Learn how to crawl: the New York City Yarn CrawlΒ is on through Sunday, September 25.

Last-Minute Schmatta (Free Pattern)

Dear Ann,
Here’s a free pattern for holiday gifting and December TV-watching. This is not rocket-science knitting. This is git-r-done while watching a movie on Netflix knitting. But every civilian who sees it wants one, so I think that makes it a good Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Thank You For Teaching My Kid gift.
It’s called Schmatta, which in yiddish means “rag.” To me it does not have a connotation of abject raggediness, but of modesty. It’s like saying, “this old thing?” in response to a compliment. “This? It’s just a little schmatta I knitted in front of King of the Hill last night.”
What we have here is a flat piece of heavy-duty garter stitch. Occasional elongated-stitch rows give the knitter a moment of (mild) excitement, and eliminate the need to fuss with buttonhole placement. Slipping the first and last stitch of each row is a refinement that can be eliminated for Ultra Beginners, who will find the double-wrapped rows hair-raising enough. But if you’re not a beginner, do make that slipped-stitch chain; even a Schmatta deserves good craftsmanship. Using multiple buttons makes the Schmatta work as a high-necked cowl (for the Elizabethan, Tilda Swinton wannabe look that is the dernier cri this season), or as a demure collar inside your coat.
It takes me a few aimless hours to make a Schmatta, plus one week to procrastinate sewing on 3 buttons. You may knit slower or faster, and have more or fewer psychological barriers to sewing on buttons, but in any case this is a project that can be cranked out in multiples, if multiples are desired. A Schmatta takes only one skein of Malabrigo Rasta, or the super bulky yarn of your choice, so it won’t break the bank either.
Here you go.
Finished Size: Approximately 31” (79 cm) x 7 1/2” (19 cm)
Malabrigo Rasta, 100% Merino wool, 150g (90 yards), 1 skein
Size 13 (9mm) needles
Stitch marker
Tapestry needle or crochet hook for weaving in ends
Oddment of sock yarn or embroidery thread for sewing on buttons
3 large buttons
Approximately 8 sts + 20 rows (10 garter ridges) = 4” (10cm) in garter stitch
Note: Gauge precision is not critical as long as you like the density of the knitted fabric.
Abbreviations and terms
Garter ridge A garter ridge is formed on the RS by knitting 1 RS row and 1 WS row.
RS Right side
WS Wrong side
Since garter stitch looks the same on both sides, mark the right side of the piece with a stitch marker, and count garter ridges on this side.
Cast on 15 stitches using the long-tail method. Take care not to cast on tightly; loosely is better.
The cast-on forms the first garter ridge on the RS. The first row will be a RS row.
Row 1: Slip 1 stitch purlwise, knit to the end of the row.
Repeat row 1 three more times. You will now have 3 garter ridges on the RS.
Next row (RS) (double-wrap row): Slip 1 stitch purlwise, knit 13 stitches, wrapping the yarn twice around the needle for each stitch, knit the last stitch normally.
Next row (WS) (wrap-drop row): Slip 1 stitch purlwise, knit 13 stitches, dropping the extra wrap on each stitch as you knit it, knit the last stitch normally.
Continue in this pattern: 3 garter ridges followed by a double-wrap row and a wrap-drop row, 12 more times. (Note: the number of repeats is not important. Also, if you knit more or fewer than 3 garter ridges in a given section, it doesn’t matter. It’s not that kind of a pattern. Do it the way you like it, or like the way you do it.)
Work in plain garter stitch until you judge that you have just enough yarn to bind off. Bind off all stitches loosely, and weave in the tails.
Wet the piece, squeeze out most of the water by rolling it in a towel and pressing on it. Lay the damp piece flat on a dry towel, and even up the edges with your fingers. Allow the schmatta to dry completely, and sew on the buttons as shown in the photos. It helps to try on the schmatta to guide placement of the buttons. Place the buttons opposite a drop-stitch row for ease of buttoning.
Some illustrative photos, in no particular order:
With one button buttoned, it’s a collar.
The chain edge makes it look like you found it at Eileen Fisher with a big price tag on it. (At which point you said, hey, I can knit that!)
Suggested button placement for maximum versatility. You need two buttons on one end to get the cowl effect. The buttons need to be large.
I’m not gonna lie to you, I should have bound off a little looser. I only noticed it after I’d blocked it, and it seemed JUST FINE at that point. Design feature!
There are other ways you could button the schmatta around the neck. You’re not stuck with fixed buttonholes. Wherever you want to button it, put a button there. Lots of opportunities to button.
Full-on cowl mode. Not sure this is the warmest way to wear it, but this is the look I’m seeing this year.
Collar formation (single button) puts the fat wool closer to the neck. Ladylike.
OK, be sure to knit one for yourself while you’re at it!

Tags: ,



  1. So pretty (and looks warm, too).

  2. Quick garter stitch fabulosity! (That’s not a word in WWF, I’m sure.) Thanks for the schmatta. So cute! But I’m going to need a longer neck.

