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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)

I am making this out of Cascade Eco Duo, alpaca & merino in zebra. It's going to be gorgeous.

I do have a question about the wrapped stitch. In row 7 (& 8) after I knit the wrapped stitch together with the wrap then K1 (or p1)... am I supposed to wrap the k1 (p1) stitch OR slip the next stitch and wrap that?

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

Thanks for the pattern and thanks for posting all the great tips. Very helpful. Melissa
November 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
It's like the most beautiful epiphany when this pattern around rows 7&8 makes sense! Phew! Love learning new things in knitting!!
November 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterColleen
Hello i love your cowl pattern and its great i made 3 so far but my points in the front are not long like yours is and the back isnt as short is it 7 and 8 row where im not knitting enought? thats the only part i had trouble in but i kept trying to see if i can get it..the ones i made look good but not like yours :(
November 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
Hi. This is beautiful! Thank you. I love the short rows, I am doing them correctly and they are working out beautifully! The problem is that even after reading the pattern about 5 times and the comments about 5 times, I still don't know when to stop doing rows 7 and 8.
I am so sad and so frustrated. How many rows is it exactly total before I stop?
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi
To everyone with unanswered questions about this project-

Erin is re-working this pattern at the moment to make it a bit more clear and the new and improved version should be up within a week.

Thank you so much for your questions and for your patience.

- Molly
December 1, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Could someone answer Dee's and Anne's question?

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?
December 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterT
I'm really enjoying this recipe for warmth, thank you, Erin and thanks to the commenters who helped me figure out the short rows. The markers really helped. I've arrived at the decrease point: my question is why does it say S2KPO above and SSK down in the directions. It looks like SSK is the correct choice and I don't see any mention of the other direction below. Eagerly awaiting the rewrite!

Jane in Austin
December 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJane
Jane in Austin: The S2KPO applies at the center point during the short rows only. The SSK and K2tog occur only during the decrease rows. Sounds to me like you are doing it correctly. Liss
December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
This is delightful! I've made 2 already with Eco Duo yarn on size 9 needles.

Knitting nerd alert. I have a question about a choice made in pattern writing: Why did you decide to pick up the wrapped stitch? Until I got the hang of it, this step was very confusing and I'm not sure what it adds to the pattern. How would simply knitting through that stitch, without picking up the wrap, effect the pattern?

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentererin
I'm glad there is going to be a revised version, because I'm terrible at short rows.

After looking at the picture, and already having knit one of these (it turned out...alright...the boyfriend likes it) I think what's happening is this:you're doing a bazillion short rows. If you study the picture carefully, you'll see that the bandana triangle portion is actually very, very long. It appears to me that you continue working short rows until you almost have circled back around again. As in, to the last three stitches by the marker for your round. That's a lot of short rows. And eekgads, I'm hoping I'm right, because I'm going to need to frog the newest cowl I just started, haha.
December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I just finished my short rows. They look great! Should my cast-on stitch marker be between them, though (in the 3 unworked stitches)? Because it's not. I'm a little confused about where I should begin my set-up round of K18. Should this start at my cast-on marker (which, might accidentally not be in the middle of my piece--it has some short rows beneath it) or should it start somewhere else? Thanks. I love this pattern.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermackenzie
Has this question been answered?

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?
December 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
hey, so I am new short rows and this is the first time that I have ever done them. So for someone who has completed this pattern, how many times did you repeat rows 7 & 8?
December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline
Sorry. Short Row newbie here....

If I am understanding this correctly, I will work the short rows gradually increasing as I go until there are only 3 stitches remaining from the original row? I am assuming this forms the V or the banada portion of the cowl? I am just trying to get a mental visual here. Thanks.
December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle
Thanks for all the questions!

Diane Z: Tosh DK is a beautiful yarn! I think a 10% increase in stitches at a tighter gauge (around 5-6 sts/inch) would be great, but a slightly floppier version at the 4 sts/inch would be lovely as well. If you increase the number of stitches at a tighter gauge you might want an extra round with decreases to tighten it up on top.

