The Awkward Tale of the High Pines Cowl

The Sad Tale of the High Pines Cowl | Grainline Studio

High Pines Cowl
Ravelry Project Link
Pattern: High Pines Cowl by Jared Flood
Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in Carob
Coat: Handmade

The Sad Tale of the High Pines Cowl | Grainline Studio

Guys, I knit a thing that I don’t really like and that thing is my very first cowl. There are two feelings you can read in my face in these photos. The first is allergies and the second is how I’m feeling about this cowl. I didn’t like knitting it and I don’t love wearing it either. Or at least, I can’t figure out how to wear it so it doesn’t look like an odd floppy piece of fabric hanging awkwardly around my neck.

The Sad Tale of the High Pines Cowl | Grainline Studio

I think things when awry early on, when the day before I left on a work trip abroad I realized I didn’t have a travel project. I remembered liking this cowl when it came out and thought, now will be a great time to try such a small, portable project, that will also take at least a week to make! On the plane I worked on the rib which was just fine, every other row was twisted knits, not a big deal…then came the main stitch pattern.

The Sad Tale of the High Pines Cowl | Grainline Studio

I could not for the life of me get into any sort of rhythm with this pattern. Every row of the main part of the pattern was 2 stitches off from the previous row so every time I felt like I was starting to remember what was happening I’d made a mistake. I was also working long hours in another time zone so really a patterned cowl was probably the worst thing I could pick. While I was slugging away on this I kept thinking, well at least I’ll get a super awesome cowl at the end!

The Sad Tale of the High Pines Cowl | Grainline Studio

Then came the end, and what is even going on here?! It’s somehow floppy, but also rigid. It wants to hang away from my neck in all the wrong ways, and then when it does touch my neck it hits that part that activates the part of me that instinctively says GET AWAY FROM ME YOU’RE CHOKING ME!!! There are many very cute photos of this cowl on Ravelry, so I’m not sure where I went wrong.

The Sad Tale of the High Pines Cowl | Grainline Studio

I got gauge. I blocked to the measurements. I even used the recommended yarn. Does it look more natural when I awkwardly try to pat it down with my hand? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I guess not everything can be a solid gold winner, and this whole thing is really pretty funny so I’m not sad about it all. I know a lot of you out there are cowl people so tell me, am I just not used to this and it’s actually normal for a cowl to feel awkward? Am I wearing it wrong? Do I need a different sort of jacket? Help a scarf girl out!

65 replies on “The Awkward Tale of the High Pines Cowl

  • Marie

    I have never had luck with a short cowl, and I have tried so hard to find a good fit/drape. I do enjoy long cowls (like Bristol’s Winterlong, but I think that it is because they are more scarflike lol). I am going to try The new cowl by Espace Tricot because it narrows from the bottom up – my fingers are crossed that it works without looking strange- it’s super simple so the investment of time is worth the risk of having to rip out).

    Reply
    • Jen

      Ooh, I’ll have to look up those two cowls; I feel like I’m not totally ready to give up on them. But yeah short cowls seem like a difficult thing to get just right!

      Reply
  • Barbara

    I confess I am not a fan of cowls, when I wear them feel like I have a dish cloth draped around my neck! Maybe they are best on loong necked people.

    Reply
  • Niina

    Hi Jen, I hear you. I got this pattern in a similar mindset (except in my case it was a holiday trip) and now it´s hibernating because I didn´t like knitting the pattern at all. Also the size feels odd even though I went down in circumference with tighter gauge. I don´t know what to do with this projects (because I bought the pattern) but at the moment Hilary Grant´s loop cowl patterns look a lot more wearable and cute in my mind…

    Reply
    • Jen

      It’s such a belabored knit! Nothing about it is particularly hard but everything together was just too much. I also don’t know what to do with mine, probably will gift it to someone who likes cowls like this if those people are out there! Also you mentioning Hilary’s cowls reminds me that I actually have one of her early cowls and I love it! it’s the absolute perfect length and width to wrap around a few times. I think because of this in my head its a scarf and I thought this pines cowl was my first one ever. Definitely revisiting her book this season!

      Reply
  • Ana

    I personally do not like cowls. They just don’t make sense to me because I don’t fine them practical in actually keeping my neck warm unless pinned up by the collar of a coat or something. Otherwise they just hang there like a large, chunky heavy necklace. I’m actually not a fan of knitted scarves in general unless they are a very fine lace gauge. I prefer a woven shawl I can use as a scarf or wrap.

