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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)

Hi Sofia-

Each time rows 7 and 8 are repeated you will be working an additional two stitches. So, row 6 was three stitches, row 7 will be five stitches, row 8 will be seven stitches, and so on until you reach the marker.

It can be a bit tricky at first, but you'll get the hang of it!
Thanks for the question!
November 26, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thank you so much for yor answer!!! I did it! Well, it is 2 inches longer but what matters is I figured out how to do it with your help and Joy's (her comment was very helpful too) thanks again!
November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSofia
This is no doubt a great project but I have a basic question and it has nothing to do with the short rows since you have addressed it. My question is related to rows 1-4 and I must admit I don't have the patience to read through all comments to see if it has been addressed. I have made this cowl three times, purchasing the prescribed yarn at your store and I love it. However, I have never been able to figure out how to make rows 1-4 look like the first picture on the blog, as opposed to the fourth picture (the one with a light bluish grey yarn). I like the first picture version much better, so please, let me know how it is knitted so differently!
December 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLouly

The shape of the point in the original Swan's Island version of the cowl is aided by wet blocking. The cowl was washed with Soak wash, then pinned flat on a towel to dry. The pinning and blocking sets a more angular point than simply reshaping the cowl and letting it dry without pinning.

I'm so glad you love the pattern! Thanks for your question!

December 5, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi! This cowl turned out extra beautiful :) It was my first time knitting in the round and helped me learn a lot of new stitches (decreases) and techniques (short rows!). I had one question though: the top trim on my cowl rolls over, did I do something wrong? maybe too tight knit stitches and too loose purl? will blocking help this?

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCerrissa
Hi Cerrissa-

Congratulations on finishing your first project in the round, that's a real knitting milestone! The roll at the top of the cowl will get better with blocking, but won't vanish entirely. If the slight roll really troubles you it can be remedied by added another round or two of the garter stitch edging.

Thanks for the question, congrats again on your first in the round project!

December 6, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Made this in an evening, very easy to knit, in addition to being pretty and comfy. Had to start another one up to get one for my self. Thank you for all the lovely patterns and great tutorials, so easy even for us who's first language isn't english.
December 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJorun
I am so confused, even after reading the comments about my problem. On Row 5 K42, W&T then immediately start Row 6 or knit all the way back around to have a full row complete? If you immediately start Row 6, is this working in a zig zag pattern without knitting all the way back around the needles? Rows 5-8 are soooo difficult to understand even after watching the tutorials. Please help
December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteryummydaisy
This is a beautiful cowl and I'm excited to make it. I am new to knitting and am stuck on the short rows. I hit row 5 attempted to do it and stopped. It says "knit 42, wrap and turn." After that do you knit back to the row marker? For row 6 you "purl 3, wrap and turn". Do you knit back to the marker after that? I am really confused and would appreciate your help. I'm totally stumped. I've watched videos so I know how to do the wrap and turn but not certain what to do after that. It seems as if I'm moving back & forth between 2-3 stitches.
December 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatty
Can't wait to make this! I was also having trouble visualizing the turn & wrap process, as I've never done this before. Since I'm a visual learner, I looked it up on YouTube and found this really helpful video:
Hope it's helpful for others too!
I'm new to knitting & was having a tough time w/the short rows. I found it really helpful to put markers at each W&T (use 2 colors). You'll need 2 markers for the 2 W&Ts per row. It helped me see the widening of the short rows and know exactly where to pick up the wrapped stitch. Also, go to Youtube for a video tutorial of W&Ts. Other than that, follow the pattern directions precisely.
January 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatty
I love the look of this cowl and can't wait to get started. I'm having some trouble though with gauge. I'm having trouble finding a combination of yarn and needle that equal 1 inch with 6 rows of 4; when 4 stitches make an inch, it's 1 and a quarter inch tall by the time I've got 6 rows. A small enough needle to make the 6 rows an inch tall, is too small for 4 stitches to make an inch. So should I just go with the 4 stitches to an inch?
January 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
Hi Rebecca,

Yes, I think that is a good solution! At worst, your Bandana Cowl may be a little long but still cozy and beautiful!

Thanks for your question and good luck!

January 16, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Wondering about the yardage. On Ravelry it says 160-200 yards. On your website it says 100-130. Using the bulky mentioned, what is the yardage requirements?
January 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDonna
I love this pattern! I had my yarn and pattern ready to go when my new needles arrived in the mail yesterday. I started the cowl last night and finished it this morning. I love it, my husband loves it, and it was my first project knitted in the round. :) The tutorial on short rows was great. Thank you!
January 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
Hi there,
I've just found this wonderful pattern. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on making it smaller, for children aged 5-7?


January 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLouise
Hi Donna-

The yardage written in the pattern is correct. It takes 130 yards of the Swans Island Bulky.

