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« Elegant Granny Style: The Granny Stripe Blanket | Main | Molly's Sketchbook: Father's Day Tie - Updated! »

Whit's Knits: Striped Cotton Cowl

Spring is here on our calendars, but it sure doesn't feel like it here in New York! Everyone is still walking around bundled up in... you guessed it, cowls! They were the word on the street this winter when we brought you the Big Herringbone Cowl, and as we move into spring, cowls are here to stay, now in cool cottons and spring colors. It's really no wonder we love the cowl: no questions of wrapping or tying, no loose ends dragging through mud puddles and no getting caught in subway doors! I'm sold!

And so for spring, I decided to make a cuddly soft cotton cowl because April is no picnic! For the main yarn we chose the superlatively cozy Blue Sky Cotton in the subtly beautiful color, "Drift", a pale, pale gray, almost white. To it we added Olympus's Sashiko Thread in bright, beachy stripes. The simple matte cotton of the Sashiko Thread and the casually natural Blue Sky Cotton conspire to make a no-fuss cowl with a whole lot of style. A little off kilter, a little rustic and a lot charming!


The Materials

Get all the yarn you need with Purl Soho's Yarn for Striped Cotton Cowl kit. It includes...

  • 3 skeins of Blue Sky's Cotton, 100% Cotton. This color is "Drift".
  • Olympus's Sashiko Thread, 100% Cotton. I used 3 skeins of Off White; 2 skeins of each of the following colors: Carrot Orange, Yellow, Gold and Aqua; and 1 skein of Red and of Navy. (If you'd like to design your own stripes, it will be helpful to know that the whole cowl uses 400 yards of yarn and each skein of Sashiko Thread is 44 yards, so at minimum you'll need 9 or 10 skeins.)


The Pattern


4 1/4 stitches = 1 inch in garter stitch

Finished Size

60 inches around and 8 1/2 inches wide

Notes on the Pattern

  • When this pattern refers to "ridges", it means a garter stitch ridge which is formed by knitting two rows. Counting "ridges" is an easy way to determine how many rows you have knitted without having to count as you work. If you find this confusing, just multiply the number of ridges given by 2 and that is how many rows you should knit (ie 3 1/2 ridges is 7 rows).
  • You will always be knitting with one strand of the Blue Sky Cotton, called the Main Yarn (MY), and one strand of Sashiko Thread. It's easy! Just pull a strand from each of the two balls. Don't worry about anything except making sure you get your needle under both strands as you knit.
  • To avoid an overwhelming number of ends to weave in, I knit some of the ends in as I worked. Just hold the tail(s) with the working yarns and knit it along for four or five stitches. Hardly noticeable and very time saving!


With the Main Yarn (MY) and the Off White Sashiko Thread, use a Provisional Cast On to cast on 36 stitches. (Why a provisional cast on? So that at the end of the project you can graft the cast on and cast off ends together, avoiding a seam. However, if you find a provisional cast on a bit overwhelming, then just cast on normally, and when you're finished you can sew the two ends together. Your cowl will still be beautiful!)

Knit 3 ridges. Cut the Off White Thread.

With the MY and the Orange, knit 15 1/2 ridges. Cut the Orange Thread.

With the MY and the Yellow, knit 7 ridges.

You will continue in this pattern, cutting the old Thread at the end of each section and adding the new Thread at the beginning of the next section. Here is how the stripe sequence continues:

  • 2 1/2 ridges with Navy.
  • 11 ridges with Off White.
  • 1 1/2 ridges with Red.
  • 6 ridges with Off White.
  • 3 1/2 ridges with Aqua.
  • 2 ridges with Orange.
  • 8 1/2 ridges with Aqua.
  • 12 ridges with Gold.
  • 5 1/2 ridges with Yellow.
  • 4 ridges with Off White.
  • 2 1/2 ridges with Red.
  • 4 ridges with Orange.
  • 12 1/2 ridges with Off White.
  • 6 ridges with Aqua.
  • 2 1/2 ridges with Navy.
  • 4 ridges with Gold.
  • 1 1/2 ridges with Aqua.
  • 15 ridges with Yellow.
  • 3 1/2 ridges with Red.
  • 3 ridges with Off White.
  • 6 1/2 ridges with Orange.
  • 2 ridges with Off White.
  • 13 1/2 ridges with Gold.
  • 4 ridges with Aqua.
  • 1 1/2 ridges with Red.
  • 3 ridges with Gold.
  • 4 1/2 ridges with Off White.
  • 9 ridges with Yellow.
  • 4 1/2 ridges with Navy.
  • 14 ridges with Aqua.
  • 1 1/2 ridges with Off White.

