Fashion Friday :: cowls

“I like a church; I like a cowl / I love a prophet of the soul” – from “The Problem,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you try to find the history of cowls online, you will mostly find references to monk’s hoods or the cloaks that have the hoods on them. I’m finding very little about the history of what we knitters mean when we refer to cowls. What we mean by the term “cowl” is usually a knitted tube to be pulled over the head and worn around the neck – it can be quite small, and very close to the neck; it can be large enough to pull over the head like a hood; it can be long enough to wind more than once around the neck – or a small rectangle that can be buttoned at the neck. Other names for cowls include: neckwarmer, snood, infinity scarf, eternity scarf, circle scarf, and so on.

I much prefer knitting cowls to knitting scarves – they are usually done more quickly, and they are usually knit in the round. I also like wearing them more than I like wearing scarves (here I am only talking about the knitted version worn for warmth; anyone who knows me in person knows that I like wearing all manner of scarves as accessories). Unlike with a scarf, there is no worrying about how to tie a cowl, or about a cowl coming undone.

Over the years, I’ve moved from making primarily close-fitting cowls:

Awbrey Cowl (one of my free patterns)

Awbrey Cowl

(read more about this design – one of my free patterns – here)

To making much bigger versions:

Sweetgum Cowl

Sweetgum Cowl

(read more about the Sweetgum Cowl – my first published design, and also free – here)

I love upsized cowls. The first time I ever made one was three years ago, inspired by a bulked-up version I had seen on Ravelry. I’m still in love with this “New New Shale” design.

Rings of Fire Cowl

Rings of Fire Cowl

I always break this out at the beginning of fall; I just wore it a couple of days ago, and I still get nice comments on it. It is SO cozy and comfortable.

I often now wear these bulked-up cowls loose around my neck, like this:

Sweetgum, loose

Sweetgum, loose

I like long and slinky cowls, too:

Liquid Amber Cowl

Liquid Amber Cowl

(another one of my free designs)

I’m working on another handspun cowl design to be released soon, and I have others in my head that I hope to eventually get knitted up and written down. But I’m interested to know what others of you think of cowls, and what you perceive the current trends to be. Last winter, I saw a lot of University of Michigan students in big chunky cowls that sort of stood up (and out) around their necks; I’ve not seen many knitting designs like that. I know the long-ish infinity scarves (both knit and otherwise) are still pretty popular around here (and everywhere?). But what else? What are you noticing in terms of neckwear this season? What are your preferences, as a knitter and/or as a clothes-wearer?

4 thoughts on “Fashion Friday :: cowls

  1. I love cowls! I have a chunky alpaca version of Nebbiolo ( that I wear all through the Wisconsin winter and I absolutely love it. I’m thinking of making another to donate to my kids’ school’s silent auction this fall.
    I also have a Ptarmigan (, which is much smaller and more delicate, and perfect for cool, but not cold, fall days. I can’t say I prefer one style to the other. It just depends on my mood.

  2. Great collection! I like chunky loops with cables to turn around the neck twice, and secondly I’ve always loved the Mobius ring. That is such a great design: so simple, so elegant and always fascinating.

  3. i love cowls. i mostly wear the tight fitting ones in the winter, but really want to make a Sweetgum, because i love how you wear it over the shoulders (too bad i can’t duplicate the yarn!). next up i’d like to knit something like Barley Sugar by Ysolda. lightweight, but lush, except i’ve read that pattern is fairly mind numbing, so i haven’t started it yet. 🙂 (nothing wrong with tv knitting, of course)
    can’t comment on any trends. i feel pretty out of it these days.

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