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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)

Hi, have already made 2 and love them! I'm looking at a skein of handspun yarn on Etsy... 92 yards of aran thick and thin. Would this be enough yarn? Thank you!
September 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYuka M.
Hi Yuka-

The thickness of that yarn might work (it's hard to tell without knitting a swatch) but you would need 2 skeins because 92 yards will not be enough.

Thank you for your question!

September 5, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I'm stuck D: So I just finished the short rows and did the two knit rows, but now it seems like my work has turned and I have to knit on the wrong side for the set up round row.. I'm severely confused ._. otherwise I really love this pattern
September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSierra
I have 3 questions-
1- On the decrease rounds - do I do the 3 knit rows after each decrease round?
2- On the ssk in the decrease - do I slip the stitches as if to knit?
3- I'm using worsted weight yarn and a size 9 needle. It's giving me the correct gauge but turning out longer than 12 inches. Is this going to make a huge difference?
And lastly, thank you so much for such a great pattern. I love it and plan on making these for Christmas gifts this year for family back in the Midwest and Northeast. Unfortunately I won't be able to wear one. I live where it never gets below 55 degrees. EVER. So wrapping wool around my neck is not going to work. Ha.
September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJacqulyne
Hi Sierra,

After the short rows, you are again working in the round with the knit side of the fabric facing you. You should never turn your work at this point. If you find that somehow the purl side is facing you, you probably put your bandana down for awhile and when you started working again you accidentally started in the wrong direction. That's my best guess, anyway!

I hope you sort it out, but if not, please let us know if we can try to help you again!

September 25, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Jacqulyne,

Question 1: Yes!

Question 2: You can slip them both as if to knit, although our SSK video tutorial shows you a slightly different way that is a bit neater:

Question 3: It can happen that you get the correct stitch gauge but not the correct row gauge. It sounds like this may be the case for you, but if you like the way your cowl is turning out, I wouldn't worry about it! If you do want to fuss with the gauge, you'll have to experiment with different needle sizes and possibly different yarn.

Thanks so much for all three of your questions and let us know if there's a fourth!

September 25, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
THANK YOU SO MUCH! I watched your short video on SSK. OH MY GOSH! That was so helpful. I've been knitting for years and never knew about that trick. I'm frogging what I've gotten done so far on my cowl and starting over. You guys are great!
September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJacqulyne
For the instructions that read:

*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)

is the repeat a 4 row repeat (in other words the decrease round and three plain rounds repeated 5 times) or is just the decrease row the row that gets repeated 5 times?
September 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
I have one printed copy of this pattern and it says to use a size 10.5 needle and another printer copy that says to use a size 10 needle. Which is correct?
September 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterjoAnn
I am learning.... but must make this now. I purchased the Jade Saphire cashmere Purl Bee. Since it is 8 ply, do I follow the same pattern as is shown for the "bulky" yarn? I understand the "guage" but if it is off by using the cashmere I am sunk. Not advanced enough yet to adjust a pattern. If a pattern is available for the cashmere option I would be grateful! If not, I may need to seek the advice of a local knitting fashionista!
October 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHelen
Hi Helen-

You don't need to alter the pattern at all for your 8 ply cashmere yarn, just follow it as written! Good luck, and please let us know if you have any questions!

October 1, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
These comments have been really helpful to me, so I thought I'd pass along a thought to Sierra. I *think* I might know what happened, because I did a similar thing. I'd assumed I'd be done with the short rows when I picked up the wrapped stitch on the very last stitch on the purl round.

So when I picked up the last stitch on the knit round (thinking I'd then turn around and purl back), I turned it around and realized my working yarn was still on my left needle. This was, of course, because I was at the end of the row... When I looked at the instructions again, I realized I'd actually reached the end of the short rows one row back, and the row I'd just knit was the one marked "Next Round:With knit side facing you..."

If Sierra somehow figured out a way to purl back when she turned, she'd pick up the last wrapped stitch on the purl round and then be headed in a purl direction, not knit...

Side note - picking up the first wrapped stitch when you keep knitting (aka the "last" wrapped stitch of the purl side) wasn't easy but some of the links I found in the comments were helpful. Good luck!
October 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Hi Susan,

Everything after the asterisk gets repeated, so as you say, it is "a 4 row repeat (in other words the decrease round and three plain rounds repeated 5 times)".

I hope this sets you on your way. Please let us know if you have any other questions and thanks for this one!

October 4, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi JoAnn,

The version that says US size #10 is correct, but of course, that is just a suggested size. The needle you should actually use is the one that gets you 4 stitches to the inch in stockinette stitch, which depending on how you knit and what yarn you're using, may be a #10 or some other size close to that.

I'm sorry for the confusion and please let us know if you have any other questions!

October 4, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
This pattern is the greatest! Ive made three so far. The first was for me the other two as gifts. I'm making two more for Christmas.

Your short row tut helped a lot. Finally! I could do short rows without cussing.

