pattern in my project, but it's just not as good as the one on this blog post. Here's my question, and it sounds funny and I feel a little silly asking, but would you ever consider being commissioned for this piece? You could name your price (supplies, hours, shipping) and I'd buy it from you...
October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSunny
Hi Sunny-

We don't do commissions but if you call our retail store they might be able to set you up with a custom knitter. Their number is 212-420-8796

Thank you so much for writing in!

October 26, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi - I bought the recommended yarn and needle size for the cowl. I am in love with the yarn - how lush! I have started the cowl twice, knitting through two skeins the second time, but have taken it apart both times. I usually knit very close to gauge recommenddations, but when I do this, it seems like it is 'too tight' and the cowl wont have the lovely circumferance that yours does. Will this knit 'give' as it is worn and stretch to circumferance shown? I dont want to wreck my lovely yarn by taking it apart a third time! Thank you. I wish I was closer to NYC and could take your tutorial/ class you have happening for the cowl.
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
Hi there! I am almost finished with this cowl and am totally in love not only with the yarn but with the stitch. I love the way it looks and how it makes the yarn even softer and squishier. As a result, I've been wondering about using the herringbone stitch to create a lovely blanket. I've been searching online but haven't found a pattern.

If I used roughly the same stitch count here and just knit it flat, would that work? Perhaps giving it a border of some kind to prevent any rolling.

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
Hi Sarah,

I'd say that your cowl shouldn't feel as tight as you seem to be describing. As you're knitting, the stitch pattern should have an easy drape, although the whole cowl will stretch a bit as your wear it.

My number one recommendation to you is to make sure that you're creating your stitches on the thickest part of the needle. When using big needles, it's really common for people to work their stitches on the tips which leads to some really tight knitting!

I hope this helps! If not, you may need to go up a needle size. Thanks for your question and please let me know if I can help again!

November 9, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Jessica,

Sure, that's a really good idea! Just make sure you adapt the pattern for working straight by knitting the K2tog row as a P2tog row and the K2tog tbl the same as in the pattern. I think an edge stitch would be a good idea too!

Thanks for asking!
November 9, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi! This is so beautiful!! I used EcoDuo natural and it turned out DELICIOUS!! This pattern is really detailed and even as a novice I was able to figure it out.

May I recommend that you provide a few quick instructions on how to Tink this stitch? I was able to get help at a local yarn shop for the few times that I accidentally dropped both loops, or missed something a few stitches back (as we all sometimes do!), but I wasn't able to find a good tutorial on the web. This might be helpful to others who haven't done this stitch before.

Thank you! Keep up the brilliant work!

November 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMandy
wow it's wonderful, thank you very very much for sharing!
November 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteriniminimainimo
Please please tell us how to UN ravel the herringbone in order to correct mistaken stitches!!

Thank you.
November 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
HI Liz,

I know it's a challenge to fix Herringbone mistakes! If you're unknitting, my best advice is to 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!
November 26, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Very nice... I wonder if I can knit it with 10mm straight needles...
December 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSofia
Is there a way to make a smaller version? Still a cowl, but not necessarily 220 st? I suppose a multiple for the pattern? Thanks!
December 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney
Hi Sofia-

This is knit in the round so it won't work with straight needles.

Thanks for writing in!

December 2, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Courtney,

This stitch pattern works up on any number of stitches. So once you have determined your gauge, just multiply it by the length you'd like and cast on that number. For example, if like the pattern, you get 3 3/4 stitches to the inch and you'd like a 30-inch cowl, then you'd cast on 3.75 x 30 = 112 stitches!

Thanks for your question!
December 3, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Whitney (or whomever reads this),

This cowl is gorgeous, and I have started it several times now! Do you suggest a long-tail cast on or a knitted cast on? I have tried both and while the longtail looks nicer for me, it curls more. The knitted cast on looks terrible but doesn't curl as much, and has a weird start to it. I'm an intermediate beginer, so any help would be lovely!


December 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLibby
Hi Libby,

I used a long tail cast on (as I almost always do!). There is some slight curling, but once you've blocked your finished cowl that should relax. I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any more questions!

December 5, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I'm usin yarn that sis for 3mm-4mm needles and 8mm needles. I'm trying to achieve a similar effect as you with 12mm needles ona yarn that is for 5-6 mm needles.
Should I swithc to 6mm or stay on 8mm needles?
December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkk
It seems I've lost a couple stitches and I'm wondering if you can increase in this pattern, or if I need to tear it back until I have the right amount (obviously I would like to avoid this, because I don't know when I lost 9 stitches)
December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErica S.
Regarding unknitting this herringbone, there must be more explicit instructions than have been given so far. For each stitch, one stitch on the left needle is moved and one is left hanging for the following stitch. To correct a mistake, you cannot simply insert the left needle into the stitches on the previous row and then unravel. At least I'm pretty sure you can't. I've had to start from scratch once already and I just jerryrigged the last botched stitch because I couldn't stand to start all over again. Specific instructions anyone?
December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
Thankyou for this, Id never even heard of herringbone before and now its my absolute favourite, its so graphic and unusual, I love it! I just finished knitting my own herringbone cowl, but I wanted the type that doesnt get doubled over so I cast on 120 stitches. I did most of it in a thick dusky orange and then the last few rows in a thinner bright pink for a lil pop. I love how it came out, my only concern is that it is a little stiff, Im guessing because of the thickness of the herringbone stitch. Is there anything I can do or will it get softer over time?
December 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhaaniah
Hi kk,

I would guess that the 8mm would be good, but it does depend on how tight or loose a knitter you are. Really the best answer is for you to try both sizes out and see which you like better! The finished stitch should be loose and easy without looking messy.

Thanks for your question and good luck!
December 10, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Erica S.,

The Herringbone Stitch does work on any number of stitches, so you can try increasing to get back to your original number. Here's a link to our make 1 right + left tutorial: Choose the appropriate one for whichever round you're on, right leaning or left leaning.

I'm not guaranteeing that it will be an invisible fix, but it may be better than going back who-knows-how-far!

Good luck and thanks for asking!

December 10, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.