Search The Purl Bee
Sign up for our newsletter!

Idea Center
Follow The Purl Bee
« Felted Wool Patchwork Throw | Main | Whit's Knits: Colorblock Hand Warmers »

Sweet Stitching with Erin: Bandana Cowl

Working at Purl Soho, I have a front row seat to the parade of effortlessly chic people that give our neighborhood its renowned style. From here I can report that, for men and women alike, this season's prevailing trend in neckwear is the bandana. Jauntily tied around the neck, it tops off everything from Sunday's T-shirt and jeans to Friday's night-on-the-town dress! The bandana is a sassy, casual touch that suggests that the wearer possesses an innate stylishness. It's the perfect accessory  for those cool mornings when you've hit snooze a few too many times and need to turn "thrown-together-in-a-rush" into "casually glamourous"!

My Bandana Cowl is inspired by my desire to make "effortlessly chic" even more effortless. I was so excited to create something with the same freshness as the tied bandana but without the fiddly aspect of actually having to tie anything! 

I chose to make my Cowl out of Swan's Island Bulky, a brand new yarn made from a beautiful blend of undyed merino and alpaca that feels wonderfully soft against the skin. The yarn creates a dense, rich fabric that's cuddly perfection for the chilly days of fall!

The Materials

  • 1 skein Swans Island Bulky, naturally dyed colors are 100% Organic Merino and undyed colors (Natural, Oatmeal and Seasmoke) are 85% Organic Merino and 15% Alpaca. (This color is Oatmeal)
  • A US #10, 16-inch circular needle 
  • Jumbo Locking Stitch Markers, 3 total (optional)

This cowl uses approximately 100 - 130 yards and would be stunning made out of many of Purl Soho's yarns. Here are some beautiful options:

  • 2 skeins of Jade Sapphire's 8 Ply Cashmere, 100% Mongolian Cashmere. (Shown above in the color Silver Pearl.)
  • 2 skeins Blue Sky's Techno, 68% Baby Alpaca , 10% Extra Fine Merino, 22% Silk.
  • 1 skein Manos Del Uruguay's Maxima, 100% Extrafine Merino
  • 1 skein Cascade's Eco Cloud, 70% Undyed Merino Wool and 30% Undyed Baby Alpaca


The Pattern


4 stitches = 1 inch in stockinette stitch

6 rows = 1 inch

Finished Size

19 inches in circumference and 12 inches from top to bottom

Pattern Notes

S2KPO: Slip 2 stitches together knitwise, knit 1, pass the 2 slipped stitches over the knit stitch. (This makes a centered double decrease.) 


Cast on 89 stitches. 

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

Set-up Round: Purl all stitches. 

Round 1: K43, S2KPO (see Pattern Note, above), knit to end of round. (87 stitches)

Round 2: P42, S2KPO, purl to end of round(85 stitches) 

Round 3: K41, S2KPO, knit to end of round(83 stitches) 

Round 4: P40, S2KPO, purl to end of round(81 stitches) 

The next section is worked back and forth in short rows, building from the point of the bandana to the back of the neck. You'll be turning the work between each row instead of continuing around the needle. For a great Short Row Tutorial, click here!

Row 5: K42, wrap and turn. 

Row 6: P3, wrap and turn. 

Row 7: Knit to the wrapped stitch, knit the wrapped stitch making sure to pick up the wrap, k1, wrap and turn.

Row 8: Purl to the wrapped stitch, purl the wrapped stitch making sure to pick up the wrap, p1, wrap and turn 

Repeat Rows 7 and 8 eighteen more times. Don't worry if you lose count; you'll know you're done when you wrap and turn the stitches right next to the marker!

You've finished the short rows! 

Next Round: With the knit side facing you, knit to the marker, making sure to pick up the wrapped stitch.

Continue with the knit side facing you, working again in the round. Knit 2 rounds, picking up the wrap of the first stitch.

Set-up Round: K18, place marker, k45, place marker, knit to end of round. 

*Decrease Round: Knit to two stitches before the first marker, k2tog, slip marker, knit to the next marker, slip marker, ssk, knit to end of round. (2 stitches decreased)

Knit 3 rounds (or for 1/2 inch).

Repeat from * five more times. (69 stitches)

Next Round: Purl

Next Round: Knit

Repeat the last 2 rounds once more. 

Bind off very loosely in purl. (I like to go up several needle sizes to bind off. In this case, I bound off with a US #15 needle.)

Weave in your ends and block as desired. Blocking isn't strictly necessary for this project, but it significantly improves the drape and softness of the yarn. I'm personally convinced that Soak wash makes anything short of a Brillo Pad feel next-to-the-skin cuddly!

