Cowls Galore

A cowl in the 21st century has changed markedly from its origin.  From Latin cuculla meaning “hood,”a cowl was originally large loose garment with a hood.  Interestingly, we learn from Wikipedia that:

Cowl_monk“Developed during the early Middle Ages in Northern Europe, they became the formal garment for those in monastic life. Originally they were worn simply to give greater warmth than would an open cloak to people who regularly spent long hours in unheated and draughty churches.”

BrambleberryCowl_nunNuns also wore cowls but under their veils  (pic from Wikipedia [sic]).

I think perhaps Sivia Harding’s beautiful Brambleberry Cowl, comes close to the original idea of a cowl — at least if it reached the floor and had sleeves.  🙂

Today cowls are almost ubiquitous in the fiber world, whether knit, crocheted, sewed or woven.  They have parted markedly from the original idea of a cowl.  Rather, they are generally hoodless and either long and often twisted to form a Möbius strip (named after German mathematician August Ferdinand Möbius), or shorter (in circumference) and worn close to the neck.

While I think the trendier youth wear the new versions of cowls quite well, no cowl pattern caught my eye or even my interest until I read a post by Whitknits  in which she featured her Willow Cowl designed by Amelia Lyon.  That, I thought, is a cowl I would wear!

After rooting around my (considerable) stash, I found many yarns that would knit up well for the Willow Cowl.  Five cowls later … maybe I got a little carried away.  (Two of these cowls, however, are earmarked as birthday presents for friends.)  I had a lot of fun with the yarns I used.

By the way, for a neater bottom edge, I’d suggest starting with a provisional cast on and then, using three needles, knitting that edge to the cowl at the appropriate row rather than stitching the hem later.  Alternatively, you could utilize a knit hem as demonstrated by Linda Marveng in her 5 Brettekant video (starting at 7:49).  (If you don’t understand Norwegian but are a skilled knitter, focus on what she’s doing, not her words.) 

Cowl_purpleThis purple hued cowl I knit from Fibre Alive’s four-ply Merino Mania (100% NZ wool, 110g/350m/385y).  I love the yarn’s crispness.

This second cowl is a not-a-surprise-birthday present for my pal K.  IMG_7164I used Zealana’s Kiwi (40% NZ Merino/30% organic cotton/30% possum, 40g/124m/135y) to knit this one.  I made some changes to this cowl as K was concerned that it would look too much like a neck brace as she has a short neck.  So I swatched a larger gauge, revised the pattern and bit, adjusting it so the cowl would fall more loosely.

IMG_7162The red superwash Malabrigio sock yarn (100g/440y) knit up beautifully for this third cowl.  (This skein was originally earmarked for a pair of lacey fingerless mitts … I may have to buy another skein for matching mitts.)

IMG_7166A couple of years ago I picked up a Lilt Sock Gradient Kit (SW merino & silk) from Black Trillium Fibres in the colorway “Tidewater.”  These yarns had been destined for a shawl but these colors, I thought, would work up beautifully into a fourth Willow Cowl — and they did!

img_7163.jpgThen I decided I too needed a cowl in blue, so here’s cowl number five in Madtosh’s Twist Light (75% merino, 25% nylon, 100g/420y/384m).

I’m done with cowls for at least a while.  Maybe … after all, I have other friends who might like one.

Brownies_TrayOh, before I forget, here’s what’s left from today’s baking — that is, after distribution among neighbors!

Backstory:  I am one of the few people I know who, though raised in the U.S., doesn’t like brownies (or fudge for that matter).  Nonetheless, I decided to bake and compare two batches of brownies, each extolled as the “best ever.”

I had the assistance of Bug, a young neighbor (and aspiring sousphone player) who happens to be great with a whisk.  (Bug has become my third grandchild when my grandson O and granddaughter F visit during school vacations.  The three of them happily roam the neighborhood on their scooters and explore the fields behind our house – popping in periodically for provisions.)

I used recipes from well-known baking sites but modified each batch both so I could use what I had on hand.  Batch 1 was adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s “Chewy Brownies” shared by The Little Kitchen.  Batch 2 was adapted from King Arthur Flour’s “Fudge Brownies.”


After the brownies cooled, Thor, Bug and I sampled and compared.  Thor and Bug preferred Batch 1 because, they said, the brownies were chewier and fudgy.   I preferred Batch 2 because it was a bit more cake-y and less fudge-y.  I’ll have to wait to get input from the neighbors.

Do you have a favorite brownie recipe?

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10 Responses to Cowls Galore

  1. Originally I thought I would gift all of them … but I just couldn’t!


  2. whitney says:

    Willow Cowls forever! Yours look great!


  3. You might find yourself knitting more than one. 🙂


  4. That’s a beauty alright!


  5. Warning: they’re addictive!


  6. Wow… these sound quite fudge-y … deliciously decadent for fudge lovers!


  7. kmkat says:

    I second your enthusiasm about the Willow Cowl, having made four myself — for me, for gifts, for a silent auction. My favorite brownie recipe — these are fudgy:
    * 8 oz unsweetened chocolate
    * 1 cup butter
    Melt chocolate and butter together. Cool slightly.
    * 5 eggs
    * 3 cups sugar
    * 1 tablespoon vanilla
    Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla in large mixer bowl on high speed for 10 minutes.Beat in chocolate mixture at low speed.
    * 1-1/2 cups flour
    Add flour, stirring just enough to combine.
    * 2 cups coarsely chopped nuts (optional)
    Stir in nuts if desired. Spread batter in greased 9″x13″ pan. Bake @ 375˚ for 35 – 40 minutes. Do not overbake.


  8. Beautiful pattern, thanks for sharing! I think I’ll knit one very soon 🙂


  9. Susan Mckee-Nugent says:

    IF I ever knitted a cowl it would be this one:
    I tend to get VERY warn when out walking no matter the weather. Afraid I would melt into a grease spot LOL


  10. itwasjudith says:

    Beautiful pattern, thanks for sharing! I think I’ll knit one very soon 🙂
    I’m not into brownies either, but they look delicious (what is left of them)
    Have a lovely weekend


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