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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 Carina,

I suggest that you knit the final wrap (together with the knit stitch) through the back loop. This means that instead of inserting the needle to left of the front legs, you put the needle into the stitches to the right of the front legs. Essentially, this twists the stitches and takes up some slack.

As for your 83 stitches... For the Set-Up Round you should K19, place marker, k45, place marker, knit to end of round. Then at the end of repeating from the * five more times, work one more Decrease Round. This should bring your count to 69, right where you want it!

I hope this helps you finish up your cowl. Thanks for your questions and good luck!

March 26, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Are the short rows necessary? i'm a beginner at knitting and was wondering if there was a way to make the scarf without short rows.
April 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClaire
Hi Claire-

They are necessary to give this cowl its shape and while they aren't super hard we don't recommend this pattern for a beginner. Whitney's Springtime Bandana might be a better place to start:

Thank you for getting in touch!

April 7, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Is there any way you could make a tutorial video for this scarf?
April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMolly
Hi Molly-

Thanks for getting in touch. We don't have plans to make this into a video tutorial at the moment but we might consider it moving forward. If you have any specific questions please don't hesitate to contact us here. We try to answer all of them!

Thank you!

April 13, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi! So I think I've mastered the short rows, but I think I'm doing something wrong in regards to the number of stitches between each wrap and turn, because once I finished that section it seems i only did short rows on one side of the cowl - i.e. from the middle point to the beginning marker, not all the way around.

am i counting wrong somehow? do i go all the way around the round before i get to my wrap and turn stitch? for some reason the instructions aren't resonating and some clarification on this point would be really helpful!
June 19, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermeg
Hi Meg,

Are you knitting in the round while you're working the short row section? You shouldn't be... For the short row section, you actually work back and forth in rows, turning the work at the end of each row. So, to begin, you have the right side (i.e. the knit side) of the work facing you. You knit to just beyond the middle of the row, wrap and turn so that the wrong side (i.e. purl side) of the work is now facing you and work to just the other side of the midpoint of the row, wrap and turn, so that, again, the knit side is facing you, ready for Row 7.

I hope this puts you on the right path. If not, please let us know and we'll work it out with you! Thanks for your question!

June 23, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

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