Enjoy your Bandana Cowl on all the brisk fall days to come! --Erin

Reader Comments (257)

Thanks a lot ! I love it ! Is it possible to traduce it on my french blog ?
October 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLa Z'idiote
Thank you for the pattern! This cowl is sooooooooooo wonderful! I can't wait to give it a try!!
October 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLovestitch
Lovely! I imagine it looks very stylish on.
October 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaperDollyGirl
I startet the Project yesterday, but had to give up At the point where you are supposed to repeat Row 7 and 8. How is it that there Remain three stitches between the wraps, i would think that every row adds stitches between the wraps, and three is what you Start with, isn't it? Please help, i Love the cowl :-)
October 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBirgit
The 3 stitches that remain are the unworked stitches that haven't been knit as part of the short rows. So, at the end of the short row section you should have 78 stitches that you've worked back and forth, and 3 unworked stitches in between.

Thanks so much for the question!
October 13, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
love to see it on a model!
October 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercarolyn
Thanks so much for posting this beautiful pattern! I have one question though. The notes call for a US 10.5 needle, bulky yarn, and a gauge of 4 stitches to the inch. If I was to substitute with a worsted yarn, would I want to go down a needle size or so? I was looking at several different bulky and worsted yarns at my LYS, and the suggested needle sizes on the bands were rarely as large as 10.5. I'm a little nervous that I will buy a yarn I love and the needle size for the pattern and end up with something that looks like a hammock. :)
Thank you in advance for your thoughts!
October 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Every knitter's gauge is different, so it's always important to do a gauge swatch before you start your project. You should use whatever needle size gives you 4 stitches to the inch in your chosen yarn. I would steer clear of any yarn that has more than 5 stitches to the inch on the ball band if you want to avoid an open look, but if you double check your gauge before you should be all right!

Thanks for the great question, enjoy your project!
October 14, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Love it! Thanks for sharing :)
October 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa M
I love this cowl and it seems perfect for what I was looking for as a gift for my father-in-law. He is an avid horseback rider and I think this would be great, however, I crochet and don't knit. Any thoughts to do a pattern in crochet? I would be all over that!

Such a lovely pattern!

October 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
Hi, I love this pattern, but am stuck! On rows 2 and 4, both purl rows, do you move the yarn to the back, as if to knit, before you s2kpo? I've never seen a slip knitwise on a purl row before (I'm fairly new to knitting!). Thanks!
October 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelly
LOVE this! Can't wait to make it in a few different colors! Keep the great patterns coming!

October 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCaitlin
At first I was not overly impressed as cowls go.....but as I read the pattern and really looked closely , its design is quite ingenious!! and how nice not to have it bunch up at the back of the neck. How fabulous.!! I have a gorgeous skein of ECO just awaiting.Thank you.
October 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
I love this cowl, but I think I did something wrong. I finished the short rows and I am starting on the decreases. The pattern says knit for 11" from point of cast on to the top to begin cast off, I am at 13" now! I have difficulty with short rows and wonder if I did too many short rows.

Also, do you think this would knit up nice in worsted weight and what size needles would you use?

Hoping you can answer my questions!
October 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

For the s2kpo you do move the yarn to the back before you slip the stitches, even on the purl rows. Doing it this way creates the pretty line of decreases at the point.

Thanks so much for the great question!
October 19, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thank you very much for this beautiful pattern, I loved, I will make several as Christmas gifts.
October 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercarlynx

I'm sure you've done nothing wrong! Every knit has both a horizontal gauge, in our case 4 stitches per 1 inch, and a vertical gauge which isn't crucial for this pattern. Your yarn, and tension as a knitter, is most likely giving you a taller stitch than I achieved with the Swan's Island Bulky. Your cowl will be a little bit longer when finished than mine, but that will just add to the lovely draping at the neck when you wear it!

If you'd like to substitute another yarn I would recommend doing a gauge swatch to decide what size needles will give you 4 stitches per 1 inch. Every knitter, and every yarn, is different, but many worsted weight yarns will knit 4 stitches to 1 inch on US 8, 9, or 10 needles.

Thanks for the question, enjoy your cowl!

October 20, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I just finished my cowl and I could not be more delighted with my new winter gear. Thank you for your clever and hip pattern!
October 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermelissa
I was confused by the short rows ... stopped by the store yesterday. Perhaps the instructions should be revised to say something like " Repeat rows 7 and 8 until 3 stitches remain at the back between wraps".

