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« 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)

How can i count the number of times I worked rows 7 & 8 if I have lost track?
January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMar
I have tried and tried, I still have big holes on the purl side of the wrap and turn. What am I doing wrong????? I have read several tutorials, I seem to be doing it correctly. Is the wrap suppose to be done real tight?
February 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna
Dear Erin and Purl Soho,
I am in love with this pattern! Thank you so much for beautiful accessory.
I also made pattern translation in Russian for my friends.
It can be found here -
Thank you,
~ Iryna
February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIryna B
I love this pattern just a little confused. I see alot of comments about the short rows and how you work them until you have 3 stitches remaining. The pattern that I got on here says to work the short rows, row 7 and 8 for 36 rows. It says nothing about until 3 stitches remain. also my pattern states to end the short rows with a purl row and continues to tell you to knit to the marker. Well in order to knit you would have to wrap the stitch and turn....that isn't the's when you get back around to that wrapped stitch.....what do you do with it? It is facing the wrong direction.
February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie
Thanks for this fantastic pattern, it looks stunning and is so cleverly constructed! I've finished the short rows (my first, phew) and am facing the same issues as Laurie above... I look forward to hearing about how to deal with this wrapped stitch! Thanks
February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBronwen
Okay. I'm a bit unusual in that I learned to use DPNs first and have never used circular needles. Can this pattern be done using DPNs? Do I at some point need to transfer the stitches to single needles in order to work the short rows?
February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen
I may have found a solution for the problem Laurie and I encountered with the stitched wrapped on the purl side & picked up on the knit side:

On the knit side, when I come back around to the stitch that had been wrapped on the purl side, it's a little more fussy, but the same concept. I (a) take my left needle and pick up the wrap (lifting from the bottom up), (b) using my right needle, I gently coax the knit stitch off the left needle and through the wrap, (c) then I place that knit stitch onto the left needle, keeping it to the right of the wrap (which is now on the left needle), (d) knit those two (wrap & stitch) together.

I found this here:

There is still a small hole but nothing major. Hope this helps
February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBronwen
Thank you sooo much for the info! I haven't tried it yet but will when I get off the computer! I'm so excited to find a solution! I really do love this pattern and want to make many more!
February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie
I am making my third one. First two out of Plymouth Alpaca Grande. I had enough of the light gray tweed and some dark gray alpaca bulky from somewhere else to strip another one. It is a little tricky with the short rows but coming out great. We haven't had great winter here in Va but have loved wearing it.
Such a GREAT pattern. Thanks.
February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharon
I just finished my first one and really enjoyed it - I'm a huge fan of short rows and this project is great for self-striping yarn. My question is about the finished circumference. No one else has commented on it so I'm wondering what I missed. It seems you end up with 69 stitches - which at 4/inch is 17.25 inches. I was worried that mine would be too tight so I just knit the last rows not in the round and left a gap. Plus I wanted my end edge to match my beginning with the same number of ridges. I am thinking now that I probably just knit in the round and it would have stretched enough. I plan on making another one very soon so I'll give it a go.

This is a great pattern and we have another month or so of winter so we'll be able to use it this year still!

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
Mar- If you lose track of what row you're on you can count the number of short rows starting from the point of the cowl. Start counting with the first knit stitch at the point, after the garter stitch border, and continue counting upwards until you reach the needles. It's also good to remember that you will eventually be knitting the short rows over all of the stitches in the cowl.

Donna- It definitely takes practice to become comfortable with your tension for short rows! The wraps should be snug, but not pulled exceptionally tight. The goal is for the wrap to be the same approximate size as each stitch, this project is great short row practice as you have plenty of opportunity to wrap and turn!

Laurie and Bronwen- These are great questions, as Bronwen mentioned the method for picking up that last wrap is essentially the same as all the other knit side wraps, it's just a little awkward. The last wrap feels a little tight when you pick it up from the wrong side, but the end result is the same.

