If you’re Rhinebeck bound, we would love to see you at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night. Details here.

Cowls: A Manifesto


Dear Ann,

Today, reader Susan S. stood up on Instagram and called me a “cowl enabler.” [beams with pride]

Back in oh-nine or twenty-ten, when cowls were The Latest Thing Since Fingerless Mitts, I believe I may have told you, in one of my more candid, low-blood-sugar moments, that “the only reason for cowls is that knitters like to make cowls.” (I know! As if that is not a more than sufficient reason! Low blood sugar!) But at the time, I honestly could not see a reason for cowls, as a garment. Where was the value added? Do we not have écharpes? Whither the jabot? Is the turtleneck no longer a viable neckline? But then the scarves fell from my eyes, and I saw clearly.

Now, as 2013 draws to a close, and for quite some time, I am practically knocking on doors preaching Good Tidings of Great Cowls. Life is like that. Never say never. I now vastly prefer cowls to scarves, as garments, and as knitting. I think it’s the way a cowl has the ability to look like it is being worn by a French woman, without the involvement of an actual French woman. Cowls just sort of arrange themselves nicely no matter who is wearing them. And if you leave them hanging loosely around your neck because it’s hot in the subway, they don’t get their ends uneven and fall off as you exit the train. I have seen lost scarves on subway tracks and parking meters, but never a cowl. They are like stringed mittens for adults.

But they are also fun to knit. It is inherently more pleasant to knit something in the round, in a nice manageable circle on your lap, to a reasonable length, and then bind it off, than to knit back and forth on a skinny piece, FOREVER, until it twists and tangles and drags on the floor of the subway (a lot of my knitting problems involve the subway), or even worse, to knit a long scarf horizontally. (O THE HORROR. Why is that horrible? I don’t know. It just is.)

I’m not trying to convince anybody about the virtues of cowls. The world already loves cowls. Or infinity scarves, as they are sometimes known. But did you know that cowls look fantastic under water? (I win non sequitur!)

Just in time for last-minute gift knitting, our dearly beloved Belinda has released Tamatori. It’s the Official Cowl of Mason-Dixon Knitting. It’s a Japanese stitch pattern that is fun to knit and will teach you to make the neatest, most intuitive centered double decrease (“CDD”) ever. You can knit it in fat juicy Purl Super Soft Merino, and it will take you 3 nights or less, or 5 subway aller-retours. Or you can knock yourself out and knit it in a lighter weight yarn, which yields a more delicate fabric and takes a little longer. It comes in short or fat, long or skinny.

Did I mention that you can wear it underwater?


(Photos by Paul “Cousteau” Bergmann.)

You can also wear it the usual way.

I have given away two of them so far. The second one was meant for me and then I needed a Special Birthday Present.

Everybody hurry up and get their Tamatori knitted up, because I have a cowl design coming out soon, hopefully in time for Knitting With Family Over Christmas. We all need something to Knit With Family Over Christmas. I recommend: a lopapeysa or six, or a very voluminous cowl. Sneak preview:

biggiecarrie   biggiemoody1

Happy cowling!


P.S. Speaking of rag balls, there are still places left in my log cabin/rag ball knitting workshop at LF8 on December 19. There will be some crazy little women there,  so please join us if you are in NYC.



  1. Preach it, sistah! I have become a huge convert to the cowl life, and you have stated all the reasons why with your customary flair. (Next time I put one it, I will think of the Invisible French Ladies Maid who is re-arranging my style before I leave the house.)

  2. “A cowl has the ability to look like it is being worn by a French woman, without the involvement of an actual French woman. ” : ) And…comme tu es chic, alors!

    • Laura, I also loved that line! Another Kay Komedy Klassic!

      • Also, I would like to give a shout out for the models (especially in the “sneak preview” shot): beautiful! God bless.


  3. The underwater pics are STUNNING!!

  4. Have you noticed that scarf ends tend to fall in the sink when you wash your hands? That was the thing that finally converted me to cowls. And, you’re absolutely right about the French woman thing.

  5. I’m on the bandwagon!!! Thank you as always!

  6. And short cowls (or a wrapped cowl) actually protect the neck while you are out an about, which a long scarf never quite does. Still, I have taken my Silk Garden scarf out for a walk or two (since apparently OKC is having a winter) so it doesn’t feel too lonely, and I do love me some Silk Garden.

