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« Laura's Loop: Garden Party Napkins | Main | Amy Gropp Forbes of Eclectic Mom: Inkodye! »

Laura's Loop: White Caps Cowl

My mom lives an urban life in a landlocked city, but I've always felt she belongs in a small town by the water. It's so easy to picture her hopping on a boat or walking along the shore, her salt and pepper hair mussed by the sea air, her sneakers tattered, her jeans old and worn, but her sweater a chic slip of linen or cashmere. 
Have you ever known someone who so throughly embodies a duality that you can hardly describe her? That's how I feel about my mom, but one thing I can say for sure is that my mother's elegance depends on her rustic nature. You'd never see her in make-up, but that is precisely what makes her beautiful. Whether I knew it or not, when I started this cowl, I was knitting with her in mind. It, like she, pairs unlikely opposites that together create a one-of-a-kind amalgam, radiant with depth and beauty!
I knit this cowl primarily with Habu's thick-and-thin Cotton Nerimake Slub. It creates a decadent, cloud-like fabric that is both hearty and ethereal. And set against the cotton are thin stripes of Alchemy's Silken Straw, a meticulous, flat silk ribbon with a crisp finish and pearly shine. Together, these yarns form a graceful and surprising union, each complementing the other!
We named this the White Caps Cowl because the cotton captures the feeling of frothy caps on ocean waves while the silk subtly shimmers amidst the cowl's folds and drapes, like light dancing across the surface of the sea. To add some duality to your life, you can get the full pattern for the White Caps Cowl here! -Laura

The Materials

You can find all the yarn you need righ here in our White Caps Cowl kit. It includes...

  • Contrast Color (CC): 1 skein of Alchemy's Silken Straw, 100% silk, in the color Platinum.
  • Maine Color (MC): 2 cones of Habu's Cotton Nerimaki Slub, 100% cotton, in the color Undyed. (If you're picking your own colorway, be aware that the Nerimaki dyed colors come in skeins of only 108 yards, and so you will need 3 skeins of any dyed color.)
You'll also need...

The Pattern


8 stitches = 1 inch in stockinette stitch using the Silken Straw

Finished Size

Circumference at the Top: 17-inches
Circumference at the Bottom: 23-inches
Length: 21-inches


Knit the first stitch of each row (not including the first and last 6 rows) with both yarns held together. This creates a handsome faux seam that runs vertically and adds a bit of structure and also eliminates the number of tails you would have to weave in. 

Beginning at the Bottom Rolled Edge

With the Contrast Color (CC), cast on 184 stitches.

Place a marker and join for working in the round, being careful to not twist the stitches.

Knit 6 rounds.

Change to the Main Color (MC).

NOTE: Do not cut yarn. As you continue, knit the first stitch of each following round with both yarns held together.

Purl 1 round.

**With MC, knit 12 rounds.

Change to CC, knit 4 rounds.

Repeat from ** 9 more times. 

Shaping the Top

With MC, knit 2 rounds.

Next Round: *K23, place marker, repeat from * to end of round. 

Decrease Round: *Knit to 2 stitches before next marker, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (176 stitches)

Knit 3 rounds evenly.

Repeat Decrease Round. (168 stitches)

Knit 3 rounds evenly.

Repeat Decrease Round. (160 stitches)

With CC, knit 4 rounds.

With MC, Knit 3 rounds evenly.

Repeat Decrease Round. (152 stitches)

Knit 3 rounds evenly.

Repeat Decrease Round. (144 stitches)

Knit 3 rounds evenly.

Repeat Decrease Round, removing makers as you go. (136 stitches)

Finishing with the Top Rolled Edge

Still with MC, purl one round. 

NOTE: Cut the MC yarn, you will no longer be knitting the first stitch of each row with both yarns held together.

With CC, knit 6 rounds.

Bind off loosely, weave in your ends and block!