Now that I got that straightened out, I'm all set. Cowls for Christmas!
October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCelie
Phew, thank goodness for comments :-) I pulled the stitches out two times and then just staaaaared at it after 8 rows... waiting for the lightbulb to go off. "Until three stitches remain" UNWORKED! Now I'm loving this, Merry Christmas to all!
October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStacey
You guys, I'm so relieved I was not the only one with the "until three stitches remain" part. I've finished my cowl now and it's perfect.
October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBirgit
Yesterday I started the cowl, but I'm not from needle at 6 I understand nothing of stabbing three purl and then run. please help me
October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBabs
I see others have finished the cowl with no problems, but with an odd number of stitches in total, and an odd number of stitches worked between the wraps in the short rows, it seems there would always be an even number of stitches unworked. Therefore, when finishing the short rows there would either be 2 or 4 stitches unworked and not 3. (odd + odd always = even!) Please clarify!
October 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterConnie
Thank you so much for sharing! Nice pattern!
October 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTaty
I too had trouble with the short rows and, after reading the comments, ended up starting over. Even so, it just took two sittings to complete my cowl and I couldn't be happier. Definitely the fastest knitting project I've ever done. I did improvise a little with the decrease rows at the end as I was running out of yarn and didn't want to have to buy more. I LOVE this cowl. Will definitely be making more as gifts!
October 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon
Thank you so much for the 3 stitches left question, I couldn't figure it out at all so I came on here and there was the answer (makes perfect sense now that I understand!) Thank you, I'm almost done now!
October 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather M
I love the look of this pattern! I made it through all the tricky bits, but I have run out of yarn! Uggh! I had 100 y. to start with and I'm just on the second decrease. I'm really disappointed and have to now decide whether to frog or spring for another skein- and end up with lots of left overs of it. I think 130 yards would be safer for this pattern. Do you agree or did I mess up?
October 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterheather
I love this pattern!

I have started, but I need some help. How many short rows are you supposed to do? I'm so confused about the 3 unworked stitches. If you wrap one, then knit or purl the next, where does the 3 come in? I feel like I'm not leaving any room inbetween?

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
Hi! I just finished this cowl, thank you so much for the pattern! It's absolutely gorgeous.
November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
I was so excited to find this pattern. I have been looking for a cowl that was knit simple so I could show off some $$$ mixed fiber artisan yarn I bought at a fiber fair. This is even more perfect because when I had finally given up on ever finding one I handed my girlfriend a book of patterns & told her to pick a few & I would make something up. Your pattern fits right into what she was looking at I couldn't have gotten any luckier! This will be my 5th girlfriend cowl (Christmas gifts) & they have all managed to represent their views one way or another! I'll send a picture when I'm finished of your beautiful pattern sprinkled with a multitude of different fibers! Thanks!
November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJere' Mullen
I just have to say THANK YOU! Once I realized that you work all the stitches flat for the short row portion, creating a large V shape til you only have 3 St remaining, I'm so hooked. I never did short rows but after this I'm loving the effect. As I knit I'm mentally combining all my leftovers to create these bandanas. I even want to make one for my dog. Brilliant and useful. Thanks again. I used Jacqueline Fee's sweater workshop for short row help. So simple when you get it. I made 2 with leftover brown sheep worsted using a #7 knitpicks harmony in black. Classic. Thanks again
November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarion
Just keep doing short rows as if you were working flat and you'll have 3 Stitches remaining. Then continue in the round with the decreases. Hope this helps
November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarion
I like the simplicity and shaping. The color and basic design make it something I think most men would be comfortable with, and here in Texas, they take their masculinity very seriously. Looks great.
November 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebby
I wonder how you managed to end the short rows section with the 81st you start with since you are suposed to knit the wrap ? It is thus adding a stitch each round if I am correct ? I am done with the short row section and I have 107 st ... I guess the 26 additional st are the knitted wraps ...
Thanks !
November 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhelen
Helen, if you click on the short row tutorial and scroll down you will see a really nice method on knitting the wrap and stitch together so it really only comes out to 1 stitch kn itted or purled. It took me some fiddling but it can be done.
Really nice cowl !! I used ECO and it looks grand. Yippee!!
November 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Love how easy this is! Short rows are my favorite. It took me a second to realize I was suppose to knit the short rows leaving those three unworked stitches but I eventually got it. I'd just make that a little more clear in the pattern notes and it'll be perfect! I'm probably going to make multiples of this for Christmas presents. It knits up so quick! I love warm but un-bulky cowls.
Thumbs up!