Melissa: Short rows can be a little tricky! For your specific question, the wrapped stitch will be the one after the stitch you have knit or purled. Be sure to check out our Short Rows Tutorial:

Emily: I would suggest blocking and pinning your cowl to dry to get a more pronounced point. Different yarns and knitters can have very different row gauges and that can change the depth of the point. Also, blocking is an amazing way to even out and finish off your projects!

Danielle: You have it! The short rows create the "V" shape, which wraps nearly all the way around the neck, and the circular knit rounds form the neck of the cowl!

Beth: After you knit 42 and w&t you only knit back 3 stitches. This is the short row section, you won't return to the beginning of the round until you have only 3 stitches remaining at the back of the neck (where your beginning of round marker is located).

Erin: This is such a great question! Short rows allow you to work back and forth within your knitting without creating holes, if you simply knit over your wraps without picking them up small holes are formed.

Thanks again for all the questions, enjoy your knitting!
December 17, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Is the revised pattern on line yet?
December 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPAL
I'm wondering about the availability of the revised pattern too. How will we know the difference?
Margie S.
December 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMargie S
still confused about the 3 sts between the wraps, wrap and turn. Otherwise, have figured this out and love it.
December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie
Hello! I have 2 skeins of Jade Sapphire 12-ply cashmere that I would *love* to use for this, but even with a size 9 needle I am getting closer to 3.5" per inch... I am happy to keep going down needle sizes, but would I run the risk of ending up with too *dense* a knit?

Thanks much for any advice you can give!
December 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina
I'm feeling like an idiot. In row 5, we wrap a stitch. Then we do another on row 6. So in row 7 when you say "knit to the wrapped stitch" which stitch are you talking about and was I supposed to knit all the way around to it? I'm new with short rows and feel like there are key words missing from these instructions. I'm going to rip out yo row 4 and try again.
December 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoy
Is the revised pattern available yet?
December 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMimi
I figured it out!! It looks like the new parroted hasn't been posted yet, so all of you who are tired of almost crying over this parrten, here is what she doesnt say:
In row 5, knit the 42, wrap and turn to you're purling back the other direction
In row 6, purl 3, wrap and turn so you're going back the other way again.
In row 7, knit to the wrapped stitch in row 5. Knit the wrap + the stitch. Knit one more stitch, then wrap the next stitch and turn again.
In row 8, purl to the wrapped stitch you created at the end of row 6. Purl the wrap + the stitch, knit one more then wrap the next and turn.
** It's important that you knit/purl the wraps correctly so that you don't accidentally increase your stitches. The tutorial is spot on.**
The language that's missing is that you'll continue these short rows--growing the rows wider and wider--until you reach the back of the work, where your stitch marker is, in order to create the yoke (see the bottom photo--it helps!).

The other comment about "a gazillion" is nearly correct, which may be why the author didn't count them to guide us. I'm not finished, but I'm guessing it's about 40.

Good luck! It really is a beautiful thing.
December 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

I just knit a Bandana Cowl in 12-ply Cashmere, it turned out great! The cashmere is still pleasantly dense at 4 sts to the inch!

