I’ve only made two cowls in my life, and only recently became interested in them. They are often called “infinity scarves” as they are usually knit on a circular needle, in the round, like a hat, but on longer needles.
Long scarves were my preferred item when I was beginning to knit because they gave me lots of practice using the same stitches over and over. But scarves use up lots of yarn. Cowls can be short (single wrap) and therefore use less yarn. The double-wrap cowls are the exception.
The difference is that the cowl is knit using circular needles. It creates a long, wide loop and some people pull them up to cover their heads.
(Photos on this page credit: Pixabay)
Some cowls are knit back and forth, like a regular scarf, then connected at the ends. This happens when the desired pattern, such as a cable, can’t be achieved by working in the round.
Free Cowl Patterns
At Purl Soho find a number of free cowl patterns (and some beautiful and unique yarn). Some are super easy like the Slip Stitch Summer Cowl, and Floats Cowl. Others require the use of cable needles and other more difficult stitches that require brainpower to complete (for me).
Ravelry also has many free cowl patterns.
See links to Ravelry designer patterns below.
Single Wrap Cowl
Malabrigo Neck Thingie is a single wrap cowl.
Darn Knit Stripe It! cowl uses self-striping yarn.
Fishermans Rib Cowl – This free pattern page gives the gauge and needle size needed for 4 different yarn weights! Pretty cool.
Double Wrap Cowl
Honey Cowl – I have made this one in autumn colors. It was easy, and came out thick and plush.
Pelham Bay Cowl is very basic, doing stockinette stitch throughout. Or add some texture yourself once you get started! (You must register to download)
These are harder to find for free, but there are a lot of pretty patterns to pay for.Search Pinterest, or other online places to find more free patterns (or purchase one).
Read Anatomy of a Cowl at the Knitter’s Review site for lots of cowl info.