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A few folks have asked for a pattern for the Faux Isle cowl I showed a bit of in my Mixtape Marls post. The thing is I’m not a designer so much as a freestyler, and I don’t write patterns.

Remember me?

I knit like I cook, using loose ideas and flavors in a framework. I never follow recipes to the letter.

But as loosey-goosey as I am with my knitting, I do swatch, even if it’s a tiny swatch, or a swatch that becomes something else like a hat, cowl, or mitts. For me, having a swatch I’m happy with allows me to freestyle everything else. It’s like sharpening a knife before cutting a mound of vegetables—it makes everything good a little smoother.

And so, I’ve gathered the elements for my stranded colorwork cowl for you. Explore! Swatch! And Enjoy!

Mixtape Cowl

The ingredients:


Size of cowl

Gauge (after finishing)

Stitch pattern repeat

The yarn I used is Neighborhood Fiber Company Rustic Fingering in Oliver, and a Freia Minikin in Maple (in the Picket Fence set). As much as I like the maple leaf color in the Minikin, I was most interested in pairing its blue and green with the gold of the Rustic Fingering, so I stopped knitting before the yarn turned red.

When I say cowl, everyone thinks of something different, it’s like saying, “cookie” to a baker. These yarns—knitted at a looser gauge and to suit my particular knitting mood—want to be a short cowl, the little extra something for when the cold blows inside the neck of your coat.

A short cowl for me is 22–24″ in circumference and 6–8″ tall. You may want something different. It’s a great idea to measure accessories you love and use those dimensions to adapt this recipe. Though this is a short cowl, there’s plenty of knitting space to allow the Minikin colors to merge and melt into each other.

I knit this at a looser gauge than the yarn calls for: 5.5 stitches to the inch, knit in-the-round and blocked. I like the drape that the looser gauge gives, and the stranding gives the cowl at a nice drape, rather than a listless drape.

I am nice—with a certain flair, wouldn’t you say?

I used an 8-stitch pattern from Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 150 Scandinavian Motifs. It’s number 18 if you have the book. Here’s a beautiful thing, any 8-stitch repeat motif will work. Feel free to hunt and gather one you like better.

I cast on 120 stitches (with an 8-stitch repeat and 5.5 stitches to the inch that’s a 21.8″ circumference), joined to knit in the round, knit four rows of garter stitch, knit my chart until I was close to 6″ of pattern knitting, knit four rows of garter, and bound off.

See, not a designer, not a pattern writer, but I like my results a lot.

Yes, It’s wider at the bottom

The eagled eyed knitters out there will notice that this cowl splays out at the bottom. The love-to-learn knitters will want to know how I did it. 

Sometimes I want more width at the bottom of a cowl, so I knit top down and add width in the last inch and then bind off.

How? Please don’t tell my friend and technical guru Kate Atherley who would rather that I add stitches and do the math. I am a lazy knitter and it’s a cowl, so I either use a bigger needle or change my style of knitting to get a bigger gauge. Yep, moving from picking to throwing can change my gauge as much as half a stitch to an inch.

You can change so many things to suit your fancy when knitting a cowl like this. And with 120 stitches, a 4-stitch or 6-stitch motif will work too.

Knitting is so much like cooking, your ingredients, your spice, your style. If you follow what you like you’ll be content with what you make, and if you do make a cowl that you don’t particularly like, put it in your gift pile, no one will know.

How’s that tea, Jillian? Love that Pots by DJR shroomy mug!
Save it for later. Here’s how to save this article in your MDK account with one click.

About The Author

Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Keep up with her exploits at


  • Love your knitting style! I am becoming a bit more creative in my knitting techniques, and love the results!

    • Well Said! Thanks for this article:) !!

      • I recently made a barely there recipe cowl. I made the top smaller than the bottom as an experiment. When I put it on it becomes three layers… think 3 concentric circles! It is fabulous! I think I will get MaryJane’s book off the shelf and do some playing !

  • Awesome cowl! It looks amazing on you 😉 Bises!