Reader Comments (96)

Help! Every time I start knitting with the Habu cotton it comes apart!!! I'm so frustrated. I used my ball winder to remove them from the cones--did I damage the fibers? Also should I use lace circulars??
December 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCeleste
Hi Celeste,
I am not sure why the cotton is breaking. It happened to me once I think, at one of the loose slubs, but it was not a continuous problem. As for the needles, either the lace or the turbo needles will work. The lace needles will give you a bit more friction which might be nice when knitting the silk.
December 3, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Jennifer,
The Silken Straw will curl up a bit. It does block beautifully though. It looks a bit crinkled when knitting it, but after blocking it, it relaxes and evens out quite nicely. Careful to not knit too too tightly though.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
December 3, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
This is beautiful, and I can't wait to start knitting it. I have the Nerimaki Slub in Lavender and ordered the Silken Straw in Hush, but the Hush is too pink. Is there another color of the Silken Straw that you think would work with the Lavender (or, conversely, a color of the Slub that might work with the Hush, as I might knit both and gift one)? Thanks in advance!
December 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Hi Amy,
I hope you share a picture with us when you finish your projects. I haven't seen it done in this color way. For the Lavender Slub, Wisteria would be lovely. With so few color options in the Slub, I'm afraid I don't have a good suggestion for pairing with the Silken Straw Hush.
Let us know how it turns out.
December 6, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I can't find the Alchemy Silken Straw color platinum anywhere? Is it still available? I've been gone away from knitting for awhile and this project is luring me back....but I want to make it as it is pictured! T hanks very much.
January 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
Hi Susan-

If you'd like us to email you when we get the Platinum Silken Straw back in stock please send an email to customerservice AT purlsoho DOT com.

Thank you!

January 14, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I'd like to knit this using the Silken Straw as the contrast color, and Jade Saphire's 2 ply cashmere as the main color. One skien of the cashmere is 400 yards--would that be enough to complete one cowl? Also, do you think those two yarns would work together aesthetically? I love how this cowl looks and can't wait to start it!
January 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEli
Hi Eli,
1 skein of the 2-ply cashmere by Jade Sapphire would work for one cowl. What a wonderful idea. I think the cashmere and Silken Straw will compliment one another beautifully. Let us know how it goes!
January 30, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Ooh, I love it...I made a beanie similar with raw silk and merino about a month ago but my niece loved it so much I had to give it to you, then of teenage course her friends are dying for me to make more. I love this technique with silk! I had some alchemy yarn left over after the magicians scarf and started this one last night! Thanks for the idea!
February 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Finnegan
I have some extra cascade yarns 'pearl' slub cotton blend in Bubblegum and raspberry. I've started and it looks pretty. It is curling quite a bit, though, hoping the blocking will help with that. LOVE the detail of the faux seam! Thank you..what a beautiful project!
February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen
It looks like there are only a handful of purl rows in the cowl; to make the faux seam, do I knit both yarns together on these rows or purl them together?
And would it make a difference?
Thank you!
April 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
Hi Kathy,
Thanks for writing in. Here are my answers:

The 7th round is a purl round.
The 7th to last round is a purl round.
The rest is knitting / stockinette stitch.

Along the seam you knit both yarns together. This keeps you from having to weave in a ton of ends at the end and also has a design element, giving a bit more structure along the seam.

You could purl them together, but this would cause the fabric to fold in on that vertical, creating a different look.

April 17, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
The cowl is gorgeous! Do you have any suggestion for shortening it a bit for a more petite person who might be overwhelmed by the fullness? I notice it tapers in --. Thanks!
May 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKay
Hi Kay,
First off, thank you. Secondly... if you'd like to shorten the cowl, rather than repeating from * 9 more times, maybe only repeat 7 or 6 more times. (That will eliminate 2 or 3 sections of the cotton and silk stripes.) After that continue to the shaping portion of the pattern and follow as usual.

Hope that helps.
May 6, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Kay,
First off, thank you. Secondly... if you'd like to shorten the cowl, rather than repeating from * 9 more times, maybe only repeat 7 or 6 more times. (That will eliminate 2 or 3 sections of the cotton and silk stripes.) After that continue to the shaping portion of the pattern and follow as usual.

Hope that helps.
May 6, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hello! This is gorgeous and I'm itching to order my yarn and get started. The only question I have is about how to adjust the sizing a bit. I have a thin neck and most cowls hang off me in a very unflattering way. If I want to keep the length but make it narrower so it would fit tighter around my neck, would I just choose a number of stitches to cast on and then proceed as the pattern states? Or is there any math involved to keep from messing up the decrease section?

As you can probably tell, I've never modified a pattern before and the mathematics of knitting are a mystery to me! Many thanks for any advice you can offer!

May 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkelly
Hi Kelly.
Make Sure to cast on a multiple of 8.
Then, when you reach the Shaping the Top portion of the pattern where it says:

Next Round: *K23, place marker, repeat from * to end of round.

Rather than K23, make sure to take your Cast On number and divide it by 8. Knit that number and place a marker...