December 28, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I made 3 of these for Christmas presents, it is a wonderful pattern. I feel I must have missed something as i just did the short rows until I thought I had done enough. I still don't understand the "3 stitches remaining", but may understand on my 4th cowl after reading these comments.
December 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersusan
The yarn I used has a horizontal gauge of 4 stitches per inch. What is the VERTICAL GAUGE (rows per inch) of the yarn you are using? If I follow your directions with my yarn, it will be much longer.
January 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSandy
I'm finishing the cowl & love it...have been reading all these comments & have never heard the answer to my problem. When you are measuring for the 11"...where are you taking the measurement? From the back (where your first cast on stitch was) or from the tip of the cowl (which is about the middle of your original cast on stitches)??? I've finished the decreases & have about 15" in length from the tip of the cowl but only 7" from the beginning of the original cast on. Do I measure from the beginning of the original cast on (for the entire project) which would be the back of the cowl...where the 3 unworked stitches were? This sounds right but makes the total length of the cowl very long. Thanks so much! I am going to make many more...they glide off the needles! Pat
January 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat D
ok - i really love this cowl. Tried those short rows and really dont' understand how many times to do row 7 & 8 either. Is the revised version available? I should be able to do this - I knit socks for gosh sakes. How dumb can I be?
January 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth
Like several others I have had trouble with the short rows section. Am I correct in thinking that the wording for rows 5- 8 should include a note to say that you need to continue to knit or purl around to the beginning marker each time after the wrap and turn. Is this correct? Maybe it's obvious to most knitters, but I'm a new knitter and new to short rows.
I may have this all wrong and would like to see the new pattern when it's available, but from my efforts so far this seems to me to be what I will try next.
January 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterep
Not quite. You need to knit to the wrapped stitch on the previous row. Then knit it and the wrap (at the same time, see tutorial if you need to). Then knit 1, then wrap the next stitch. Now turn the work around and go the other way, knitting all the way to the next wrapped stitch at the other end of the previous row. Do the knit + wrap, knit then wrap set again and turn. You're adding 4 stitches per short row every time you turn, so that eventually you will have elongated the to the back of the work where your stitch marker is. Leave 3 stitches unincorporated in these short rows and then continue with the pattern. You'll have knit about 40 short rows and made up the saggy part of your cowl. Reach back out if you need help. --joy
January 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoy
i did not see what size needle to use. I'm sure you knit with a round needle. Love the looks of it. Can't wait to knit it. Thanks, Maria
January 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie
I adore this pattern. I wasn't lucky enough to have any experienced knitters to teach me to knit, but I was bound and determined to teach.myself. Though the tutorial here is wonderful I have found youtube to be an invaluable resource as you can see it in action. It really helped with the short rows. I have now completed two cowls as gifts and am working on a third for myself. Thanks for the beautiful pattern.
January 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersamm
Okay, I must be the most backward knitter..........I understand the short rows BUT I am having trouble with the centered double decrease or S2KPO on the purl side. I can't get it to look right. I gather I bring the yarn to the back and then slip the two stitches knitwise, but then I'm I just KNIT the next stitch before passing the two seems to leave a long bit of yarn that shows on the knit side, or do I then bring the yarn forward and purl the next stitch and pass the two stitches over that. Does this make any sense? Can someone help me please?
January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLouise
The pattern says that the finished length is 12 inches from top to bottom. I have to assume that this measurement is along the BACK of the cowl and not the FRONT where the tip is. I think I have the same question as Pat D on Jan 3rd as far as measuring is concerned. Please clarify.
January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSandy
Hello everyone!

The revised version of the Bandana Cowl pattern has been posted! It now includes details like the row gauge and how many short rows are worked. The pattern has also been edited to help those of you who are using yarn that has a slightly taller row gauge than the Swan's Island Bulky.

Thanks for all the great comments, they helped so much with the revisions!

January 9, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
A few of you have open questions that I think will be answered by the pattern revisions, but I want to give you a direct answer as well.

Susan: I'm glad you've made so many cowls! You're going to work a total of 38 short rows, which is nearly all the way around the cowl. The pattern has been edited to take out the confusing "3 stitches" wording!

Sandy: The row gauge is 6 rows to 1 inch in the Swan's Island Bulky. This particular yarn knits up just a little shorter than the other yarns in this gauge that I've tested, which is why some of the cowls have been turning out a bit longer than the original. The pattern has been updated to account for the many different yarns that are being used for this project.

Pat D: I measured from the pointed tip at the front of the cowl, but the pattern has been changed so that you're measuring from the decreases at the back of the cowl.

Louise: With the S2KPO you will always knit the third stitch after the 2 slipped stitches. There is a small bar of yarn across the back of the decrease, similar to a thick purl stitch, but because you're working in the round this is on the inside of the cowl and won't be seen.

Thank-you all again for the questions!

January 9, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Stylish - elegant - a beautiful design! Thank you!
January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
My first day on a real newbie. Also, not a very proficient knitter, but do okay with simple projects. Can't wait to try the Bandana Cowl. Have been reading all the comments and decided to wait for the revised version which is out now. How do I find it? The version I come up with still has the October 11 date listed, not the January 9 date. Is this in fact the corrected version??? Thanks, Menna
January 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermenna847
Hi menna847-

This is the revised pattern. We added an update to the story to make it more clear.

