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Olden Days Cowl Free Knitting Pattern

This cowl was inspired by an ancient, cotton, Egyptian, sock knit on two needles some time between 1100 AD-1300 AD. Isn’t it amazing to think we’re gracing our knitting with the same sort of designs centuries later?

See more at the end of the pattern!


  • US 6 and 7 Circular Needle
  • 1 Skein Each Briggs and Little Heritage (Heavy Worsted, 215yds, 4oz) Blue Heather (main color) and Washed White - Double these amounts if making a larger cowl!
  • Laid flat, the cowl measures 16 inches tall and 12.5 inches wide.

Begin Cowl

Sizing note - the design is worked in multiples of 12. This means you can achieve a smaller or larger cowl by adding or subtracting multiples of 12 (although it is already a fairly snug-fitting, neck-gaiter-type cowl) Just remember you will need more yarn to accomplish this, especially in the main color. 

With smaller needle, cast on 120 stitch. Join to work in the round.

Work 3 rounds of knit 1, purl 1 ribbing.

Change to larger needle.

Begin chart. After working the last row of the chart, start back again at round 15. 

Work rounds 15 to 22 a total of 7 times (14 rows of “stars”) or longer if desired (but remember you’ll need more yarn)

Work round 15 one more time. Then work rounds 1-14 once.

Switch to smaller needles. Work in knit 1, purl 1 ribbing for 3 rounds. Cast off loosely

Block vigorously! 


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From Victoria and Albert Museum, UK:

“This is the earliest example of true, or double-needle, knitting in the Museum’s collections. It was made in North Africa, about 1100–1300, during the period of Islamic rule. The blue and white abstract design echoes the colour combinations and patterning found in Islamic ceramics. The sock was worked from toe to top, and a break in the pattern on the left-hand side suggests a join characteristic of knitting in the round. There is evidence on either side of insertions for a heel. The gauge varies from ten stitches per twelve rows per inch at the toe to 7 stitches per ten rows per inch at the top, suggesting that shaping was achieved by changing the size of the needles as the knitting progressed.” Richard Rutt, A History of Handkniting, London: Batsford, 1987, p.36 Registered File number 1929/8848.

Blocking the cowl:

Soaking in Eucalan - I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to use color catcher sheets when using a dark with a light for the first wash. The darks may be colorfast, but they may have excess dye that seeps out and colors a light. 




1 comment

  • Thanks for the pattern! This is a beautiful recycling of an ancient design into a modern garment.


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