Jen- Unfortunately this pattern is really too large to fit on one set of double-pointed needles. I would recommend trying this on a circular needle, you can use the one needle for the entire pattern, and if you're comfortable with double-pointed needles I'm sure circular needles will come naturally to you.

Susan- This is a great question, I'm surprised it hasn't come up before because it was one of my primary concerns when I wrote the pattern! As long as your bind of is very loose the finished cowl will slip on a off without difficulty. As I mentioned in the pattern, I used needles several sizes larger for the bind off and it worked perfectly.

Thank-you all for your questions and comments, the feedback is greatly appreciated!

Thanks! -Erin
February 24, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
hi there! ok, so i don't sew....anything....don't know how (yikes!), would it be possible for you to make me this EXACT one & I pay you for the materials & labor?? :) that would be fabulous! just let me know! thanks!
February 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkelly
Hi Kelly-

We don't do custom knitting but if you'd like to give our retail store a call they might be able to set you up with someone who could do this. Their number is 212-420-8796.

Thank you for your question!

February 29, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Okay, stuck on rows 5-8. On row 7, what does it mean to knit to wrapped stitch? Do I go all the way around? Because on row 6 I just purl 3 and then w/t. I guess just some further explanation of rows 5-8 would be great. Thanks! I l can't wait to finish this beautiful garment!
March 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid
Hi David-

Rows 5 through 8 are building up the point of the cowl using short rows. Row 7 you'll knit the 3 stitches you just purled, then you'll knit the wrap and wrapped stitch together, and then you'll knit one more stitch before wrapping and turning for a total of 5 knit stitches. Each time you work row 7 or 8 you will be increasing the number of worked stitches by two.

Thank you for your question!

March 6, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I've knitted three of these and I love it! All were gifts to friends in Maine, and they love them. Thanks so much for this pattern.
March 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoanD
Heh. So, this is a TOTAL beginner question, but, man, I've now mastered short rows, my cowl LOOKS LIKE A COWL... I'm feeling like a pro.

A pro that's stuck. :)

So I've made it past the decrease round once, I've knit my i/2 inch, and I'm back to the star. All is good, and then -

*Decrease Round: Knit to two stitches before the first marker,

I have no marker. Omg, what does it mean? Will I have this thing on my needles forever?! STAY TUNED!

So my question is, do I follow the same instructions as in the set up row, placing my marker at 18 and 45 each time and finishing the decrease rounds as such, or am I missing something? Anyone? :)
March 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergokkusagi
Hi Gokkusagi,
Congratulations on mastering short rows, they can be tricky! The decrease markers are initially placed after 18 then 45 stitches but are there to mark the decreases themselves, not the number of stitches.
To get back on track if you've lost your markers after working one set of decreases and the 1/2-inch of knitting you will knit 15, knit 2 together, place a marker, knit 45, place another marker, ssk, knit to the end of the round. If you remember to slip your markers every time you come to them you will make it through the remaining decreases without difficulty, you've already mastered the hardest part of this pattern!

Thanks for the great question, enjoy your cowl! -Erin
March 9, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thank you!!! You answered so quickly, I really appreciate that! Well, I finished my cowl and frogged it, do to a few little mistakes. It was great practice, and I'm already back into the short rows on my second try :) I admit, I took out some stash wool and practiced short rows with YouTube a few times to make sure I got the hang of it! The cowl is so cute and cosy. My sister recently adopted, and so I made the new baby a cap, and wanted something to match for mum, so this pattern has been perfect! With the loss of my grandmother, someone has to knit all the mittens and woolens :) There will be a cowl for big brother and dad as well, but my nephew will pick the colour and fibre for them when he visits. Thanks again!
March 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGokkusagi
Beautiful Cowl!
I would love to make this cowl for this Spring.
Can you recommend a cotton yarn that would work with it?
March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
Hi LIsa-

Blue Sky Cotton would work, just make sure to knit a gauge before hand and make sure you're getting 4 stitched per inch. You can see our selection here:

Thank you for your question!

