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Design Your Own Knit Cowl

Knit Cowl w Seed Stitch Edge

Design Your Own Knit Cowl

I spent many hours scouring Ravelry and other pattern libraries for cowl patterns.  I wanted a pattern that was going to be fast and easy to knit and that also would be long enough to pull up over my head like a hood.  I just didn’t see one that I really liked so I decided to design my own.


The first thing I did was to knit a large 5″ x 5″ swatch on circular needles in knit stitch in order to get an accurate gauge.  I swatched in knit stitch on circular needles because I didn’t want to seam two pieces together, and I was planning to knit my cowl in knit stitch.  I wanted a stitch pattern that would be easy and fast to work up.  It just doesn’t get any easier and faster than knit stitch in the round.

My gauge came out to 3.5 stitches per inch and 5 rows per inch.

If you are going to use a stitch pattern on the edges to prevent the fabric from rolling, you should knit the exact same edge stitch pattern on your swatch so you can calculate its gauge as well.  This will also keep you from making the same mistake I did by ensuring that the number of rows of border stitching will be adequate to keep your fabric from rolling.

Calculating Finished Size

I didn’t want the cowl to be too snug around my neck because I also wanted to be able to pull it up unto my head, so I decided to make it 17.5″ wide.  Since I was working in the round, I doubled this to 35″ for front and back.

Since I wanted the cowl to be long enough to pull up on my head in bad weather, I decided to make it 17″ long, including the border rows.

Border or No Border

I originally did not want my cowl edges to roll, but I really don’t like the look of garter stitch, so I decided on making a few seed stitch border rows on each end.

However, I didn’t knit enough seed stitch rows and the cowl ends roll anyway.  As it turns out, I’m not unhappy about the roll.  I especially like the way it rolls around my face when I have it up on my head, so all is good!

My recommendation is if you do not want your edges to roll, that you should knit at least 5 or 6 rows in whatever stitch pattern you are planning on using.  This is another instance where test swatches really help.

Calculating Stitches and Rows

Since I planned on only knitting 2 or 3 rows of seed stitch I just used the gauge from my test swatch to calculate total number of stitches and rows I needed in order to reach my goal of a cowl that was approximately 35″ around [17.5″ x 2 for front and back], and 17″ long.

If you are going to use an edge or border stitch pattern to prevent your edges from rolling, then you would need to deduct the edge or border row gauge from your total number of rows.

Taking my gauge of 3.5 stitches per inch, I multiplied 3.5 by the total number of inches wide I wanted my cowl to be; in this case 35″ around.

     3.5 x 35 = 122.5 stitches

Since I was doing seed stitch edges, I needed to have an even number of stitches, so I rounded down to 122 stitches.

Then I took my row gauge of 5 rows per inch and multiplied it by the height I wanted my cowl to be; in this case 17″ long.

     5 x 17 = 85 total rows

Since I was planning on doing 3 rows of seed stitch on each end, I deducted 6 rows [3 for top edge and 3 for bottom edge] from 85 for a total of 79 rows of knit stitch.

Start Knitting!

I cast on a total of 122 stitches on the same pair of circular needles I used to make my test swatch.

I then knit 3 rows of seed stitch.

Then I knit 79 rows in knit stitch.

Then finished up with 3 rows of seed stitch.


Everything turned out exactly the way I had originally planned it except for the edges rolling because I didn’t knit enough seed stitch rows to prevent the fabric from rolling.

If I had made the seed stitch border around my test swatch, I would have discovered this before I even began knitting my cowl.

As it turns out, I’m not unhappy with the rolled edges, especially when I have the cowl up on my head.

Variations for Future Patterns

This Design Your Own Knit Cowl pattern recipe lends itself particularly  well to mosaic, fair isle or entrelac type knitting.

It is also easily adaptable for those who would rather crochet their cowl instead of knit.

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