Knitting a Cowl in the Round: Step-by-Step Guide and Tips

Knitting a Cowl in the Round: Step-by-Step Guide and Tips

Knitting is a timeless and versatile craft that allows you to create beautiful and functional items. One popular project for knitters of all skill levels is a cowl. A cowl is a snug and cozy accessory that can be worn around the neck or pulled up over the head for extra warmth. In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of knitting a cowl in the round.

Knitting in the round is a technique that involves knitting in a continuous spiral, rather than working back and forth in rows. It is typically done using circular knitting needles, which allow you to easily knit in a seamless tube. This eliminates the need for sewing or seaming at the end, making it a popular method for knitting accessories like cowls.

Before you begin, gather your materials. You will need a set of circular knitting needles in the appropriate size for your chosen yarn, as well as a skein of soft and cozy yarn. Choose a yarn weight and color that suits your style and desired finished cowl. Additionally, you may want to have stitch markers, a tapestry needle, and scissors handy.

Remember to always start with a swatch to ensure you have the correct gauge for your project. This will help you to achieve the desired size and fit for your cowl.

Now that you have gathered your materials and determined your gauge, it’s time to cast on. To begin, make a slip knot and place it onto your circular knitting needle. Then, using the long tail cast-on method or your preferred cast-on method, cast on the desired number of stitches for your cowl. This will vary depending on the size and style you want to achieve. Once you have cast on, join your work in the round, being careful not to twist your stitches.

What is a cowl?

A cowl is a type of knitted or crocheted accessory that is worn around the neck. It is similar to a scarf, but typically shorter and wider, allowing it to be easily slipped over the head. Cowls can be worn for both fashion and function, providing warmth and adding a stylish touch to any outfit.

There are many different styles of cowls, ranging from simple and classic designs to more intricate and decorative patterns. Some cowls are long enough to be doubled up around the neck, while others may have buttons or fastenings to secure them in place. Cowls can be made from a variety of yarns, with different weights and fibers creating different textures and drape.

One popular style of cowl is the infinity cowl, which is a continuous loop that can be worn in a single long loop or doubled up for extra warmth. Another popular style is the neckwarmer cowl, which is shorter and snugger around the neck, providing a cozy layer of warmth without bulky fabric.

Cowls are versatile accessories that can be worn with a variety of outfits and in different seasons. They can be knitted or crocheted in a range of stitches, from simple garter stitch or stockinette stitch to more complex lace or cable patterns. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced knitter, learning how to knit a cowl in the round is a great way to expand your skills and create a stylish accessory for yourself or as a gift.

Materials Needed

To knit a cowl in the round, you will need the following materials:

  • Yarn: Choose a bulky or super bulky weight yarn of your choice. Make sure to check the recommended gauge on the yarn label.
  • Knitting Needles: Use circular knitting needles in a size appropriate for your chosen yarn. The length of the needles should measure at least 16 inches to accommodate the stitches for knitting in the round.
  • Stitch Marker: A stitch marker will be needed to mark the beginning or end of a round.
  • Tapestry Needle: A tapestry needle is used for weaving in the yarn ends and finishing touches.
  • Scissors: Have a pair of scissors handy for cutting the yarn.
  • Measuring Tape: A measuring tape or ruler will be helpful for checking the gauge and measuring the finished cowl.
  • Pattern: Find a pattern that suits your skill level and desired style of cowl.

Optional Materials:
  • Buttons
  • Pom-pom maker
  • Ribbons
  • Beads
  • Faux fur trim
  • Lace trim
  • Fringe
  • Embroidery thread
  • Charms
  • Sequins

These optional materials can be used to personalize and embellish your cowl.


Yarn is the main material you will need for knitting a cowl. It is a long continuous length of fibers that are twisted or spun together to form a thread or a strand. Yarn comes in various materials, weights, and colors, allowing you to choose the perfect yarn for your project.

