cowl countdown to christmas, week 1: venus cowl

update 1/2/15:  hello friends, i apologize for the inconvenience, but i developed some storage issues on my current server just before christmas, and my gallery archives have been disrupted as a result.  i am working as quickly as i can to permanently correct this issue, but the process has been slowed with the holidays.  i thank you for your continued patience and promise to have the tutorials back in tip top shape as soon as i possibly can.

welcome to cowl countdown to christmas!  for the next four weeks, i will post a weekly cowl tutorial in the spirit of giving.  i find handmade gifts to be a gift both to the recipient and to the maker, so i want to encourage as many people as possible to get in on this gift-giving loophole!  these cowls will all be at beginner level knitting and use one skein of yarn–fast, easy, affordable.  what else can you hope for during the holiday season?!  so get on board!  and email me a picture of what you make 🙂

now listen up, because this little number is the easiest thing you’ll ever knit.  for real.  it is composed entirely of knit and purl stitches, no increases or decreases, knit flat in one piece, and see all those buttons?  not a single button hole to speak of.  not one.  with super bulky yarn (one skein!) on big old needles, it’s shorter than a scarf and easily works up in a single afternoon.  check one gift off your list!


  • 1 skein (at least 90 yards) super bulky yarn
  • size 15 needles, straight or circular are both fine, circular are harder to misplace i find
  • 3 large, decorative buttons
  • 2-4 additional buttons, 3/4 to 1″ diameter
  • needle and thread to affix buttons


  • cast on
  • bind off
  • knit and purl stitches
  • no seriously, that’s it.

notes:  if you’re looking for a bargain, i highly recommend lion brand wool ease thick and quick.  it is soft, comes in many colors and can be found at any major craft store.  one skein will set you back about $6-8.  it’s machine washable and dryer safe.  i have made a few items out of this that have kept us toasty through chicago winters and held up great in the wash.  for more upscale options, if you don’t have a local yarn store, check out jimmy bean’s wool.  huge selection and nice search features.

the entire piece is worked in moss stitch, which is as follows:

  • row 1:  k1, p1 to end of row
  • row 2: knit the knit stitches, purl the purl stitches
  • row 3: p1, k1 (purl the knit stitches, knit the purl stitches)
  • row 4: knit the knit stitches, purl the purl stitches
  • and take it from the top.

it turns into a fabric that looks like this:

pattern, based on a gauge of 2 stitches/inch:

  1. cast on 18 stitches.  i always use the long tail method unless otherwise instructed; it seems to be the fastest!
  2. begin moss stitch (see above).  continue in moss stitch until piece measures 32 inches.  if you’re coming up a little short, no worries!  don’t go out and buy more yarn.  30 inches or even a few less will work just fine.  little tip:  when you get to the last two stitches of your bind off row, knit the last two together.  it makes for a much neater corner!  weave in loose ends.
  3. with moss stitch, there is no right and wrong side.  you get to pick!  sew your three decorative buttons on a short side at evenly spaced intervals–this will depend on the size of your buttons, so just eyeball it.
  4. now, for the hidden, magical buttons.  turn your cowl over so that the wrong side (side without decorative buttons) is facing up, with the button side on your left.  sew a button onto the bottom left corner.
  5. now, i suggest you try it on the decide the location of the next magical buttons.  wrap the cowl around your neck with the decorative buttons facing out and your magical button corner closest to your face, not your chest.  the short side with no buttons should wrap loosely to about your ear.
  6. you did not make any buttonholes, because the stitch patterns allows for your magical buttons to be wedged through ANYWHERE you want them.  first, button your magical button to the bottom right edge of the cowl, so it wraps in front from the left.  this creates the off center edge.
  7. now you can decide where you want to affix your other magical buttons, which are really just for structure and might not even be necessary.  for a loose fit, on my 8″x32″ piece, i put another button 11 inches in from the first magical button, and a third 4 inches north of that.  once they are all buttoned, you can leave the piece in cowl form, or play around with the fit by using any of the other 5,000 “buttonholes” you just created.

that’s it!  you did it!  questions?  please leave a comment below and i’m happy to help.

ps, am in the process of figuring out the best camera/editing software…my sincere hope is to get non-blurry, non-iphone pictures up and running in the immediate future…suggestions welcome!

17 thoughts on “cowl countdown to christmas, week 1: venus cowl

  1. This is very pretty. Your tutorial and pictures are excellent! Very helpful. I will be making some for myself. And some friends. Thanks, Ann

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  5. Beautiful! I’m teaching my daughter and granddaughter how to knit, and this is a perfect project for them! I showed them the pictures and they love it! Thanks so much for sharing your talent! 🙂

    • thanks marlene, so sweet of you to comment! this is a perfect beginner project, and i love that you’re teaching your daughter and granddaughter to knit…what a lovely tradition that is not passed on frequently enough. this really made my day! enjoy!

  6. Thank you so much for posting the instructions for this cute and easy cowl. I just finished my first one, and aside from a few rows that are a little off due to losing my place in the pattern, I think it turned out pretty well. I’m a beginner, and I only have size 16 needles, but I’ll definitely be making more of these because of how quick they knit up and how fun they are. Thanks again for sharing.

    • hi kimberly, so happy to hear the cowl worked out for you! size 16 needles will help you knit up a load of these quickly, and soon you’ll be able to do it without a pattern, i bet. keep it up! you are very welcome!

    • hi pam,
      so sorry about this! big issues with the server and my storage space. i have been trying to resolve this, but it has been really difficult with the holidays. i’m hoping to have it done in the next couple of days. sorry for the delay!

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