March 22, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I love, love , love this pattern! I have made several so far. I have been reading these posts and have seen that many new to knitting are having trouble with the short rows as well as the wrap and turn stitches. I am a huge fan of You Tube Tutorials for instructions for these. These tutorials have helped me many times with patterns and stitches. It's like having a private tutor right there in your home! Good luck with this pattern it really is easy and you will end up with a beautiful hand knit piece!
March 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie
I am near the end of this pattern and mastered my short rows after a few tear outs. Now I am at the point where it says "Repeat from * five more times" Do I just do the decrease row or does this also include the "Knit for 1/2 inch past the decrease round" as well?
April 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary
Hi Mary!
When you get to the "Repeat from * five more times" section you are repeating both the decrease round and the 1/2 past the decrease round. This last section goes really fast, you'll have your cowl done in no time!

Thanks for the question!
April 11, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thanks so much Erin! I love this pattern :-)
April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary
Thank you so much for this pattern! I've made 3 now and can't seem to stop myself from making more with all different kinds of yarns. (so far I've used tosh vintage in Fathom, a silk/baby alpaca blend in seaspray, and Valley yarn's cold spring in copper canyon, and they're all beautiful!)

One thing I noticed that happened the first time I made it, and this happened to two other women in my knitting group, is that if you knit either consistently through the front or through the back you end up with a texture shift on the stockinette after the short rows. I remedied this by knitting through the back everywhere except when knitting in the round. That is, knit in the back when doing the short rows, but as soon as they're done, knit in the front. This fixed the problem immediately and now the stockinette is as smooth as it appears in your photo. I'm not sure why no one else on the comment board seemed to have this problem (though I didn't read every post, admittedly), but everyone I know did. Anyway, you might want to consider adding this correction to the pattern if you think it will be helpful to others.

Thanks again!
June 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy
Thank you - SO much - for sharing such wonderful patterns!!!
June 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJo
This is such a gorgeous cowl! I just have quick question; is there anyway this could be downed to kids' size? Or if you're too busy, would you have any tips for me to do it myself? Slightly lighter yarn, smaller needles? Any help would be much appreciated, thanks! :)
June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnni
I am having an issue with the 7 and 8 rows......... I do have 81 stitches.....but it seems as I continue to work the 7 and 8 rows one side of the cowl is lope-sided......with exception of the seems I have more stitches on one side of the point than the other.......also it seems like I am running out of stitches to work and turn before I make it to 36 rows......please help.....

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJasmine R
So I have a 29 inch 10 1/2 needle. Would this work with that size?

I'm really excited to make this, but I don't have the correct needle length.

September 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrightsunshinyday
Hi Brightshinyday-

You do need a 16-inch long needle for this project since it's knitted in the round.

Thank you for your question!

September 17, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I love this! i want to make one for my nephew, any idea on how reduce the pattern to so i wont mess it up and make it completely the wrong size for him! any help is much appreciated
September 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKirsten
Thank you for sharing! It's exactly what I need for my toddler as scarves are forbidden at school and playgrounds!
October 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElle crafts
I'm new to knitting so sorry to ask a very stupid question - can I do this on 24" circular needles instead of 16"? And I was thinking of making this with a 4.5-inch/size 8 yarn, thinking it would open up the close pattern a little - do you happen to know how that might affect the stitch count?

Thanks so much - I'm really hoping to try this, it looks beautiful!
October 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline M
I desperatly need help understanding the directions from 4 row 5-8. I don't know how far to knit when it says wrap and turn. Seems a little vague? I really want to make this and have ripped it out several times back to row 5. Please help it is an awesome looking cowl....
October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa
Hi Caroline-

This is a great question! You will need a 16" needle, the top portion of the cowl is only about 20" around so the 24" needle will be too long. The lighter weight yarn will give you a slightly more open knit, floppier cowl. I think it will look great, but be careful to maintain the 4 stitches to 1" gauge and keep the stitch count the same.