I would make sure not to decrease so many times that the cowl cannot fit over your head... The circumference at the top is 17 inches. I would not go much smaller than that. In other words, if you have to eliminate the last or last couple decrease rounds, I would.

Please let me know if you have any questions as you go!
May 15, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

I'm 2 sections into my cowl and I absolutely love it!! It's fun working with this yarn. I was wondering if you could tell me the best way to block this piece. It has such great texture and I don't want to loose that look but I do think it needs blocking. Thanks for your help.

May 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
Laura, LOVING this pattern and the yarn!!! Have you made an open version, like an infinity cowl or scarf version?
My daughter is only 10, but I'd like to make one for her-she's all about infinity cowls that drape...
thanks, Laura

PS I always rely on Purl Bee for fun and greatlooking patterns
May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura C
Hi Kathy.
Great question. The Silken Straw does really well when blocked. It softens up and take on a whole new feel. I would recommend laying in flat and spritzing the cowl all over, but perhaps more heavily at the silk stripes. Once damp, gently tug at the cowl from the top and bottom and then from the sides.

You might want to do this a few times. I believe I only blocked it once. The silk will definitely soften with time and wear too.
May 21, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Laura C,

Thank you so much for the kind words. I am thrilled to hear you are enjoying the project. I have not made this in a long, loop-able cowl style, but it sounds like a great idea.

Have you thought about maybe taking the idea of the cowl and knitting it flat, back and forth, like a scarf and then just grafting the ends together once you are happy with the length.

Let me know how it goes!
May 21, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Laura,
Is there way to alter the pattern to be an eternity cowl? I'm making one for myself but would like to make one for my daughter as well. She is ALL about eternity cowls!
Thanks so much for the pattern,
June 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura C
Hello Laura C.
Yes, there is a way. I would take the gauge per inch and desired length in inches, multiply the two together and cast on that number. I would not work the shaping portion of the cowl, but rather just work evenly, as in the first portion of the pattern.

Just for reference, here are the lengths of our infinity cowls:
- Big Herringbone Cowl is 58 inches in circumference
- Striped Cotton Cowl is 60 inches in circumference
- Gina's Brioche Cowl is 56 inches in circumference
- Fluted Cowl is 60 inches in circumference

Using those as a guide I think you'd cast on somewhere between 448 and 480 stitches.

Hope y'all enjoy your cowls!
June 10, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thank you so very much for the email notification of the yarn back in stock. I am placing my order but now you are out of the needles...US#4 16" circular(addi lace). You do have #5, would that work, as I tend to knit extremely tight or could I go #4 with 24" needles. I have not knitted with the addi lace and would like to try them.

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVal Hall
Hi Val-

Since you are a tight knitter it sounds like the size 5 will work even better than a size 4. Needle sizes are always just suggestions to get the proper gauge. You can use whatever size needle works for you to get the right gauge.

For instance, I am a loose knitter so I always go down a needle size (or two!)

Thanks so much for your question and good luck on the project!

July 1, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Like to order.
July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBessie
Hi Bessie-

To order this kit please click on the link in the Materials section or I've pasted the link below as well too:

If you have any questions about ordering please email customerservice AT purlsoho DOT com.

Thank you!

July 8, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Molly,

I just wanted to thank you for contacting me that the materials were back in stock. I ordered mine and it just arrived. The yarn is even more beautiful in person. I so look forward to getting started but first I am knitting your ribbed cowl with the Jade Sapphire Zageo 6-ply Cashmere in the new Primordial. It too is even more gorgeous than the photo. I have to tell you Purl has the best yarn I have found anywhere. I am so happy I found your website.

Thank You,
July 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVal
Hi Val-

Thanks so much, it's our pleasure!

July 10, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Laura!

This is so incredibly beautiful! I was immediately drawn to it when I stumbled across it on ravelry. I just finished blocking my first rendition (with plans to make 2 more)! This cowl has spoken to me on many levels - the bumpiness of the cotton and the contrasting smoothness of the silk keep reminding me of the journey of life - the hills and valleys, the bumps and the smooth pieces. The striking combination of the two really speak to how it's the intertwining of both that make life so beautiful. This piece is very inspiring.

I'm hoping you can help me figure out how I can achieve the correct circumference at the top of the piece. I'm on gauge - 8 stitches to the inch in the silken straw at both ends, but for some reason, the top circumference is around 20" instead of 17" - even after blocking. Any suggestions? Thank you!!!
July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
Hi Katie.
Thank you for the kind words.

