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Schmatta Cowl


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!



  1. My face hurts from smiling at your Schmatta . . .

    Might have to make one or two for my friends still in the cold areas of the USA – Chicago, Buffalo, Long Island.

    Here in southern California, my wearing a long sleeve top is too warm! LOL

  2. Oh my! This I have not seen—thank you for the humor and pattern! I will we making these!

  3. I just finished the knitting for this. Love the finished object. I have buttons but need to find the right color embroidery floss to sew them with.

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