Cut both yarns, leaving a tail approximately 36 inches long.

Preparing to Graft

Bring the ends of the cowl around to meet each other, making VERY sure that there are no twists in the fabric (unless, of course, you intentionally want one!).

Pick up the 36 stitches of the Provisional Cast On (check our tutorial for how-to's), making sure, if you're using straight needles, that the ends of your needles are pointing the same way. If you're using circular needles, you'll need to ensure that the tail is situated at one end, not caught in the middle of your needles.

For the grafting to be seamless you need one end of the cowl to have ended on a purl row and the other end to have ended on a knit row. Look closely at the rows closest to your needles and double check that this is the case. If it's not, then take out the last row you knit, and reorient your stitches on the needle so the tail is still at the end.

Here's how ending with a purl row looks (see how the purl bumps are snug up against the needle?):

And here's how ending with a knit row looks (see how the last row looks like little "v's", aka knit stitches?):

Now thread the tail onto a tapestry needle and you're ready to begin the Kitchener Stitch.

Kitchener Stitch

NOTE: For a detailed Kitchener Stitch tutorial, click here. It's important to know that our tutorial shows how to graft two pieces of stockinette together, while here we're grafting together two pieces of garter stitch. So the order of our steps will be slightly different than the tutorial's, but you may still find the photos very helpful.

The first two steps of Kitchener Stitch are set up steps and only happen once at the beginning. Holding the two knitting needles parallel to each other, thread the yarn through the first stitch of the FRONT needle (the needle closer to you) as if to PURL and LEAVE the stitch on the needle.

Next, thread the yarn through the first stitch of the BACK needle as if to PURL and LEAVE it on the needle.

That completes the set up. Continue...

Step 1: Thread the yarn through the first stitch of the FRONT needle as if to KNIT. REMOVE the stitch from the needle.

Step 2: Thread the yarn through the next stitch on the FRONT needle as if to PURL. LEAVE it on the needle.

Step 3: Thread the yarn through the first stitch on the BACK needle as if to KNIT. REMOVE it from the needle.

Step 4: Thread the yarn through the next stitch on the BACK needle as if to PURL. LEAVE it on the needle.

Repeat Steps 1 through 4 until two stitches remain, then KNIT the FRONT stitch and REMOVE it and KNIT the BACK stitch and REMOVE it.

A LITTLE TIP: After years of messy grafting, I've finally learned that holding my index finger between the knitting needles creates good tension and a neat finish! Like this:

Now all that's left to do is to weave in any ends you have left and to enjoy on your new Striped Cotton Cowl!

Reader Comments (81)

I love this cowl. I made the herringbone one right at the end of the winter season so never got to wear it. Booo! Now I am going to make this stylish scarf for the Spring! I am going to NC for Spring break to do nothing but bake, knit and watch baseball with my Mama! Can't wait! Great color choices here!
April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYumi
Do you have a pattern for this scarf in crochet? I am still too new at knitting to do this well. Would love a crochet pattern however!
April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJana
Very inspiring, the colors and design capture the spirit of a bright sunny country road early on a spring morning.
April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCB
I'm ordering the materials for this great cowl and it seems you're out of the off white and orange sashiko thread. Will you be getting some more of those colors in?
April 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersantaananana
Hi Santaananana,

We wil be getting more of the thread - I hope to have it Wednesday! You can place an order online and ask us to hold it until we can get more of the color you're looking for in. We will wait till the Sashiko arrives and send your order out then.


April 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjen
Hi Jana-

Thanks for the comment. We don't have a crochet version but it would be a pretty simple thing to try out on your own. Whitney recommends that you try a size I hook, but it all depends on your individual tension.

All you would need to do is single crochet a strip that is 8 1/2-inches long and 60-inches wide, with the same stripes, and then sew it together into a loop.

Thanks for your nice comment and happy crocheting!
-- Molly
April 11, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I love the mix of the yarn and thread! All the Blue Sky's Drift is out, are you getting more in soon??
April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim
Hi Kim-

We still have a lot of "Drift" left. You can find it here,

on the top row, 5th from left. Thanks so much for your question!
-- Molly
April 11, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thanks for the reply. I figured I could do it that way, but just wondered if there was a pattern. I will make one and send you a photo if I can!
April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJana
Hi Jana-

Yes please send a photo if you can! Good luck with it- Molly
April 11, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thanks! I see you have all the Sashiko colors up too! Ordering now :)
April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim
This cowl is created using a garter stitch but the instructions for grafting makes a reference to a purl row. Did I miss something in the pattern instructions??
April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGloria
Hi Gloria -

Good question! Yes, you do knit every row. What I mean by "purl row" is the purl SIDE of the row. One end will have the "wrong" side facing you and so will look la purl row, but it is, in fact, just the back side of a knit row.