Did you do the decreases as specified?
I am not sure what happened for the top circumference to measure at 20 inches. If you can provide any more details, I'd love to try and help figure it out.
August 2, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hello, In your opinion, how would colors with more contrast look? For example, slub in baby blue and silken straw in cambodia blue? Or do you think it looks better with both yarns in similar colors? Thanks.
November 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJean
Hi Jean,
I used similar colors because I wanted to highlight the textural differences between these two yarns. For me, that was the exploration I took with this project. Contrasting yarns would just be exploring something different. You'd be making stripes.
November 5, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I have a lot of the silken straw left over from making the felt ball necklaces. What remains weighed in at 46 grams and on the site it gives the weight of the skein at 40 grams. I made 10 necklases using it. Wondering if I would have enough of the skein left to make this beautiful cowl or if the project uses every bit of the skien. Thanks!
January 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStacy
Hi Stacy.
You will definitely have enough silk. The cowl requires far from an entire skein. I love that you're making so many of my projects. Thanks for writing in and please let us know if you have any other questions.
January 14, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I would love to knit this project, the textures are beautiful. Do you know when you will have the straw silk in stock? Alternatively could you suggest another tone on tone color way in both yarns.
With gratitude,
January 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
Hi Karen.
Thank you so much for the interest in this pattern.
If you would like to be alerted as to when the Silken Straw is back in stock, please email the following email address with the yarn and color and quantity you'd like:

As for another colorway....
Silken Straw in Morning Fog or Two Rock + Cotton Slub in Brown 46-3
Silken Straw in Evening Pink + Cotton Slub in Powder 46-12
Silken Straw in Harvest Moon or Temple Gold + Orange 46-1
Silken Straw in Pale Blue Eyes + Cotton Slub in Baby Blue 46-14

Hope this helps!
January 17, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Very beautiful cowl and am very excited to get started. Made my gauge swatch yesterday in the silken straw though and I'm getting much closer to the 6 stitches per inch on the #4 needles than the 8 specified in the pattern. Is it ok to just adjust the # of stitches down to my gauge (in a multiple of 8)? Or is there a need to go down to a smaller needle? Thanks!
January 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Hi Rachel.
Yes! It is definitely ok to adjust things to make this pattern work for you. That's why we swatch!

Rather than changing the cast on number though, I would go down in needle size to match my gauge. This cowl is already so drapey, I fear that if you knit it any looser (like getting 6 stitches to the inch), it'll lose what little structure it has.

If you do decide to change the cast on number, yes, change it in multiples of 8 and be sure to adjust where you place your markers for decreasing so that you are decreasing 8 stitches spaced out evenly.
Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks.
January 23, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I'm a fairly new knitter and am interested in doing this cowl project but noticed it's not listed in your beginner knits section. Do you think this would be too difficult for a beginner. I have completed two hats working in the round and I'm currently working on another of your cowl patterns. Thanks for your information!
March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCindy
Hi Cindy,
You can definitely do this project! It is not difficult. It's a wonderful project for anyone.
Thanks for asking and I hope you enjoy it!
March 2, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I love this cowl!! Can you suggest a different slub yarn that comes in navy? I found a great navy silk, but the suggested yarn doesn't come in that color. Thanks!
May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
Hi Nicole.
Sadly, I don't know of any other slub yarns that would work here. The navy silk sound beautiful though. Could you pair it with something like Alchemy's Haiku ( It comes in amazing shades of blue. Or Jade Sapphire's 2-Ply Cashmere (
Please let me know if you have any questions even if they are about yarns we don't carry. I'm so curious what you'll pair your navy silk with.
Thanks for writing in.
May 15, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi, Could you please recommend any other yarn combination I could use to get the same look. I absolutely love the scarf but silk is very expensive. Thank you!
July 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteresther
Hi Esther.
I'd be delighted to suggest a few other yarns...

For CC you could use:
Louet's Euroflax - or maybe Koigu's KPM - or Habu's Cotton Gima (not quite the same look, but could be very cool and interesting) -

The MC is $8.50 a skein and I don't believe we have any substitutions that would be less expensive. It has a very specific look and feel which is hard to match. If you wanted, you could use Purl Soho's Line Weight -

If you have any questions about these yarns or any others you may come across... please feel free to write us back!
Thanks for writing in.
July 6, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

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