    Reply
    • Jen

      I have none knitted scarf that I love, but it was done a a looser gauge so that it has great drape, otherwise I’m totally with you on this. I’ve never knit lace before but I just saw a super cute pattern and combined with your comment I’m thinking maybe I should give it a try!

      Reply
  • Mads (lifeinamadshouse)

    I’m sorry this didn’t turn out to be as effortlessly-wearable as you’d hoped! That’s such a bummer, but it is a lovely piece of knitting. Personally, I prefer longer, thinner cowls that I can double-wrap around my neck; maybe you could try that style instead, and see if it works better for you?

    Reply
    • Jen

      Hahahaha definitely nothing effortless about this! But yeah, I think I’m going to try one that’s longer and less tall. There are some super cute Hilary Grant ones I’ve been wanting to try so maybe I’ll give one of those a go after the holidays.

      Reply
  • Rachel

    I actually love cowls and yours is beautiful. I thinks its just an awkward size. I prefer that they either be loose like a shawl or rather tight like a turtle neck under my coat. At the size it was knitted it really is too big to keep your neck warm and too small to keep your chest warm. I think in the end it will make a really beautiful gift. That’s what I do with knitted items that just don’t suit me.

    Reply
    • Emily

      Yes, I agree with Rachel. Cowls should either be short (18-20″ circumference) or long enough to double (50″ circumference); lengths other than that feel super awkward to me.

      I really enjoy wearing short cowls but don’t think they look as stylish as a long cowl. But they feel very practical and do keep me warm without adding too much bulk. The long cowls that can be doubled look cute but I don’t keep them on very long because I don’t like all that fabric around my neck.

      Reply
    • Jen

      The end product is beautiful as a piece of knitting, but sadly not super useful. I agree with the size issue you mention – definitely will be trying something longer and thinner next time, if there is one!

      Reply
  • oharethey

    I love this kind of cowl shape and think it is fitting you exactly right, so if you dislike it I think it’s just not the right shape for you! Maybe relevant is that I live in Texas and nearly all of my cowl wearing is without outerwear, so the cowl is just framing my top and not constrained by a collar.

    Reply
  • Hayley

    hahaha love this, i am also in the wtf-do-i-do-with-a-cowl camp. much prefer a big scarf! the only reason why i am considering knitting a cowl is a. because it would be a fun excuse to play with colourwork and b. i think they could be really useful for athletic and/or outdoor activities when you don’t want to risk your scarf dragging on the ground or causing some sort of embarrassing accident.
    sad for you about the lost knitting hours though! maybe auction the cowl off from your insta account for a good cause? i’m sure someone will love it!

    Reply
    • Jen

      Don’t be sad about the knitting hours, I’m not! Kept me busy and that’s good enough for me. I’m thinking I’ll probably donate it with a few other Grainline samples next month.

      Reply
    • Beads and Barnacles

      The whole they can’t fall off thing is the main reason I like them. But I normally wear one that I can double round like a scarf.
      I have a gorgeous red narrower cowl that was knitted for me two years ago that I have only worn a handful of times becuase like this one here it just hangs away from my neck too much. When I have it pinned in place by my coat it works great, or have the front crossed over itself and tucked to one side, and pinned with a shawl pin or something like that also works. But not in the normal way that it is intended.

      Reply
  • Christine Ross

    I’m a cowl girl through and through, because scarves often activate the “I’m being strangled by a boa constrictor” part of my DNA. It looks like it fits you the exact way I like to wear mine, though it’s much more rigid than what I usually wear. It might be the drape or it might just be a preference thing? Sorry it’s not working for you, because visually it’s such a lovely piece! Also… your coat is giving me a serious case of WANT; I’m hoping my sewing plans pre-Christmas include a lovely new coat like that. 🙂

    Reply
    • Jen

      Hahahahahahaahaha omg we definitely have similar DNA structures because that’s my immediate response as well to anything too close to my neck. I usually wear a scarf just draped over my neck then kind of cross it in the front without wrapping to avoid what I will now forever refer to as “the boa reflex!” I really think the drape isn’t helping in this case. May try a different sort of cowl in the future!

      Reply
  • dediydiva

    I’m wearing this kind of cols above my coat with hoodie. Than it fits fine.
    But it’s a pity, using time knitting something you don’t like in the end. My experience is that you won’t wear it much… If I make a misfit I donate it to the local charity second hand shop. Maybe another person will be happy with it.
    Regards from Holland,
    Mar10.

    Reply
    • Jen

      Yeah I’m thinking I’ll donate it next month along with a few other Grainline samples. I’m not too sad about the knitting time though, it gave me something to do and now I know this sort of cowl isn’t for me!