Thanks so much for your question!
October 23, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Theresa,

Starting the short rows section can be a little tricky! Row 5 is a set up row to get to the center of the cowl, you will knit 42 stitches before the wrap and turn. Row 6 is the start of the pointed part of the cowl, you'll be building each row by two stitches after this. So, row 6 is purl 3 stitches then wrap and turn; when you get to row 7 you'll knit 3 stitches, knit the wrapped stitch, then knit an additional stitch before wrapping and turning (a total of 5 knit stitches). Row 8 you'll purl a total of 7 stitches before wrapping and turning, row 9 will knit 9 stitches, row 10 will purl 11 stitches and so on.

I'm sure you'll get the hang of, let us know how it goes!

Thanks for your question!
October 24, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
c magnifique pouvez vous m'envoyer les explications en français s'il vous plait en vs remerciant bonne continuation.
October 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternanounh
Hola me gustaria saber si puede poner el patron en espanol no le entiendo muy bien agradecere mucho su ayuda saludos desde Mexico, D.F.
October 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrosario aguilar duran
I'm having difficulty with the wrap & turn rows... I've done 3 sets total (of rows 7 -8), and it seems that every time I try to pick up the wrapped stitch on the purl side, either the wrap or the wrapped stitch (I think it's the wrap) doesn't transfer to the right needle when I purl them together, so I have to slip the loose loop back on the right needle. I was following the Short Rows Tutorial, but since there wasn't a photo of what it looks like after you purl those two stitches together, I don't know if what I'm doing is correct or I'm just messing it up...

I notice now that I've gone a few sets like that, the knit side seems to have some strange loops that jump a row diagonally every other column, I assume from my manual attachment of the loose loop?
October 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBecky
Hello Rosario-

Unfortunately we don't have the ability to translate this pattern into spanish but thank you for writing in!


October 29, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi. Love, love, love this project! Already made my first and plan on making many more for Christmas gifts. I'm in Cali so didn't need the cowl to be as warm. So I made mine out of cotton, and it turned out beautifully. Was wondering if there was any way this pattern could be scaled down for a toddler/baby? I would love to make them for my two kiddos. And thank you for putting up this stupendous pattern!
November 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterL.Collins
Hi L.Collins-

This isn't an easy pattern to scale down and we don't have any plans to offer different sizes at this time (although we will certainly keep it in mind for the future.) You might want to try knitting it in a smaller gauge yarn to get a smaller result.

Thank you so much for your kind words about the pattern!

Best- Molly
November 1, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Ok. Thanks so much for your reply. That's good to know. I will not attempt to scale it down myself then :) Thanks again.
November 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterL.Collins
Any chance you can do a youtube video on how to create this at the different stages? I'm getting completely lost at the short rows and between me and my mates we can't work it out. please help! i love the pattern and really want this cowl, but have started over 3 times now and not having much luck!
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterheather
is there an easier/beginners version that doesn't have the curves and points for someone like me to try out first?
thank you!
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlauren
Hi Lauren-

We don't have an easier version of this pattern but we do have a lot of cowls that are more appropriate for beginners. You can check them all out here:

Thanks for your question!

November 2, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hello Readers!

To anyone that is having a problem with the wrap and turn instruction please check out this great video:

Thank you!

November 14, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I am so stucked in Row 7!

I don't really know what to do, my needle is ready to knit after Row 6 but I don't what direction should I take.

Thank you.
November 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteresther
Hi... I started this beautiful project several times, never being able to finish it... Truth is i don't know a lot about knitting, but watching the pattern I felt that I could do it. So, yesterday I managed it to the 8th row and while moving on, I realized that I was always on the same 3 stitches... I could't move further... What am I doing wrong??? :(((
November 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSofia

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