All of your tutorials are extremely helpful. Thanks for a great pattern and such an informative helpful site.
November 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTerri
Love this cowl and want to make several. I would prefer to use worsted weight yarn and know that I would have to make pattern changes. Before I try to do this do you have a worsted weight version of this cowl? If not, would you have suggestions for me? I would use no larger than #8 needle.

November 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMargie
When you finish all the short rows and you have two wrapped stitches (facing in opposite directions) right next to the start do you pick up the second wrapped stitch..i have made 6 so far and have had to pick up what looks like a "ladder" of stitches with a crochet hook because i must be doing something wrong with the (knit side facing you) wrap to the left of the I can pick up the first wrap, then do i immediately try to pick up the next wrap or do i do something different?
November 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBecky
Dear Purlbee,
Thank you indeed for this pattern!
I made one for my son and I'm knitting the second one. In both occasions I could not pick up the last wrap on the knit side (first stitch after finishing short rows and starting knitting on the round). I read all comments and posts on the matter that I found but I keep on getting a hole that I solve by making a new stitch (same problem as Will, Laurie and Brownsed...). It does not look great :(
So, I write you to ask whether you could take a picture on how to pick up that wrap. Would that be possible? I would be very thankful!
PS: Sorry for any mistakes, my mother tongue isn't English... Therefore I could not understand how to proceed with the solution posted by Brownsed
November 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen

I have a question about your casting on method. I have just finished making my first of these cowls but found that the first row of purl stitches seemed to create loops between each stitch (it looked like the cast on stitches were coming undone!)... does this sound right or am I doing something stupid?! I used the cable cast on and I've just tried with the regular cast on and it seemed to do the same thing.

Thanks for any help you can offer. Philippa
November 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilippa
Hi Becky,

I agree that there is some looseness in the knitting at that point. When I knit this cowl, I resolved that issue by knitting into the back loop of the first stitch of the round (while picking up the wrap). This took up some of the slack. For me, the looseness is hardly visible, so I hope you have the same results!

Thank you for asking and please let us know if you have any other questions!

November 25, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
HI Philippa,

I almost always start a project with a long tail tail cast on, which doesn't result in the "loops" or messiness you seem to be describing. If you need to review the long tail cast on method, check out our tutorial right here:

I hope it works out! Please let us know if you have any other questions and thanks for this one!

November 25, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Carmen,

It's true that that one wrap is different than the others because you're approaching a wrapped purl stitch with the right side facing you instead of the wrong side. Bronwen seems to have really good advice. While we don't have the resources to photograph it step-by-step, I can try to clarify what Bronwen wrote. He/she says to put the wrap on the left needle (lifting from the bottom up) and then to slip the knit stitch through the wrap and gently off the needle. Put the knit stitch back on the left needle (now with the wrap to the left of it) and knit the wrap and knit stitch together.

Another issue at that point is a little looseness in the bars between the stitches. I help resolve this problem by knitting the wrap and knit stitch together through the back loop which takes up a bit of slack.

Thanks so much for question (in perfect English!) and please let us know if we can help you further!

November 26, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I would like to make the front piece longer, would I have to cast on more stitches to do this, but won't this make the cowl too wide?

Thanks for any advice given! and thanks for the tutorial it really helped!
December 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteranja
Hi Anja,

You could try a couple of things. One would be to work 8 initial rounds instead of 4 by purling the even rounds (2, 4, 6 and 8) and working the S2KPO's on just the odd rounds. And/Or in the short row section, you could wrap and turn the stitch directly after each wrapped stitch instead of knitting (or purling) 1. Both suggestions would maintain the stitch counts as written, so wouldn't widen the finished cowl!

I hope this answers your question and please let us know if you have more!

December 11, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hallo - I made an Italian translation of this project and I'd gladly send it to you if you like.
Thank you so much, it's a great pattern!
December 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSilvia
I really don't understand what row 7 and 8 mean when they say knit to the wrapped stitch? Where is the wrapped stitch? How many stitches to get to it? If anyone could clarify i'd really appreciate it.
December 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucy
Hi, if I want to make it with a thinner yarn, can I adapt the pattern, say, cast on more stitches?
December 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEduardo Lif
Hi Eduardo-

We don't recommend using a different weight yarn for this pattern because it's a bit complicated to adjust. Sorry! Thanks for writing in and good luck with the project!

December 19, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I started the bandana cowl with a different yarn and gauge, and up to the decrease rounds everything went fine. For the decreases I am a bit confused: you have 89 st, and for the decrease set-up round, you divide the stitches 18-45-26 (with the markers in between). Why don't you divide them evenly (22-45-22)? I wonder, because I don't know how to translate it to my gauge. If I understand the reasoning behind it, it would be easier for me to convert the stitches (I cast on 109 st, fyi)
thanks for the pattern!
December 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterleen
I hope to make this ... it's great and thank you very much for the pattern!

You're wonderful!
December 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarny CA
Could i knit this in your super soft merino? If so, any tips on how I would adjust the pattern? Thanks!
December 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
Hi Jennifer-

Unfortunately this pattern is a bit tricky to scale up and down so we don't recommend knitting it in another gauge.