Thank you for your question!

January 18, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Louise-

Unfortunately this pattern is not simple to size up or down. However, you might try knitting it at a slightly smaller gauge to get a smaller result.

Thank you for your question!

January 18, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I love this cowl! If I use a size 8 or9 needle do I still cast on 89 stitches? I hop this is not a dum question
January 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNereida
Hi Nereida-

It's certainly not a dumb question!

The needle size doesn't matter as long as you are getting the same gauge listed at the top of the pattern, which is 4 stitches per inch. You can figure this out by knitting a swatch in stockinette stitch. It is very important that you get the correct gauge in order for this pattern to fit correctly. In any pattern the needle size is a recommendation and not set in stone. Whatever size you need to get the gauge is the size to use!

Please let us know if you have any more questions!

January 21, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I think I understand the short rows. I've watched videos and looked at your tutorial. What I don't understand is how the rows increase. You wrap, then end up stitching the stitch and wrap together, so how does that make an increase? Thanks
January 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam
Hi Pam-

The short rows aren't a decrease, you knit beyond it each time to create the shape.

Thank you for your question!

February 2, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
We are wondering on what it means with wrap and turn. Wrap what the yarn around the needle or

February 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrosemary
Hi Rosemary-

There are instructions for wrap and turn here:

Thank you for your question!

February 11, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I made this for my sister last Sunday. It's fast, and works up beautifully. I used some of my handspun alpaca/silk blend & just love it. Now that I've shown it at guild, I'm sending it to her. Hope she enjoys it!
February 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaty-cat
In the updated pattern, you work until you have wrapped the two stitches adjacent to the stitch marker.

In the final turn, (first full circular round), you knit all the stitches, then pick up the wrap on the last stitch. When you cross the stitch marker, you are instructed to pick up the wrap around the first stitch.

This wrap is different because you are approaching it differently than any of the other wraps. Any ideas on how to pick it up? The last two I've made have ended up with a large gap because that wrap pulls away from center. Should I just make sure that wrap is looser? I have tried picking up the bar between and the wrap, trying to counter the pull of the wrap, but all without great success.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. I love this pattern and it makes a wonderful, quick gift.
February 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWill
I love this design and had fun working on short rows for the first time!

Just finished and I'm noticing the bottom edge of mine keeps wanting to curl so the bandana point sticks straight up. I am going to try blocking, but just wondering if there's a reason it would do that? My only though its maybe I cast on too tight?

Anyway, I love this cowl and thank you so much for the pattern!
February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterM. Noelle
Hi Will,

Hmmm... I don't remember having this problem. I think that I treated that wrap like a knit wrap, i.e. I put it on the left needle and knit it together with the stitch. A couple of suggestions I have would be to knit that first stitch through the back loop which sometimes helps to pick up slack. Also, I always back through my finished projects to fix small tension problems. I just pull the loose yarn along the row, until it has been fairly evenly distributed among a bunch of stitches.

I'm sorry I don't have an absolute solution, but I hope these suggestions help!

Thanks for your question!
March 4, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi M. Noelle,

Blocking should help your problem, and yes, perhaps you did cast on a little too tightly. Does the bottom edge feel taut like a rope? It shouldn't... If it does, next time try to cast on more loosely or you can even use a bigger needle to cast on.

Thanks for your question! I hope the blocking solved everything!

March 4, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi there,

I'm a begininer knitter & was able to figure out the wrap & turn thanks to the other users questions & your tutorial. The one thing that i'm stuck on is the amount of short rows to do. I understand that it says eighteen but I think i've gone past eighteen & still haven't reached the first marker from round 4. When you say not to worry if you lose count because you'll wrap and turn the stitches right next to the marker, do you mean the marker from round 4 where we P40, S2KPO, purl to end of round? I'm just hoping that my scarf doens't end up warped :s

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDenise
Thanks for sharing! It´s super cosy and a perfect gift : )
March 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStina
Hi Denise,

You should only have one marker which is the one you placed right after casting on. It marks the beginning of the round.

One thought I have is that the pattern says to repeat Rows 7 and 8 eighteen more times. This means that you're actually working 36 more rows (18 x 2). Could this be the source of your confusion?

Let me know if you're still stuck. We'll try again until you get it right!

Thanks for your question!

March 11, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Has anyone made this pattern for a young boy? I have a seven year old with crazy hair and am looking for something just like this - but I'm guessing this may be a bit big. Could I just go down in needle size??? Thanks so much!
March 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
Thanks for a fantastic pattern! I just had to knit 3 cowls in a row - I love them!

Feel free to take a look here (its in Norwegian):

Greetings from snowy Norway
March 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterG-Anette
Hi G-Annette

Thanks so much for sharing! Your cowls look great, and your blog is super cute!