  • Hello
    The cowl is beautiful and I love the flow of colors. I ventured to your blog and I MUST say my favorite was the picture of you and those Dutch shoes!! Too much fun!
    Great adventure to share. My daughter lived in Ann Arbor for 5 years and we LOVED the city!

  • Hats off to you! Free styling makes us happy!

  • Love it, too! Ran into a customer at a YSL once who was wearing the most perfectly draped cowl . Each of three folds was equally wider by about a 3/4 inch than the one above, thus neatly splaying out gently from neck to shoulder. Very flattering. I asked her how she did it and her answer was annoyingly vague. She just started out with 100 stitches and ended up with 150. I got the feeling she thought it was obvious but I, a new knitter, hadn’t a clue. So Thank You, Jillian, for sharing your process and also perhaps indicating that a certain amount is instinct born from experience and thus not necessarily worth charting for a one-off item.

  • I spent a day last week knitting with my daughter, and she’s just like you. I taught her to knit years ago but she has moved way beyond me in skill and creativity. She fiddles with patterns and makes them her own or makes them up like you did with the cowl. Your pictures and explanations are so clear that I think even I could do that and am excited to move on and create my own cowls and scarfs and…… more!

  • Even when my original intention is to follow the pattern, I end up freestyling at some point, and yes: i cook that way too. I think its a practice that should be encouraged, and I hope you can go farther with that in future columns.

  • You are my kind of knitter! I feel that patterns are only suggestions and that I should be free to improvise as the spirit moves me. Thanks for sharing your “suggestions”.

  • I love your cowl, and also the fact that it has one set of triangles that are only 3 rows high rather than 4.
    As a child I learned that the Navajo made everything with a mistake to let the evil spirits out. Let me tell you, there are no evil spirits in my hand knits!

    • Coodos for noticing the 3’s.

    • Bravo for noticing the 3 row triangles. Very observant. I cook freestyle but I knit strictly by the pattern. Strange. Im generally very creative but I’m always worried about fit.

      • Check out the newest book from the New York Times. Each ‘recipe’ is a list of ingredient suggestions, nothing else.

  • I read through your post thinking, “I’ve made some cowls from a pattern that are just like this” – but it turns out I’m wrong – similar triangles, very different cowls. For anyone who is interested, it’s this one:

    Love your version, and the playful way you knit it.

  • In the Time Before Knitting (BKN) someone had to break the rules. Thanks for your creative and innovative thinking!

  • Awesome! Inspiring post, nice cowl, and thank you for leaving the details on your mug, because you KNOW we all want to know.

  • I love this. Thank you

  • The part where you change your gauge on purpose by changing your knitting style totally blows my mind. I feel like a Higher Power is controlling my gauge–it has nothing to do with me!

    • I used my full legal name in case you thought I was some other Kay Gardiner

  • I love this cowl— such a simple but lovely design.

    But I think the Freia minikin is Woodsman, not Maple— Maple is brown/red/orange, no blue or green at all.

  • Love your method. Although not an experienced knitter/crocheter, I find myself changing just by a bit EVERYTHING I do. Just take the meat of something and add and subtract a bit to suit either my taste or the yarn. I agree it can be a bit like cooking – and doesn’t always quite work out how you think, but sometimes – Yum!

  • Thanks for a timely article! I finished a pair of mittens and decided to knit a cowl to match. . .should have swatched for gauge purposes as well as to check the design. Didn’t swatch. Just wanted to get into the knitting. . . knew this was the wrong choice and your article backs up what I figured out/began to question . . I’m glad I’m only a couple of rows into it. I’ll rip this out and do a proper swatch to test both my gauge and to ensure the design will work. Thanks again!

  • Yes, I love your knitting style.

  • Thank you for instructions that do not intmidate a senior left handed knitter who has an intermediate skill set knitting and spinning. Your book is VERY helpful.

  • I remember you talking about making a marled sweater with Freia Minikins and Felted Tweed . Do you have any more on that? It sounds intriguing to me.
    I follow just about everything you do because I love your spirit of fun!

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