Types of Yarn:

  • Wool: Wool yarn is derived from the fleece of sheep and is known for its warmth and softness. It is a popular choice for winter accessories like cowls.
  • Cotton: Cotton yarn is made from the fibers of cotton plants. It is lightweight and breathable, making it suitable for cowls to wear in warmer weather.
  • Acrylic: Acrylic yarn is made from synthetic fibers. It is affordable, easy to care for, and can be found in a wide range of colors. This type of yarn is great for beginners.
  • Alpaca: Alpaca yarn comes from the fleece of alpacas. It is known for its softness, warmth, and hypoallergenic properties. Alpaca yarn is often more expensive than other types.

Yarn Weights:

Yarn is categorized into different weights, which determine its thickness. The weight of the yarn will affect the drape, texture, and appearance of your cowl.

  • Fingering: Very thin yarn used for delicate knits or lacework.
  • Sport/DK: Lighter weight yarn suitable for lightweight cowls.
  • Worsted: Medium-weight yarn often used for various projects, including cowls.
  • Bulky: Thick yarn that creates a chunky and warm cowl.

Choosing Yarn for your Cowl:

When selecting yarn for your cowl, consider the pattern requirements, the type of yarn you prefer, and the intended use of the cowl. Also, take into account factors such as color, texture, and softness. Experimenting with different yarns can lead to unique and beautiful cowls.

Knitting Needles

Knitting needles are the essential tools you’ll need to knit a cowl in the round. These long, slender tools come in different sizes and materials, and choosing the right needles can greatly impact your knitting experience and the final result of your project.

Size: Knitting needles come in various sizes, indicated by numbers ranging from 0 to 15 (US sizing) or 2mm to 10mm (metric sizing), with larger numbers indicating larger needle sizes. The size of the needles you choose will determine the gauge and overall size of your cowl. It’s important to match the needle size to the recommended gauge in your knitting patterns to ensure your project turns out the right size.

Material: Knitting needles can be made from a variety of materials, each offering different characteristics.

  • Wood: Wooden needles are popular for their warm and lightweight feel. They are typically smooth and offer good grip, making them great for beginners.
  • Metal: Metal needles, often made of aluminum or steel, are sturdy, smooth, and slide easily through stitches. They are durable and ideal for knitting with finer yarns or when you need speed.
  • Bamboo: Bamboo needles are known for their flexibility, making them a good choice for those who prefer more give in their knitting. They have a warm feel and are lightweight.
  • Plastic: Plastic needles are affordable and come in various colors. They can be a good option for beginners as they are lightweight and have a slight grip.

It’s important to consider your personal knitting preferences when choosing the material for your needles. Some knitters prefer the smoothness of metal needles, while others enjoy the warmth and grip of wooden or bamboo needles.

Circular Needles: Circular needles are the recommended type of needles for knitting a cowl in the round. They consist of two needle points connected by a flexible cable. The length of the circular needle should be comfortable for knitting the circumference of your cowl.

Double-Pointed Needles (DPNs): Another option for knitting in the round is using double-pointed needles. DPNs have points on both ends and are typically used for smaller projects or sections of a larger project.

Having a variety of needle sizes and materials in your knitting collection will allow you to experiment and find your preferred tools for different projects. Remember to always choose the needle size and material that best suits your knitting pattern and personal preferences.

Getting Started

Before you begin knitting your cowl in the round, you will need a few supplies:

  • Yarn: Choose a soft and chunky yarn that is suitable for knitting in the round. This will ensure that your cowl turns out cozy and warm.
  • Knitting Needles: Use circular knitting needles in the appropriate size for your yarn. The length of the needles will depend on the circumference of your cowl.
  • Stitch Markers: These small rings or clips will help you keep track of your stitches and rounds. You will need at least one to mark the beginning of your round.
  • Tape Measure: Use a tape measure to measure the circumference of your neck or the desired length of your cowl. This will help you determine how many stitches to cast on and how long to knit your cowl.
  • Yarn Needle: This needle with a large eye is used to weave in loose ends and finish off your cowl.
  • Scissors: You will need a pair of scissors to cut your yarn at the end of your project.
  • Pattern: Find a pattern or design for your cowl in the round. This will provide you with the stitch pattern and instructions for creating your cowl.