  7. Stop, drop, and knit. This Tamatori cowl has it ALL. I have a lot of DK in the stash but crave a chunky speed-knit.

    PS Still grieving inability to attend this workshop. You know, last year at this time we were in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Memba? That was so fun! Maybe December is the best month for these things.

  8. Gorgeous! Is this the new honeycomb?

  9. Once again, you crack me up. I’m a fairly recent convert to The Cowl, but I’m on the bandwagon now. Usually this means that a style is on its way out….

    • Spot on… I didn’t get me a Gunny Sak skirt until they were being produced by EVERYone, including Sears. By then they were soooo passe’.

  10. I am printing out this post to show my 13 year old daughter how fashion-forward I am (at least in regard to knitting). She doesn’t think infinity scarves and cowls are the same species, silly muggle.
    I love Tamatori, and see at least one in my immediate gift-knitting future. I happen to have bought some DK alpaca that would totally ROCK this! Alternatively, this might be why I have not yet bound off the Chunky cabled cowl that’s been on my needles since September–it really wants to be this instead.
    Looking forward to the knitting-with-family pattern! Hope you can release it while I’m still in wifi range of a printer!

  11. Could you give us a hint on the weight and yardage for the knit with family over Christmas cowl? Maybe Santa could put that on his sleigh for me. Lord knows I don’t have a thing in stash that would work!

  12. I believe “cowl pusher” was the term 🙂 – Belinda was so kind to quickly answer my rookie question and I am totally on board with Tamatori now. I am laying in all kinds of bulky yarn to make these for my daughter and teen nieces and maybe even me! Can’t wait for the new Purl pattern…keep those cowls coming Kay.

    • Susan, a pleasure to help and so glad you’re up and running now. X

  13. “Stringed mittens for adults” – and that sums up why I just love your writing. Genius observation and such great humor come together!

    • *like*

  14. I was in my LYS yesterday at lunch and another customer came in to shop for yarn for the ‘My Favourite Things’ Infinity Scarf. Pattern on Ravelry at: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/my-favourite-things-infinity-scarf. It is like the cowl version of a Pandora bracelet!

  15. And I might add, “What price the fichu?”

  16. I made cowls before they even had a name: Start to knit a scarf, realise you don’t have enough yarn to make it long enough, graft ends together! Voilà. I never did think of taking them under water, though! Those pics are fab!

    PS. I thought I’d subscribed. Is that not totally up and running, because I’ve never received a notification.

  17. first off those girls are so BEAUTIFUL!
    the cowls are gorgeous
    I want to do that big blue one wrapped so beautifully around your daughter and I want to do the Tamatori too!


  18. I believe that all of my last minute Christmas gifts have just been upgraded from dishcloths to cowls!

  19. How cool would it have been if the model and photographer had been able to ape the famous Nirvana album cover, with the cowl on the fishhook and without the nudity? I’m sure the thought probably crossed their minds. . .maybe they just didn’t have a honkin’ big fishhook available. . .;-)!

  20. UNDERWATER KNITWEAR PHOTOGRAPHY!!! why didn’t i think of that?! I am crazy about these photos.
    also- the French woman thing. Absolutely.

  21. Can anyone tell me if I do duplicate stitch before or after blocking? I am knitting a Christmas stocking for my friend’s husband. She requested that his name be on the stocking. The directions say to add names via duplicate stitch, hence my question.

    I would apprecite any information that folks can give. Just putting in the first few rows, so have some time before ready to block. Thanks.


    • I would dup-stitch after blocking, so there won’t be any nasty surprises. But I would also probably knit a stocking out of acrylic, which doesn’t really do much when you block it.

      I hope this does not start a block-don’t block dispute, nor an acrylic pro-con dispute…

  22. Feverishly trying to finish a cowl for Christmas for my daughter (who requested knitwear, so how could I not??!!). Next cowl is definitely going to be of the chunky variety. Minus 21 out there today (Celsius, but still darn cold). My fingerless mitts are wishing they weren’t.

  23. “It’s like stringed mittens for adults”
    I love cowls. I love knitting them, wearing them, giving them!
    Don’t forget, no fiddly decreasing like hats either (my second love!)
    You know what’s cuter than an 8 year old boy who loves his birthday cowl? Nothing.

    • > You know what’s cuter than an 8 year old boy who loves his birthday cowl? Nothing.

      *laughing warmly* *wiping eyes* Thank you for that image. Terrific!

  24. I’m so on the cowl bandwagon too. I wear them much more often than my scarves. Can’t wait to see your pattern. LOVE the photos too.


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

(Your email is safe with us.)