You can see all of our Super Soft Merino projects (including 2 great cowls!) here:

Thank you!

December 30, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Lucy,

The wrapped stitch is the one that you turned the yarn around on the previous row's "wrap and turn". You can identify it by the horizontal loop of yarn around the stitch's base. For a more thorough explanation, you may find our Short Rows Tutorial helpful. It is right here:

Please let us know if you have any other questions and thank you for this one!

December 31, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Leen,

At that point in the pattern you actually only have 81 stitches (having decreased by Round 4 of the pattern from 89 to 81 stitches). So actually, the markers are set up evenly, just the way you would expect: 18-45-18.

Thanks so much for asking! I hope this helps you with your own pattern!

December 31, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Now I feel so absolutely silly even asking this but, regardless, on I press. If I dont have circular knitting needles is this still possible to make? And if so is there any changes to the pattern? Any tips? I'm still fairly new to knitting for the most part
January 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkristina
Hi Kristina-

This project needs to be knit in the round. You could do it on double pointed needles but it will be a lot easier on the recommended circular needles.

We don't recommend this project for beginners as it contains a lot of more advanced skills. Especially if you have never knit in the round before we would recommend you try knitting a hat or simpler cowl before tackling this project. Here is a link to all of our hat patterns:

And here is a link to our cowls and scarves:

We'd be happy to give you more specific recommendations if you'd like. Just let us know!

Thank you!

January 21, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi- I am almost finished with the short rows, and I think I've twisted it somehow... did I do that at the beginning?? It's got sort of an infinity twist to the entire thing and I think I'll have to pull it all out and start over- AGHHH!!!!! But otherwise, it's looking pretty amazing.... How do I avoid doing this error a second time?
January 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
Hi Susan,

This most likely happened when you joined to work in the round. It's very important when you join that you make sure the stitches aren't twisted around the needle anywhere. Double check when you start the second round, and after that, you should be fine!

It's a very common mistake; we've all been there and we'll all be there again! Thanks for asking and good luck the second time!

January 28, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hello Purl Bee,
Thank you for the pattern. Question, my problem is that after the short rows the texture shifted. I looks much tighter. Please advice me.
February 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStella
Hi Stella,

It sounds like you're a loose purler! The short rows are worked back in forth in rows, knitting one row and purling the next, whereas the rest of the bandana is worked in rounds of only the knit stitch. For some knitters the difference can be significant!

I'd suggest that when you're working a stockinette pattern that switches between working flat and in the round, you use either a smaller needle for the flat section or a bigger needle for the in-the-round section (depending on which is giving you the correct overall gauge).

This is not uncommon and is totally fixable, so do not despair! Please let us know if we can help further and good luck!

February 6, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I love this pattern. But unfortunately I cannot download it to save it as a PDF . :( that way I could work on the pattern later when I had time for it.
February 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
HI Jessica-

Sorry to hear you're having this issue. You can save our patterns in two ways:

You can click on the print button and you will get a print friendly version. When you go to print it there is usually an option in the dialogue box to "open in PDF preview" if you click on that you can then save it as a PDF.

Or, you can simply copy all of the info you want from the pattern and paste it into a WORD or text document and work from there.

Thanks for getting in touch about this!

February 10, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Are we supposed to use a US #10 or US #10.5 needle? These instructions say both.

February 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBeginner Knitter
Hi Beginner Knitter-

This pattern suggests using a #10 needle. However needle size is always just a recommendation, what matters is that you are getting the correct gauge so we always recommend doing a gauge swatch before you get started.

Thank you!

February 26, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I want to make this for my son, he is six years old but this would be a great alternative to a scarf for school (no ends to pull), but I am afraid this would be quite large on him and wondered if there is a way to make it in a smaller size.
March 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterANn
I want to use a finer yarn & size 8 needle. Can this pattern be adjusted for this? I cast on 119 stitches to get the same dimensions of 19 in. I've worked thru the double decrease but I'm not sure on how to adjust the short rows. Can it be done on a smaller needle & yarn? Please help I really want to make the cowl.
March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha
Hi Marsha-

We don't recommend using a different weight yarn for this pattern because it's a bit complicated to adjust. Sorry! Thanks for writing in and good luck with the project!

March 9, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Ann,

We haven't written the pattern for a smaller size... yet, but I'd love to make one for my son also, so maybe next fall we'll work on a smaller size Bandana Cowl for the kids!

Thanks for asking!

March 10, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I finished the short rows, and have had some trouble in the past with the weird stitches in the back- picking up the wrapped loops, and loose stitches in the back. I've read through the other comments, and maybe because I'm not familiar with knitting abbreviations, or because I'm a fairly new knitter, not much of it makes sense to me. I also have 83 stitches on my needles as I'm about to begin my first knitted round after the short rows. Anything would help.
Thank you!
March 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarina
Edit to my last post: I have 83 stitches, not 81. Should I just decrease in the back?
March 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarina

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