March 27, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi, I was just wondering if it would be possible to knit this gorgeous scarf up in Merino Worsted wool? And if so, what adjustments I would need to make to needle size and gauge. I love this scarf but I have this gorgeous Malabrigo Worsted weight wool that I want to use. I am a total newbie to knitting and would love some advice. Thanks
April 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKat
Okay. I'm lost on rows 5 & 6. On 5, after I wrap & turn, do I knit the remaining stitches or just move on to row 6? And then after I wrap and turn after the 3 purls on row 6, do i move on to row 7???? And what's all this about leaving 3 stitches???? I guess I just need a more detailed explanation of rows 5-8. I really want to make this!! :)
April 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke
I'm a first timer with the wrap and turn/short rows and your directions are super easy! I picked it up and feel super comfortable with it. Although, I some how managed to build the length of the cowl...not from the point. It seems I added onto the cowl only on the right side, so it is lop-sided and hangs sideways. I have re read the directions 110 times and I don't know what I did wrong, the first wrap and turn happens at the point of the bandana, does it not? (After K42) Then the second at the center of the back of the neck? After purling only 3 purls? I went from a wrap and turn at the point, went back to the center of the back of the neck, wrapped and turned and went back to the point, adding a stitch after each turn? I am not completely finished, but I'm quite sure something has gone wrong! The rest of it looks beautiful, please help me re-do this?
April 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJessi
Hi Kat,

You should have no problem knitting Malabrigo Worsted at 4 stitches to the inch. The only trick is finding the needle that gets you to that gauge...

Please let me know if you have any other questions and good luck!

April 8, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Jessi,

It sounds like you're not wrapping and turning in the proper spots. The first one happens slightly to the left of the point (after knitting 42), and then you turn the work and purl just 3 stitches so that the second wrap happens slightly to the right of the point. Each row you wrap and turn a little bit further from the center point.

I think your only problem is that you purled to the center of the back neck for your first purl-side wrap and turn, instead of just purling 3 stitches. I hope this explanation straightens you out! Please let us know if you need any more help and good luck!

April 8, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Brooke,

For every row, you wrap and turn and then move on to the next row; you do not finish working the row.

As a rule, when you're working short rows, you do not work the entire row. Here's our Short Row Tutorial which might help illuminate the mysteries!

Please let us know if you have any other questions and good luck!

April 8, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I am a German fan of yours and try it now been a week, but I do not succeed. My question: where did I put the marker? Question Two :: Where do I start with the short rows? Is it the focus on S2KPO?
I would appreciate an answer very much.
Best regards from Dortmund, Germany

May 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBettina
Hi Bettina,

You place a marker on the right needle as you join the cast on stitches for working in the round.

The s2kpo is not the short rows section (it is the decrease for the bandana's point). The short rows begin with Row 5.

Thank you for your questions. Please let us know if you have any others!

May 24, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi, I'm just starting this project and had a quick question...after the three set up rounds, but before the short rows, you have a knit row, a purl row, a knit, and a purl. I get why the short rows alternate, since the work is turned, but why are the first rows alternating, if you're working in the round?

I'm one of those freakish knitters who leads with alternating hands and never turns, so sometimes written patterns give me more trouble than other people!
June 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Hi Rachel,

The beginning of the pattern alternates knit and purl rounds because you're creating a garter stitch edge, and garter stitch in the round is made by knitting one round, purling one round.

I hope this clarifies things for you. Please let us know if you have any more questions and thanks for this one!

June 13, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I'm on the short row section and it looks somewhat correct BUT it says to do 18 rows or until you get to the marker. I think I've done about 30 rows and I'm not close to the marker. Any idea what I'm doing wrong? I think my point is going to be super dramatic!! haha
June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Noll
Hi Sarah Noll,

Sounds like you may be on the right track! When the pattern says to "repeat Rows 7 and 8 eighteen more times", that actually means to work 36 rows (18 x 2 = 36).

Does that clarify things for you or are you still feeling like things aren't quite right? Let us know if you need more help and thanks for your question!

July 1, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I'm having trouble with rows 7 and 8. Is it easier to mark the wrap and turn?
July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine
Hi Katherine,

It may be for you! If you're having a hard time seeing the wrap when you get to it, then yes, definitely try marking it with a removable stitch marker or a piece of scrap yarn.

I hope this gets you on the right path. Thanks for asking and good luck!

July 3, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I just finished making this cowl and love it. It took me a bit to get the short rows and I had to rip it once but once I did the whole project moved pretty quickly.

I used Eco Cloud. I was afraid I would going to run out of yarn, but I ended up with enough.

I plan on making a few more for gifts. . All of the comments really helped. thank you for providing it
August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet G

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