November 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate
I have never done short rows before and have only been knitting for about a year. I am a little lost. I followed the short row tutorial and the comments. I understand that you keep going until there are three unworked stitches remaining but how can I tell which stitches have been "worked"? I have to put the stitch marker after the wrapped stitch too because it is difficult for me to see it.
November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLori
Connie's post about the number of stitches left once all the short rows are worked is accurate as far as I can tell. I worked and re-worked that section trying to get the 3 stitches as directed. I don't see how it's possible. Four works though and that's what I went with....
November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCrafty Farmer
I love the pattern and admit I haven’t studied it but at a glance it appears as if you only decrease on one side and not the other? The cowl appears symmetrical, but I can’t really tell from the images. Am I missing something? I also thought about adding a cable in the middle from the center point. I would determine the width of the cable and then put it in the middle starting 89 stitches cast on. I would not add more stitches just change the pattern. How do you think this will affect the drape of the cowl?
November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

Short rows can definitely be a little tricky at first, but don't let that discourage you! When you're knitting your short rows there will be a little gap between the wrapped stitch at the edge of the short row, and the next unworked stitch on the needle. I would suggest that you place a locking stitch marker on each wrapped stitch, moving it with every row, so that you can see the division between worked and unworked stitches.

Another trick that will work with this pattern is to count the rows from the cast on edge. Starting at the cast on edge, an unworked stitch will only have five rows, where any worked stitch will have six or more rows.

Thanks for the great question, I'm sure these tips will help plenty of knitters who were confused by the short rows!
November 17, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

The decreases happen on both the right and left side of the back of the neck, but there are no decreases on the front of the cowl. One side has K2tog decreases, and the other SSK decreases creating two lines angling toward one another at the neck.

I love your idea for a cable! I would wait until the short rows section before starting the cable due to the decreases in the garter stitch border, but I think it would be a great addition to the design! The cowl is already densely knit, so the addition of a dense cable will not significantly change the drape of the cowl. The neck of the cowl does have a tendency to droop open a little, so I might consider working your cable over a k1, p1 rib to make it reversible.

This is a wonderful idea, thank-you so much for sharing it!
November 17, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I've read all these comments carefully because I was having a couple of problems following the pattern. I think Lisa (Oct 19) was having the same problem as me - the cowl seemed too long. Then I realised that I had been omitting to do another K1 (or P1) after picking up the wrapped stitch. So I went back to the beginning (nearly), started again and now it looks much better. Now that I finally got it, I hope to make several before Christmas. It's a lovely pattern and looks good and cosy in a nice, soft wool.
November 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
I'm new to knitting, and just maybe, this pattern is too advanced for me, BUT I LOVE IT and would like to learn w\t.
Row 5, knit 42 sts, w/t, do I go back to the beginning of the round to my marker, or do I go back 3 sts? I have watched your great tutorial on short rows and I think I have it except I don't know where to go once I've wrapped/turned.
Sorry if this sounds like a dumb question.
November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDee
Do you also crochet? And could this pattern be translated into a crocheted patter? I love this cowl, but I don't know how to knit. Thanks.
November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
Hi Sarah-

Thank you for your interest in a crochet version of this pattern. It's not on the docket right now but we'll keep it in mind going forward. In the meantime all of our crochet patterns can be found here:

Thanks you for your question!
November 21, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
This is a wonderful pattern!! You mention Soak wash at the end - is that a brand name of soap? I have some not-Quite-as-rough-as-Brillo-Pads wool that could use a soft influence!!
November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVicki K
Hi Vicki K-

Soak is indeed the brand name of our favorite phosphate free fiber cleanser! It's available here:

It really does soften things up and as an added bonus it smells great!

Thanks for your question!- Molly
November 21, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I also do not know where to go once I w/t. Do we go back to the beginning of the row?
November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnne
Another thank you for a terrific pattern. I'm on my second and loving it. It has also provided some much needed practice with short rowing. I've found it helpful, when doing rows 7 and 8 for the first time, to place a stitch marker at each end ( after your first and second wrap and turn). This separates the three unworked stitches and is an easy way to see the true center of the scarf. They can be removed after the short rows are finished.
November 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMargie S
Love this pattern. But in my usual manner of making life a bit difficult, I have decided I have to make it out of a gorgeous Madeline Tosh Merino DK (in the most gorgeous colour imaginable), which is a bit lighter weight. I could add a strand of something else (kid silk haze?) to make it bulk up, but would really like to use only the Tosh. My question is this; do I make it more open to get the gauge, or do I add more stitches so it comes out the correct size?
Thinking I could add 10% more stitches, and would I then keep the same number of decreases? Hmmm... any help would be greatly appreciated.
November 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Z

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.