I hope this makes sense - I know it's a little bit confusing, but may be less so when you have the actual knitting in front of you!

Thank you for asking and good luck!
April 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Quick and maybe silly question about the thread, how in the heck do I pull thread form the hank? do I need to wind it up like a ball of yarn? I have three completely tangled up hanks at this point... otherwise, the cowl is coming together quite nicely!
April 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkim
I want to order the yarn for this, but can't see any drift left in the cotton. What would be the next closest colour?
April 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah McDonald
Hi Kim-

Yes, you do need to roll the Sashiko thread into a ball before you knit with it, otherwise as you mention it will get all tangled.

Thanks for your question and good luck with the rest of your cowl.
-- Molly
April 20, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Sarah,

"Drift" is back in stock. You can find it here:

Thanks!- Molly
April 20, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Will you have the navy and off-white sashiko in stock any time soon?
April 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah McDonald
Hi Sarah-

We do have 3 of the off white color in stock. The navy color is on back order and we are unsure when we will get it back. We can email you when it arrives or, if you can't wait, I might suggest using the Royal or Cobalt instead. Please let us know what you'd like to do.

Thank you!-- Molly
April 21, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I might just use the royal blue then. I have added everything to my cart, except the off white, as I can't see it there.

Thank you so much for your help!
April 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah McDonald
Do you really just cut the Sashiko when changing colors? You don't need to leave a tail to weave in later? I just want to be sure I understand this before I begin. Thanks for the great pattern!
April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
Hi Beth-

You definitely do need to leave a tail of Sashiko thread and weave it in later. Whitney recommends that you knit your ends in so you aren't left with a ton of them at the end.

"To avoid an overwhelming number of ends to weave in, I knit some of the ends in as I worked. Just hold the tail(s) with the working yarns and knit it along for four or five stitches. Hardly noticeable and very time saving!"

Thank you for your question!
April 27, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Love this project! Question about the thread colors- did you use the Rose Red 12, or Red 15? Can't wait to start mine! Thanks!
April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAngela
Hi Angela-

Whitney used Red #15.

Thanks for your comment!-

April 28, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
hi. loving this scarf. I'm knitting in the ends of the thread, but still needing to weaving in the ends from where I begin each new thread. For the darker colors, the ends are still showing a lot after I weave them in. Is there a trick to weaving them in so they don't stand out so much or should I knot them off? thanks!
May 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkristy
Hi Kristy,

You never want to tie ends into knots because eventually they find a way to untie themselves! When I weave ends into garter stitch I always follow the knitting, going up a bump and then down the bump next to it, making my way across the row a couple of inches and then back the other way up or down a row.

I found with this project that dark ends showing up in light places wasn't much of a problem since the whole design is visually a kind of rustic hodge podge! So you may also want to step back a little and see if the dark ends are really that visible when you take in the whole cowl.

Thanks for your question and good luck!
May 16, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I love this project, but was thinking of some stripe colors that the Sashiko doesn't come in (but some other threads on your site do). Is there another thread you'd suggest as a substitute or would it not turn out the same? Thanks.
May 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEve
Hi Eve,

I can tell you from experience that the Valdani thread was too thin with the Blue Sky Cotton - it looked a bit stringy and overwhelmed. Instead, you might want to try Koigu Needlepoint Yarn ( or either of the Gumnut Needlepoint yarns ( The nice thing about the Gumnut is that you can choose to use one or two strands, depending on the look you're going for. Both Koigu and Gumnut come in tons of incredible colors!

Good luck and thanks for your question!

May 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
if you use straight needles how long do you need them to be?
June 27, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersaralynn
Hi Saralynn,

You'll only be casting on 36 stitches, so you can use the 9 or 10 inch straight needles. If you have longer, that's fine too!

Thanks for your question!