Once you have gathered all of your supplies, you are ready to start knitting your cowl in the round. Prepare your yarn by winding it into a ball or leaving it in the skein, and make sure your knitting needles are clean and free of any defects.

Choosing a Pattern

When it comes to knitting a cowl in the round, there are countless patterns to choose from. Whether you prefer a simple and minimalist design or something more intricate and eye-catching, you can find a pattern that suits your personal style and skill level.

Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a pattern:

  • Skill Level: Make sure to select a pattern that matches your knitting abilities. Some patterns are labeled as beginner-friendly, while others may require more advanced techniques.
  • Techniques: Take a look at the techniques used in the pattern. If there is a new stitch or technique that you’ve been wanting to try, this could be a great chance to learn and expand your knitting skills.
  • Yarn Weight: Consider the weight of the yarn suggested in the pattern. Thicker yarns will create a chunkier cowl, while lighter yarns will produce a more delicate result.
  • Design: Think about the overall design of the cowl. Do you prefer a simple and classic design, or do you want something more unique and eye-catching? Look for patterns that match your personal style and the type of cowl you envision wearing.
  • Size: Check the finished measurements of the cowl in the pattern to ensure it will fit comfortably around your neck. If you like oversized cowls, look for patterns that offer customization options or can easily be resized.

Once you’ve considered these factors, browse through different knitting pattern resources such as books, magazines, and online platforms to find the perfect pattern for your cowl project. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try out new patterns – the possibilities are endless!

Preparing the Yarn

Before you begin knitting a cowl in the round, it’s important to prepare your yarn. Follow these steps to make sure your yarn is ready to use:

  1. Unwind the skein: Start by removing the yarn from the skein or hank it came in. Carefully unwind the yarn, making sure not to tangle or knot it.
  2. Prevent tangles: To prevent tangles as you knit, it’s a good idea to wind your yarn into a ball or cake. You can use a yarn winder or simply wind it by hand. If you’re using multiple skeins, it’s recommended to wind them separately.
  3. Find the end: Once your yarn is wound, locate the end of the yarn. This is where you will begin knitting from. You may need to gently tease out the end if it’s tucked inside the ball or cake.
  4. Check for knots: Inspect the yarn for any knots or joins. If you come across any, carefully untie or cut them and rejoin the yarn if necessary.
  5. Inspect for imperfections: Take a moment to inspect the yarn for any imperfections, such as knots, weak spots, or snags. If you find any, it’s best to address them now before starting your project.

By properly preparing your yarn, you’ll have a smoother knitting experience and ensure the finished cowl looks its best.

Casting On and Joining in the Round

Casting On and Joining in the Round

Before you can begin knitting your cowl in the round, you’ll need to cast on your stitches and join them to create a seamless circle.

To cast on your stitches, start by making a slipknot. Hold the working yarn in your left hand and create a small loop with the tail end of the yarn over the working yarn. Insert your right hand through the loop from the top and pull the working yarn through to create a slipknot.

Once you have your slipknot, insert your right needle into the loop, from front to back, and tighten the stitch by pulling on the tail end of the yarn. This will create your first stitch on the needle.

Continue casting on the desired number of stitches by repeating the following steps: insert the right needle into the loop on the left needle from front to back, wrap the working yarn around the right needle counterclockwise, and pull the loop through the stitch to create a new stitch on the right needle. Repeat this process until you have cast on all the necessary stitches.

After casting on your stitches, you’ll need to join them in the round. To do this, hold the needle with the stitches in your left hand, making sure the cast on edge is not twisted. Insert the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle, under the left needle, and knit the stitch as you normally would.

Next, slide the knit stitch onto the left needle, ensuring that the working yarn is behind the work. This will bring the first and last stitches together, creating a seamless circle. Make sure that your stitches are not twisted, as this will affect the finished look of your cowl.

