How to design your own cowl


Today, I am going to show you how to design your very own cowl. 

I want to be as transparent as possible in this tutorial and take away any mystique with regard to designing. You will then see how easy it is and hopefully you will feel confident enough and say: "I can do that!"

We will work with the Zara cowl, which I found online, and we will try to create one that looks like it. This is called "reverse engineering". 

Are you ready? Let's go!

Step 1: Determining what stitch pattern to use and swatching


After looking closely at our Zara cowl picture, I have determined what stitch I am going to use: The large basket stitch an all over cable pattern that reads as follows:

Multiple of 6 stitches

Row 1 (RS): K
Row2 (WS): P
Row3: K3, *6 stitches right cable. Repeat from*, end with K3
Row4: P
Row5: K
Row6: P
Row 7: *6 stitches left cable. Repeat from * to end
Row 8: Purl

Now that you have determined what stitch pattern you are going to use, you need to determine what needle size and what yarn you are going to work with. You want to see how this pattern looks in different sizes of needles and yarn. 


I talked about the swatching process for the Zara Cowl in blog post called: "Swatch It!". I invite you to revisit that post.

Now that you know how the stitch pattern behaves in different size needles and various yarns, you are ready to make an assessment. Here is mine:

~The large basket stitch pattern creates a thick and rather stiff fabric, therefore a softer yarn is required.

~In order to "soften" the fabric, use 1 or two needle sizes bigger than recommended on the ball wrapper.

~Choose yarn that fits in your budget

Choosing your yarn and making your final swatch

I would have loved to work with Madeline Tosh bulky but my budget won't allow it and besides that, I've used a lot of Madeline Tosh yarn in several past projects. This time I will work with Cascade 128 Superwash which is an affordable yarn that comes in gorgeous colors.

On the ball wrapper the recommended needle size is US 10, yet I am going to work with US 13 to make a more relaxed fabric ( see assessment above).

I am now going to make a final swatch and this is going to give me information for calculations. VERY IMPORTANT STEP!!! Your final swatch will give you numbers to work with!


For my swatch I cast on 24 stitches (4x6) and it yields a fabric that is 6" wide. Also, I like how the knitted fabric feels and I give it green light!

Now that I have this information (24 stitches yields 6" wide), I will determine how much stitches to cast on for my cowl.

Measuring how wide you want your cowl to be and simple calculations

I don't want my cowl to be too snug to my neck, nor do I want it to be too wide. My head circumference is about 22"-23" and so I determine for my cowl to be 24" wide.


You know that 24 stitches yields a 6" fabric and now you also know that you want your cowl to be 24" wide. 

24/6= 4  ---> this means that you need to cast on 24x4= 96 stitches

Now it is just a matter of casting on and apply the stitch pattern! Easy, no?

The results

I planned on making a big cowl just like in the picture but I am extremely busy these days and simply do not have the time. So I opted for a smaller cowl and used just one ball of Cascade 128. 


So, with needle size 13 and Cascade 128 Superwash yarn, I casted on 96 stitches and I joined in the round. Then I worked the pattern but since I made it in the round, all the purl rows on the WS (wrong side), become knit rows. 

Round 1: K
Round 2: K
Round 3: K3, *6 stitches right cable. Repeat from*, end with K3
Round 4: K
Round 5: K
Round 6: K
Round 7: *6 stitches left cable. Repeat from * to end
Round 8: K

Repeat round 1 to 8 until you run out or yarn. Bind off loosely.

Now that I have shown you how to do this, you can choose any yarn you want and any needle you want to work with!



You can do it... really. Good luck!


I do not own any rights to this piece. I just wanted to show you how this is done. 

If you want to take what I have explained here and issue a pattern: BE MY GUEST. Go on, take the idea and run with it. It's yours.

Also, if you have any questions regarding this blog post, leave a comment. Don't hesitate, ask my anything you want. I am here for you if you need any help, okay? And if you are shy to ask in the comment section, no worries, just contact me through the contact form.

Should the cables be a bit too much for you but you like the look of it, why don't you give entrelac a chance? My fellow blogger Michele from the blog PDX Knitterati has issued an adorable entrelac cowl. Go check it out! 

Thanks for all the nice comments on my Sunday Afternoon blog post, everybody! Much made my husband's day...

Sunday Afternoon8

Thanks for reading and until the next entry.







thank you!

I am so glad I googled 'how to design a knitted cowl' or I never would have found your article.  Thank you!  Deb

Fantastic! Now you know how

Fantastic! Now you know how it is done.

love it!

I just found your blog tonight, and now i am in love with your gloves, and your description of this cowl.... What to make first what to make first?!?!?! xoxo!kayt

Thank you! So much fun stuff

Thank you! So much fun stuff to make :)

Hi Nancy! I LOVEEE your

Hi Nancy! I LOVEEE your tutorial. I am a beginner knitter and want to try this cowl. Just a quick question- what do I do in round 6? Thanks so much! 

Hi there! Ha, I skipped to

Hi there! Ha, I skipped to mention round/row 6!

I have corrected now, so I look back in the post.

Happy knitting...



Great Tutorial

Hi Nanci, Thanks for sharing tibits on how you approach the design process.  I really appreciate your tutorial and the inspiration it leaves me with.  I've always viewed designing as intimidating but after viewing your tutorial realize it opens another door to being creative.  sharon   

I am here to help you!


You are so welcome and I am so happy for your appreciation. Please know that I am here to help you, so if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ASK!

I created this website to de-mystify knitting and now I find myself wanting to de-mystify simple design projects like cowls and fingerless gloves. Who knows what's next, it is all a great adventure and I am happy you are embarking on this with me!

Have no fear, have fun :)

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