  3. This looks great! And what a lovely color of Rasta, too.

  4. Must knit! I just tried to Rav it and couldn’t and was annoyed and then realized how premature I’m being. Ravelry has spoiled me rotten and now I instantly want a minimum of 40 versions of any given pattern for comparison purposes. Oh well. Guess I better make my own Schmattas and get ’em on there. I’m thinking that this will be perfect for Kids’ Teachers’ Presents.

  5. Smart way to handle the buttonhole placement question! And options, too!
    I made an experimental pidge/smidge-thing, using “so-called” stitch and my very favorite luxe wool/silk worsted from Brooks Farm. The result is dense, colorful, and very pretty, but I am still pondering the how and where of buttons. It’s been a year now…maybe I’ll rip it out and knit a schmatta!

  6. Thank you, especially for the buttonhole solution. I hate making buttonholes. And I just ordered some bulky yarn from Quince&Co., so I’m casting on as soon as it arrives! Keep warm up there.

  7. Ohhhhhhh . . . I feel . . . a . . . spontanenous combustion of Schmatta knitting coming on . . . AWESOME!

  8. This is just perfect! The Dove Promise (candy) of knitting – small yet satisfying. Thanks for the gift.

  9. I recently won a skein of Brown Sheep Handpainted Burly Spun and I have, until now, been drawing a blank as to what to do with it! Bring on the Schamtta!

  10. This is perfect. I’ve not got a lot of time for Christmas knitting this year. (I got sidetracked spinning rather than knitting, and when I looked up it was the end of November.) I see a bunch of these in my future. Thanks for the pattern!

  11. Love this pattern… thank you! Can’t wait to try it with some super-bulky handspun.

  12. Love it! Who could resist knitting a Schmatta?!

  13. Thank you! My sister-in-law will love it, and I will feel brilliant. Huzzah!

  14. Schmanks!

  15. I can also see it buttoned so that the ends overlap at a right angle with each short edge matched to the other long edge, if that makes sense.

  16. Ultra chic! I’m glad you included the modeled pics; up until then I thought it was smallish!

  17. Again you have come up with stylish, fun last-minute holiday knitting for me! Thank you!

  18. Perfect — thank you!

  19. Thanks for giving me a new cowl to obsess over. That said, it means I have to buy buttons, does that still allow me to count it as a stash buster?????

  20. oh thank you!
    I am stealing sadie’s big needles and chunky yarn for this. I need to get her to bind off tonight!

  21. love your Eileen Fisher comment…that red cowl/wrap/shawl thing this season is fabulous and yes, I spent much time mentally figuring out how to knit it!

  22. Dear Kay,
    schmatta in libyan dialect means Schadenfreude and fiasco. what a world. clever pattern too πŸ™‚

  23. This is a really cute idea. Love it! I was shocked to see you with WOOL!! Did you get the itchies or rash or whatever wool does to you? Hope not…

  24. Great concept! May I assume that the yarn is a “chunky” weight?

  25. Kay, fab cowl, but…could that be the now fuzzy Albers Gone Wild beneath it in the picture?

  26. Houses are not very cheap and not everyone is able to buy it. However, personal loans are invented to help different people in such kind of hard situations.

  27. I’ve finished one, started a second and ordered some yarn for more! Addictive much?

  28. Thank you for this pattern. I just finished one using Lion Brand Homespun. It is a nice soft cowl. I may make another one using 2 strands of Homespun to see how it drapes. If I like them both I think I’ll be making a few more for Christmas presents.

  29. Thanks for the pattern. I believe it’s just what I’m looking for…to accomplish something while I avoid composing a Christmas letter…now I need to let my super-knitter sister know about this!

  30. Love, love, love the schmatta! Thanks soooooo much for the perfect last minute knitting gift. I’ve finished 2 already and planning to finish anothe one tonight. Digging through the button stash right now. Am I glad I picked up the giant knitting needles at Tuesday Morning last week (just in case). Thanks again.

  31. And there, finally, is my reason to buy a skein of Rasta. Nothing did it for me until I saw full-on cowl mode.

  32. I love that this could be buttoned as a moebius, too. Exciting!

  33. Coming soon “Yiddish Knitting: from Shmate to Babushka & beyond.” This is spelling from “Complete Idiot’s Guide…” along with example of meaning: dress worn by ex-husband’s wife.

  34. “Shmatta” can also refer to a personality- or be a slightly insulting comment about a person. It is kind of a person that never sticks up for themselves, or anything for that matter. It’s like the type of personality that people wipe the floors with- like a shmatta.

  35. Very nice, and even better that it is so quick. Of course, I’m the woman who dislikes knitting with anything over a size 5 needle so I’ll have to make these with sock yarn or something similar!

  36. Very, very impressive. I especially love that snowflake. It so beautiful. It reminds me from those which my wife made from Beads two and three dimensional.


A bit of news from us, every now and again.

(Your email is safe with us.)