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So here’s the thing—I don’t wear shawls. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect and admiration for people who do (well, respect, admiration, and possibly just a little bit of envy). But I currently lack the requisite poise to pull them off.

But there’s something so undeniably appealing about a little bit of lacy fluff I can casually pull around myself for fortification when the weather or the world demand it. And I don’t want to deny myself that, even if I can’t quite manage the shawl version. So cowls seem like the natural way to solve this problem.

This one uses my favorite shape. It’s broad at the bottom, so it settles nicely on your shoulders, and narrows towards the top, so you’re not drowning in extra fabric up by your face. All the decreases are tucked cleverly away inside the lace pattern, which is both satisfyingly tidy and means you can stop the cowl at a couple of different points to control how tall it is.

And, at least for me, it satisfies that the secret longing that burns deep in my soul without requiring me to somehow manage to become the sort of person who can manage to wear a shawl. Perhaps it will do the same for you!


General information

This is a quickie (only 12 pages long and only one page of charts), but I promise it’s all you need. And I do manage to sneak in a little guide on my favorite way to block cowls while we’re at it!

Skills & scope

This is a perfect example of how something that sometimes sounds scary (lace, oh no, that’s hard) is often surprisingly easy if you just give it a try. It’s worked in the round (which I always find makes it much easier to read your knitting because the right side of the fabric is always facing you), and all the increases and decreases are neatly stacked up in an orderly fashion. Once you have the pattern established, I suspect you’ll zoom along, even if you (used to!) think lace was a little tricky.

The pattern uses charts, so you will need to know how to follow a knitting chart.

Yarn, gauge & sizing

The cowl comes in five sizes (from a 154 stitch cast on to a 210 stitch cast on) and is written for four gauges (four, four and a half, five, and five and a half stitches per inch). That means you can use just about any weight of yarn from heavy fingering up through aran. The different sizes and gauges will give you a cowl with a circumference between 38.5 and 52.5 inches at the widest point, between 18 and 26.5 inches at the narrowest point (and you can stop at several points along the way, so you don’t have to worry about it being too snug around your neck). So there’s a size to fit pretty much anyone, and pretty much any yarn weight that will give you a fabric with a drape you like somewhere in that range of gauges will work.

The cowl in the pictures is made in the 196-stitch size and the medium height at about 5 stitches per inch. It took about 275 yards of fingering-weight yarn.

If you’re working with thinner yarn or making a bigger size or taller cowl, 375 yards is a safer bet (though because you can stop at several points, you can absolutely just stop early if you start to run short on yarn).

Tools & supplies

You’ll need needles that let you work in the round (circulars or DPNs) in whatever size lets you get a nice fabric with your chosen yarn plus the general knitting tools you need for most projects (scissors to cut your yarn, a darning needle to weave in ends, maybe a  stitch marker to mark the beginning of your round). You’ll also want whatever you like to use to block cowls (blocking wires are great, blocking pins and a mat will work if you don’t have wires, pins and somewhere flat like a bed or a couch cushion will work in a pinch if you don’t have a mat).

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