June 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
thank you for putting up the free patterns. they are great!
July 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermuna
i loved this when you first posted it last year, and i love it still. i would like to make it when i get my hands on more of this beautiful yarn,, what would be most helpful, is postinga picture of someone wearing this cowl. does it wrap round the neck twice loosely?
September 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterange
Just a note-- I'm making this cowl scarf with Sirdar Crofter Fair Isle effect Chunky and so far it's looking quite lovely. and it's so soft! thanks so much for the free patterns and Q&A. Love the website!
September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarol
Hi to New York Purl Bee from Australia and thank you for posting this free pattern of lovely cowl. We are starting spring and then it's quickly into summer here, so this cowl will be lovely for our climate. Just wondering if the colour 'orange' will be available soon in the Sashiko thread soon as when I click in there doesn't seem to be a picture of it - or am I missing something? thank you
September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCathie
Hi Cathie.

It should be back in stock soon. We will email you when it comes in.

Thanks for the question.- Molly
September 12, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hello! So I'm getting everything together to make this adorable scarf and I'm getting too antsy to wait for all the the colors of Sashiko Thread to become available. Are there any other products that you would recommend? Thanks!
September 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChloe
could I substitute 3/2s, 5/2s or 10/2s perl cotton for the sashiko thread ?
September 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMissy
Hi Ange,

I'm sorry we don't have a photo of someone wearing the cowl, but I can tell you that it is designed to wear either wrapped twice around your neck for a snug fit or just once for a long, loose fit. If you have a specific idea in mind, I'd recommend trying it on as you knit, making it longer or shorter than the pattern, depending on your ideal fit!

Thanks so much for your question!
September 18, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Missy-

You could certainly substitute the Sashiko thread with another cotton embroidery thread.

Thanks for your question!

- Molly
September 19, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Chloe,

I think the Sashiko Thread is back in stock, but for future reference DMC's embroidery thread would be a great substitute. You can find it here:

Thanks for your question!
September 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
I LOVE this pattern. It's been burning a whole in my proverbial "creative pocket" since you posted it last spring. I just posted about the tweaks I'm making to make it darker and, ahem, more affordable :)

Thanks for the great pattern!
September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMake and Do Girl
Hi and thank you for pattern - I see the thread is in but 'drift' is out of stock, is there an alternative out there, but I'm happy to wait,
thank you,
October 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCathie
HI Cathie-

Bone and Sleet would both be good alternatives. Bone is more white, and Sleet is more grey but they are both gorgeous. Or, if you'd like to be emailed when Drift comes back in stock please drop us a line at

Thank you for the question!

- Molly
October 6, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I bought the yarn for this project while on a trip to NY this past summer. I am just starting it and absolutely love the way it is looking 6 rows in. But I am struggling with finding a way to set up the Sashiko thread so it flows nicely as I knit. I cut the extra loop of thread tied around the skein. Then held up the skein in it's large 36" circle and naively thought I could just start knitting from one end. It began to tangle once I went around once. I eventually had to cut an end, take the tangled section, pick it apart and ended up winding it around a wine bottle (well, it was New Years Eve). Is there a way to easily make a ball from the thread? Maybe I can wrap the thread around something round so it unravels easily?
January 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNoreen
Hi Noreen,

Sorry you got into a tangled mess! You do need to wind the Sashiko Thread into a ball, the same way you do a skein of yarn. That means finding some way to hold the skein intact in its loop - whether it's around a friend's hands, the back of a chair, or your knees - and then taking one end and wrapping it around your fingers a few times and then slowly into a ball. No need for the wine bottle!

I hope this helps and good luck!
January 6, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I am super excited about attempting this project. I am in the gathering phase and I have run into an issue regarding the colored thread. I have fallen in love with the colors of the trio thread and plan to use the following colors. 01 Natural, 130 Moon Indigo, 31 Midnight, 180 Salsa, 80 Bisque, 129 Moonlight Bay and 127 Moon River. If I use this thread, should I use 1 ply? Do you think the colors will be overwhelming if use the thread as-is, without separating? What is the difference between trio thread and silk & ivory thread?

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChival
Hi Chival,

Sounds beautiful! I imagine that you'll want to use one or two plies, but I would definitely suggest you experiment a little. We only carry Brown Paper Package's Trio, but I believe the difference between it and the Silk and Ivory is that the Silk and Ivory is a single ply thread (and the Trio is, of course, 3 plies).

We'd love to see the results of your gorgeous idea. Shoot us a photo when you're done!

Thanks for your questions and good luck!
February 20, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
What length circular needle should we use?
June 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
Hi Sarah-

I would use either a 24-inch or 32-inch circular needle. Since you aren't knitting in a circle you have a lot of leeway and it's just a matter of personal preference.


June 11, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I have had my eyes on this pattern forever. I love it! The colors are gorgeous, and I love working with Blue Sky Cotton. I'm thinking about taking the idea of it and instead making it into a baby blanket. Thoughts?

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

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