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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)

Hello Suzanne. Thanks for writing in. I think the idea of turning this cowl into a blanket is wonderful! Let us know how it turns out!! --Laura
June 21, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
oh my goodness this is gorgeous, it reminds me of something that is $20583 at anthropologie, and it looks like something i, as a week-old knitter, might be able to take on (with some practice)!!
July 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteremily
This is so beautiful! Will you get the Blue Sky Cotton yarn restocked with this color? I'd love to make it.
August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmma
Hi Emma. I am so sorry we are out of this yarn. If you'd like to be added to the list to be notified about the yarn when it comes in please send an email to our customer service department at the link below, and include in it the name of the yarn and the color. They can also let you know how soon we will expect the yarn to arrive.

Thanks! -Laura
August 15, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hello, I found this pattern by searching the net and fell in love. I had to order the yarns online to be shipped to me in Australia and have just started. I've experienced the sashiko thread tangling up but have got that sorted thanks to your comments on here (should've read them before I started!). I love knitting with the blue sky cotton, it's gorgeous! Thank you for providing free patterns, I can't wait until I'm finished.
August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
How did you get the garter stitch to not curl in on the sides? Are you knitting two rows and then purling one? Or just knitting all of it? Thanks!
November 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaddy
Hi Maddy-

Garter stitch, which is used in this project, is knitting every row and it does not curl. Stockinette stitch is knit one row, purl one row and it always curls.

Thanks for writing in and let us know if you have any more questions!

November 5, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
If I wanted to make a warmer version of this cowl, what yarn would you recommend? In general, how do you know if it's okay to substitute 1 yarn for another? Do you just have to do a gauge or can you look at the weight?

November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJosephine
Hi Josephine-

In general you want to look for yarns that are the same gauge. In general we don't think you need to worry all that much about weight of the skeins matching up especially if you're substituting a different material all together, as in this case where you want to make this out of a warmer fiber.

For this particular pattern you could substitute any worsted yarn. For Better or Worsted would be great- it's soft, washable, and comes in great colors.

We would still recommend using the cotton sashiiko thread as the highlights.

Thank you for your question!

November 12, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

I have another question about this project (sorry, I'm a beginner!). Should I still slip the 1st stitch of every row? If so, should I slip it purl-wise or knit-wise?


November 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJosephine
HI Josephine,

That is actually a matter of personal preference, both whether you slip the first stitch and how! I personally almost never do, and some people always do. In this case, keep in mind that if you do slip the first stitch, because of all the striping, it will often be a different color than the rest of the row.

Thanks for the great question and good luck!
November 27, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi there!

My mom so kindly knit this scarf for me a few months ago and I've been obsessed with it, and wearing it all winter! I am wondering, what is the best way to wash this lovely article without ruining it and having everything come undone?! Any help is appreciated. :)

January 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarly
HI Carly,

I would recommend hand washing your cowl by soaking it in warm water and gentle soap. Rinse the soap and squeeze out the excess water (don't twist or wring). Then lay your cowl flat on a towel to dryl. Make sure you don't stretch your cowl too much when you lay it out; try to keep its original dimensions because cotton definitely wants to grow!

Thanks for asking and I'm so glad you're enjoying your cowl!
January 16, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

It seems like every time I try to order yarn for this project you guys are out of "Drift". I was wondering if there was another color in the same yarn that would work for this project?

Thank You!
January 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

It seems like every time I try to order yarn for this project you guys are out of "Drift". I was wondering if there are any other colors that would work for the project or if you will be getting "Drift" back in soon?

Thank You
January 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
Hi Amanda-

We're so sorry to hear that drift has been out of stock for you! It is on order and we can email you when it comes back in stock if you drop us a line at customerservice AT purlsoho DOT com. Or, if you'd like to get started right away, "Bone" is a good substitute.

Thank you!

January 21, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I just finished this yesterday and I absolutely love it!! Thanks for the awesome pattern!!
March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKate
Could one just knit this in the round avoiding the need to join the ends together? Thanks, Val
April 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterval
I never did make this in these colors but am knitting one in the colors of winter- with a beautiful alpaca which is ice white and soft colors of blues and greens running through it. Haven't finished it yet and it's been two winters! I need to get going on it but of course everyone elses presents are first!

Will work on it this summer and post my photo!

April 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJana
Dear Sir.
I visit your site often but I have a problem with light print. Id there is any way to darken the type. I do have vision problems but I still manage to knit. .
April 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn Bailey
Hi Marilyn-

We don't know of a way to darken the type but you could always enlarge the text. Here is an article on how to do that in Windows:

Or, if you have a Mac you can push "command" and the "+" key at the same time to magnify.

Thank you for writing in!

April 11, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Val,

If you knit this cowl in the round the stripes would be run horizontally along the length of the cowl (instead of back and forth along the width). Nothing wrong with that, just different! Make sure you choose a nice long circular needle, like 40 or 47 inches.

Thanks for asking and please let me know if you have any other questions!

April 15, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Is the orange you used Sashiko Carrot Orange 04? Also, there isn't a white in stock of the Sashiko. Can you recommend a white in the DMC? Thanks!
December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIm
Hi Im,

Yes, the orange is Carrot Orange. I've changed the materials list to accurately say that (Sashiko added a new orange since this project was posted and changed some names around, so thank you for straightening us out!).

By the way, you can get all of the yarn together in one place with Purl Soho's Yarn for Striped Cotton Cowl kit. You can find it right here: .

Or if you'd like to assemble your own colors, you can either contact our web site to find out when the Off-White Sashiko Thread will be back in stock (, or use DMC's #3866 (

Please let us know if you have any other questions and thank again for cluing us into the orange discrepancy!

January 8, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I love my cowl. Now after quite a lot of wear it needs to be washed.
I am concerned that the Sashiko thread will bleed into the Blue Sky yarn when washed. Will it? Any suggestions on the best manner of cleaning?
February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersteff
Hi Steff,

We have never heard reports of the Sashiko Thread bleeding. I'd recommend hand washing your cowl in a gentle detergent, rinsing it, squeezing it, and laying it out flat to dry. It should be fine!

Thanks for asking and I'm so glad your cowl gets a lot of love!

February 21, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I cannot wait to knit this and have my BSA cotton in my cart. However, I was wondering if you could recommend a multi-colored or variegated thread/ yarn to carry along so that I would not have to cut/reattach so many different threads. I travel/fly a lot and this would greatly increase the conscience if this project. Thanks so much! I love the Purl Bee <3
March 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
HI Megan,

Great idea! I would definitely use Koigu's Painter's Palette Premium Merino ( There are spectacular colorways to choose from and it's just a beautiful yarn. Although KPPPM is a fingering weight, it's a bit thicker than the Sashiko Thread, so you may need to go up a needle size. Experiment a little!

Thanks for the question and please let us know if you have any more!

March 17, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I purchased some DMC embroidery floss to use for this project and I'm wondering if I should separate the strands. Using it as is seems like it might be a little thick.
April 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
Hi Katie,

I think the DMC seems about the same thickness as the Sashiko Thread, but I'd recommend testing it out! Consider if you like both the density of the fabric and the proportion of floss to yarn. Your experimentation may also require that you try different needles sizes. For example, if you like how the DMC looks with 6 strands but not how it feels, then you may need to change the needle size.

I hope this puts you on the right path! Please let us know if you have any more questions and thank you so much for this one!

April 10, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Just wanted to update: I didn't end up separating the DMC floss and am knitting this with Cascade 220. I'm over 1/2 way done, and it's coming out lovely. This is the perfect striped cowl. Beautiful colors without being too overwhelmingly "rainbow".
April 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

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