Thank you so much for the great question!
January 11, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I'm just wondering what you mean by "pick up the wrap"? As it is, I think I am "picking up the wrap", as in, knitting it as its own stitch, which means I am increasing during the short rows. If I'm not supposed to be doing this, am I supposed to be knitting one stitch plus the wrap all-in-one, as if I were decreasing? Thanks! I will go back and read the comments and see if I can't find the answer.
January 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranna
Pls introduce aversion for tots and young kids. Love this for my 2 yr old. I won t have to worry about it being on too tight and scarf ends dragging on the floor. Plus I can use a cashmere for his sensitive skin. Please. Thank you!
January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSandy
Hi Sandy!

We don't have any plans for a smaller version at this time but thank you for the comment. You could try it with a much smaller yarn (like the 2 ply cashmere) to make it smaller without really altering the patter.

Thank you for your comment- Molly
January 12, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

When working short rows you knit the wrap together with the wrapped stitch, this keeps the stitch count the same. Our Short Row Tutorial is great, you can find it here:

Short rows can be tricky at first, but it sounds like you're getting the hang of it!

Thanks for the comment! -Erin
January 12, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I'm still so lost and frustrated! If I work the short rows (7 & 8) 18 times each (36 rows) plus the two times I had already done that (making 38 rows total) I don't have any stitches unworked. It takes me straight to wrapping the stitches on either side of my beginning of the round marker. If I stop earlier, I never have 3 stitches, as so many people have discussed. I always have an even number on either side of my wraps. Which I think Connie mentioned a while back, but still doesn't seem to have been clarified. If you have 81 stitches, and keep a consistent even number in-between the wraps, then an even number should be on the outside of the wraps, right?
January 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
Oops, sorry, on my last post I meant to say keep a constant odd number in between the wraps.
January 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
I've done two of these this week, and I've run out of yarn for BOTH of them! I'm really frustrated that I've had to make trips back to the yarn store for more, even though I swatched and measured carefully. I just checked the Ravelry page for this pattern, and it lists the yarn requirements as 160-200 yards. Will you consider updating the pattern here to reflect that?
January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
Just a quick measuring question: My gauge is slightly off (5 stitches/in in Eco Due Zebra), so, I want to keep an eye on the length. I'm assuming from the revised pattern that the short rows end up measuring a little more than 6 inches (from tip to needle)?

Thanks for the lovely pattern!
January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
Kathy- With the revised pattern you will be working short rows until there are no unworked stitches. This creates a little bit more width on the point.

Emily- My original cowl was made with less than one skein of Swan's Island Bulky, which is 130 yards per skein. By weight I had about 30 yards left over. Every knitter is slightly different, as is every yarn, and a combination of those slight differences in gauge as well as cast on and bind of technique could make this pattern use more yarn. I would suggest trying the Swan's Island Bulky for a sure fire one skein project, it's a gorgeous yarn!

Robin- I love the Eco Duo, and I love that you're adapting the pattern to a different gauge! The short row section on my cowl is 6-7/8 inches measured from the tip, but I've seen both shorter and longer versions that have looked great!

Thank-you all for your questions!

January 17, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I have looked at alot of the comments but have not found the answer to my question. I think I made it through the wrap stitches okay but when you start decreasing you have "k2tog" which I understand but I do not understand the "ssk" after knitting to the "45th" marker and moving the marker over. Can you please tell my what you mean by ssk. Thank You I am looking forward to finishing this cowl.
January 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWaltine
On the current pattern it does not talk about working short rows until there are three unworked stitches. I found that info helpful so I could just knit without counting. There was no way I could do rows 7 and 8 thirty six more times...maybe do thirty six more rows...that was very confusing. I ran out of yarn so I started over using a size 8 on the baby alpaca grande.
January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharon I
Waltine- SSK is a left-leaning decrease, that leaves you with one few stitch than you had to begin with. We have a great tutorial here on the Bee!

I hope you enjoy your cowl!

Thanks! - Erin
January 19, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

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