Knitting Cowls

Knitting Cowls

Cowls are pretty great, and I think they are poised to make a comeback.  At least numerically, considering all the cowls I have knit so far this year!  I caught Cowl Fever from a friend; I have to confess, it's very communicable.

What is a cowl?  

Imagine knitting a short scarf, and grafting together the first and last row to make a continuous loop.  I have also heard cowls described as "detached turtlenecks" or "mock dickies."  

The name "cowl" has been lent to "cowl neck" which is a common kind of neck on a scarf.  Wearing a cowl makes it look like you're wearing a cowl neck scarf, if that makes any sense.

Why are cowls great to knit?
Cowls let you try out a yarn or a pattern in a smaller format than you usually would.  Let's face it - sometimes knitting an entire six foot scarf can seem like a real slog!  The same goes for a whole entire lace stole or shawl.  

And since cowls are worn close to the neck, they are a great use for a single skein of a really delicious yarn.  Silk, cashmere, angora, baby alpaca - luxury fibers work really well for cowls.

Why are cowls great to wear?

Now that I've knit all these cowls, I feel kinda obliged to wear them.  Cowls are like the heart of a scarf: it's all the functionality, with none of the bother.  Whereas a scarf has to be wound and unwound, you can just pop a cowl over your head.  If you get too warm, you can tuck a cowl into your pocket.  Cowls are also easier to coordinate with various temperatures and wardrobes, since they are so much faster to knit.

Cowls are basically a really great addition to a layered wardrobe.  What's not to like?

How do you knit a cowl?

There are a LOT of cowl patterns out there!  According to Ravelry, the three most popular FREE cowl knitting patterns are the Wham Bam Thank You Lamb Neckwarmer, the Darkside Cowl (I made this a few months ago, and it was great), and the Crofter's Cowl.    

Some cowl patterns are easier to adapt to a different gauge than others.  When in doubt, it's probably better to knit a cowl that might be too big than one that might be too small.  No one wants to feel like they're being choked by their clothing!

As a general rule of thumb, a cowl should be between 6 and 10 inches tall.  (Most cowls collapse at least a little when you wear them, so it's better to make it too wide than too narrow.)  You will want the cowl to be between about 15 and 20 inches long (around).  A longer cowl is easier to pull up over your head to wear as a hood or wimple.  But a shorter cowl is easier to tuck your chin into, on a cold and blustery winter day.  

Best of all, you can improvise a cowl pretty easily!  Just choose a stitch pattern and go!