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Free Knitting Pattern: Slightly Shifting Knitted Cowl

An avid knitter for over 10 years, Donna enjoys sharing her free patterns and knitting experience with other fiber fans and yarn lovers.

Read on for a free knitting pattern for a slightly shifting knitted cowl.

Read on for a free knitting pattern for a slightly shifting knitted cowl.

Beautiful Variegated Yarn

I fell in love with the slight color variegation of this yarn from blue to purple and set about to create a knitting pattern that would make the most of these beautiful colors. Sometimes, I think simple patterns are best for multi-colored yarn so that varied hues can be the main focus.

Slightly Shifting Knitted Cowl Pattern

Slightly Shifting Knitted Cowl Pattern

Simple Slipped Stitch Pattern

This cowl features a simple slipped stitch pattern that shifts the design slightly with every pattern repeat. These shifting slipped stitches bring the different colors to the front, and break up any pooling while creating the look of a woven texture.

Although this pattern was designed for variegated yarn, it would also look great in a solid color (particularly a neutral tone) or in a self-striping yarn. This simple, yet interesting design creates a wonderfully warm cowl that is perfect for men, women, and children.



  • One skein Cascade Yarn Pacific in color 508 (Hydrangeas), 213 yards/195 meters
  • Size # 5 and size #7 circular needles (16- to 20-inch length), or the correct size to get gauge
  • One stitch marker
  • Tapestry needle to weave in ends


My gauge: 18 sts x 24 rows in Stockinette stitch on larger needles = 4 x 4 inches

Gauge is not terribly important for this pattern, but if your gauge is different, your finished piece will be of a different size. You could also use dk or bulky weight yarn for this pattern, but you will want to adjust the number of cast on stitches for the length of your cowl. I suggest knitting a swatch to check if you might need to increase or decrease the number of cast on stitches.


Finished Size

My finished cowl is about 20 inches in length and eight inches high. I specifically wanted a shorter cowl that would stand high on my neck so I knit until I was almost out of yarn.

This pattern would also look wonderful as a longer cowl to hang around your neck, and I've included a second size in the instructions for a longer length (this size will require a second skein of yarn).

Terms Used

  • k = knit
  • p = purl
  • rnd = round
  • sl = slip stitch (all stitches in this pattern are slipped purlwise)
  • psso = pass slipped stitch over (in this pattern, slip the stitch over the last three knit stitches)
  • yo = yarnover

Pattern Notes

  • The slipped stitches in this pattern are slipped purlwise
  • The passed stitch (psso) is passed over the last three knitted stitches
  • The pattern repeat on Round 3 ends with a yarnover (yo). Be sure to remember this yarnover when finishing Round 3 and starting Round 4.
  • You can change the size of your cowl by adding or subtracting stitches in multiples of four.

Slightly Shifting Knitted Cowl Pattern

Cast on 108 stitches on a #5 needle for a shorter cowl like mine, or 172 stitches for a longer cowl. Place your marker and join stitches to knit in the round. Start by knitting 8 rounds of knit 2, purl 2 ribbing. Then switch to your larger needle and begin pattern below:

Round 1: Knit all stitches

Round 2: Knit all stitches

Round 3: *Sl1 purlwise, k3, psso (all 3 stitches), yo*, repeat pattern to end of round

Round 4: Knit all stitches

Repeat the four rounds above to desired height, ending with Round 4. Then knit one more round in Stockinette Stitch. Switch back to the smaller needle and knit 7 rounds of knit 2, purl 2 ribbing. To finish, bind off all stitches in the pattern and weave in your ends. Block gently and enjoy!

Slightly Shifting Knitted Cowl

Slightly Shifting Knitted Cowl

I'm excited to wear my new cowl and I hope you like it too. If you're looking for a coordinating pair of fingerless mitts or gloves, my textured fingerless gloves would make a nice set!

My textured fingerless gloves pattern would make a nice match with this cowl.

My textured fingerless gloves pattern would make a nice match with this cowl.

Looking for More Knitting Ideas?

Check out some of my other free knitting patterns and articles:

© 2015 Donna Herron


Donna Herron (author) from USA on February 14, 2015:

You're very welcome :) So glad you like these patterns. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

Marilyn from Nevada on February 14, 2015:

This is a great pattern, and looks cozy. I love the idea of the fingerless mittens too. Thank you for sharing your creation!

Donna Herron (author) from USA on February 07, 2015:

Hi Glimmer Twin Fan - Thanks, as always, for your comments and share! My parents live in New England and I definitely understand what everyone in the Northeast is going through this winter. Try to stay warm and cozy! Thanks again and have a great weekend!!

Hi Suzanne - Thanks so much! I'm glad you like this cowl pattern and my other knitting patterns. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope you have a great weekend!

Hi Sallybea - Circular needles are nothing to be afraid of. I think they're very convenient and a lot easier to manage than straight needles. You should give them another try :) Thanks for all you kind comments. I appreciate it! I hope you enjoy your weekend!!

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on February 07, 2015:

Very nice knitting tutorial. I have always been terrified of using circular needles even though my Mum used them all the time! Sigh! I wish I had taken more notice when she were alive. Not much of a knitter but think I might be able to do a project like this. Love the photos too:)

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on February 07, 2015:

This cowl looks lovely and warm for winter and I like its simplicity too! You certainly have a great collection of free knitting patterns and I think this hub is "awesome" ;)

Claudia Porter on February 07, 2015:

Hi purl3agony - This is awesome and so cute! It's been nasty cold where I live and this would be just perfect. Love the color you used too. As usual, I love your projects. Sharing around! Have a good weekend.

Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 31, 2015:

Hi JoAnne! Yes, you could definitely knit this cowl pattern flat and seam it together when you finish. You can just turn all the rounds to rows, and make rows 2 and 4 all purl stitches. I would add an additional knit stitch to the beginning and end of your cast on so you have some stitches to seam together without interfering with the pattern design. Great idea and good luck! Thanks so much for stopping by!

JoAnne Micon on January 31, 2015:

I love your cowl pattern. I have one question tho..Could I knit it on straight needles & weave the ends together?

You have many awesome creative patterns, hopefully I will be able try many.

Thank you for your help


Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 21, 2015:

Hi Emese! Thanks so much! I so love all the colors in this yarn and really wanted to let them shine. So glad you like this pattern. Thanks so much for your comments. I appreciate it!

Emese Fromm from The Desert on January 21, 2015:

Nice pattern. Yes it seems to go perfect with this yarn. I love the colors in it and the way your pattern brings them out. Thank you for sharing.

Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 21, 2015:

Hi Barbara - Thanks for your sweet comments! I don't crochet, though I wish I knew how :) It's always on my list to learn, but I haven't found the time to do it. I envy your crocheting skills and creative imagination. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Barbara Badder from USA on January 20, 2015:

This is a nice pattern. Sadly, I can only crochet. I've tried to learn knitting, but get the hang of it and seem to go back to crochet somehow. I put an extra twist or something when I do it.

Donna Herron (author) from USA on January 20, 2015:

Thanks so much! I agree - I think this cowl would knit up beautifully in a variety of yarn weights and styles. It's cozy too! :) Thanks, as always, for your comments and support! I appreciate it!!

Kimberly Schimmel from North Carolina, USA on January 20, 2015:

I like this stitch pattern. I can see it being attractive in a chunkier yarn, too.