Once the first round is complete, you can begin knitting in the round. Continue knitting each round until your cowl reaches the desired length.

Remember to always knit in the same direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise, to maintain consistency in your stitches. And don’t forget to check your work regularly to ensure that your stitches are even and neat.

Now that you’ve finished casting on and joining in the round, you’re ready to start knitting your cowl. Happy knitting!

Long-Tail Cast On

Long-Tail Cast On

The long-tail cast on is a commonly used method for starting knitting projects. It creates a neat and elastic edge that is perfect for cowls and other accessories. Follow these steps to learn how to do the long-tail cast on:

  1. Hold the yarn in your right hand and make a slipknot, leaving a long tail. Place the slipknot on the left-hand needle.
  2. Hold the needle with the slipknot in your right hand and the empty needle in your left hand.
  3. With your left thumb and index finger, hold the tail end of the yarn and the working end of the yarn, leaving a small loop between your fingers.
  4. Insert the right-hand needle into the loop from left to right, going under the working end of the yarn.
  5. Pull the working end of the yarn through the loop, creating a new loop on the right-hand needle.
  6. Slip the loop from the left-hand needle onto the right-hand needle, keeping the tension even.
  7. Repeat steps 4 to 6 until you have cast on the desired number of stitches.

The long-tail cast on is a versatile technique that can be used for a variety of knitting projects. It’s important to choose the right size needle and yarn to achieve the desired tension and elasticity in your cast on edge. Practice this cast on method and soon you’ll be able to start a cowl or any other project with confidence!

Joining in the Round

Before you can start knitting a cowl in the round, you will need to join your stitches together to create a continuous loop. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to join in the round:

  1. First, make sure that your cast-on row is not twisted. Lay your work flat on a table or surface and double-check that all the stitches are facing the same direction.
  2. Next, slip the first stitch from the left needle onto the right needle without knitting it.
  3. Now, insert the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle as if you were going to knit it.
  4. Wrap the yarn around the right needle from back to front, just like you would for a knit stitch.
  5. Pull the right needle through the stitch, bringing the new stitch onto the right needle and leaving the original stitch on the left needle.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 until all the stitches have been transferred to the right needle and you have created a continuous loop.

Once you have joined in the round, you can begin knitting your cowl using your preferred stitch pattern. Keep in mind that when knitting in the round, you will be working the pattern on the right side of the fabric for every round, as there is no wrong side.

Joining in the round is an essential step for knitting circular projects, such as cowls, hats, and sleeves. It creates a seamless appearance and eliminates the need for seaming or sewing later on. With a bit of practice, you will be able to master this technique and enjoy knitting beautiful projects in the round.


What materials do I need to knit a cowl in the round?

To knit a cowl in the round, you will need a set of circular knitting needles, yarn, a yarn needle, and scissors.

What is the advantage of knitting a cowl in the round?

Knitting a cowl in the round eliminates the need for seams, creating a seamless and continuous piece. It also allows for a more stretchy and comfortable fit.

Is it difficult to knit a cowl in the round?

Knitting a cowl in the round can be a bit challenging for beginners, but with practice and following step-by-step instructions, it can be easily accomplished.

How long does it take to knit a cowl in the round?

The time it takes to knit a cowl in the round depends on various factors such as your knitting speed, the complexity of the pattern, and the length of the cowl. On average, it can take a few hours to a few days.

Can I use any yarn to knit a cowl in the round?

While you can technically use any yarn to knit a cowl in the round, it is recommended to choose a yarn that is soft, warm, and bulky or chunky for a cozy and comfortable cowl.

Do I need to know any specific knitting stitches to knit a cowl in the round?

To knit a cowl in the round, you will need to know basic knitting stitches such as knit and purl. Depending on the pattern you choose, you may also need to know other stitches or techniques such as ribbing or cables.

Can I customize the size of the cowl?

Yes, you can customize the size of the cowl by adjusting the number of stitches you cast on and the number of rounds you knit. You can also adjust the length of the cowl by knitting more or fewer rounds.


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