      Reply
  • Michelle

    I am so with you! This style is like a too-large, disembodied turtleneck that is too floppy even to perform it’s intended function, which is to keep your neck warm. The stitch pattern is lovely, though.

    Reply
    • Jen

      I really think this is hands down the best comment I’ve ever received. I could have just posted these three sentences as the post instead of everything I did! Hahahahahaha

      Reply
  • Lana Kuchta

    It definitely doesn’t have enough drape. I wonder if your frustration while knitting it caused your tension to change, so you knit tighter than normal. I also think it is too tall for a short circumference cowl, thus the “I am being choked” feeling.

    Reply
    • Jen

      I wondered that but I measured again post blocking and it’s still on gauge so I think it’s just a really tight cowl? Very confusing! And I think you’re right on the height, it’s just all around awkward.

      Reply
  • ElaineChicago

    It’s in the Strange Land of Not Small Enough Nor Long Enough. If it were longer and more drapey you could double wrap it. In Chi Town it will not work in the winter as it is!! I really don’t like a baggy cowl…… what’s it’s purpose??!!

    Reply
  • Alice

    I guess I’m a Cowl Person as I’ve been wearing the long ones that can be doubled up for years, but I’m really not a big fan of this particular shape and I’m embarrassed to admit how many I knit before I realised this It’s too wide to keep any cold out but too short to drape nicely. Maybe they’re better for indoor, coatless wearing? Lately I’ve been finding myself annoyed at how bulky my long cowls are though so I’ve been wearing more and more scarves (revolutionary discovery, I know).

    Reply
    • Jen

      Hahahahaha sometimes it takes a long time to discover scarves! I actually realized after posting this that I do in fact own a cowl that I love but it’s long and wraps perfectly so in my head it was a scarf. No idea how my brain didn’t put that situation together

      Reply
  • Kate English

    This post is hilarious. I have had similar experiences with awkwardly shaped cowls. Too short, too wide, what is happening here?! I had really good luck with Purl Soho’s super basic ribbed cowl (https://www.purlsoho.com/create/2012/11/01/lovely-ribbed-cowl/) I knit it with Shepherd’s Wool worsted and Shibui Silk Cloud held together and it is heaven. It’s long (tall) and the fabric is drapey, so it ripples over itself nicely, thus actually serving its purpose and keeping your neck warm. It was super mindless, too. I made mine a bit more fancy by doing a tubular cast on and bind off. Maybe Oaty could wear the one you made. 😉

    Reply
    • Jen

      I feel like we need to start an awkward cowls Rav group so we can save each other the resulting confusion. I’ve tried this sucker on a few times since I took these photos and it still doesn’t know what it wants to be so I think we’re through. Def gonna check out that cowl and the Shepherd’s Wool / Silk Cloud combo sounds amaaaaaaazing! Also stay tuned on IG for a photo of Oaty wearing this cowl….

      Reply
  • Lilly

    This is so funny and I’m so glad you posted it. I knit a similar shape cowl awhile back and had the same experience, so I gave it to my sister in law. I’ve never seen her wear it and this is probably why! I do think it looks good on you though, but understand not liking the feel of it. If something has to be styled perfectly to wear it, I’m not into it either!

    Reply
    • Jen

      That’s exactly why I’m feeling hesitant to gift it, it’s so awkward I don’t want to give someone something they won’t like! Maybe I’ll carry it around with me and force my friends to try it on. The first person who doesn’t say it feels awkward gets a new cowl!

      Reply
  • erniek3

    I do that face when I try to wear wool. Drapy is better, but hard to determine in a swatch. CTS made me stop knitting, so I’ve been sewing short cowls (I’m helpless with a scarf; I have visions of Isadora Duncan’s untimely end and freak out) in nonwool fabrics. The taller tube ones also can help out as a hood in a pinch.

    My squinchy face feels your pain.

    Reply
    • Jen

      Haha honestly most of my weird face is due to extreme allergies, it was SO swollen that day! I apparently have no internet photo shame anymore. Sewing a cowl is an interesting idea though, one I might explore further. Thanks!

      Reply
  • Roni Arbel

    Maybe try an infinity scarf? Double wrapped around the neck.

    It is a wonderful piece of knitting and a great learning experience with a difficult pattern. You know what you love wearing and it shows, so you don’t have to force yourself into a style you don’t love

    Reply
    • Jen

      I realized I actually have a cowl that wraps perfectly twice but in my head it was a scarf because of this. I think I’ll start from those measurements in the future before casting on for any more cowl projects!

      Reply
  • Julia

    Hi!
    First, I don’t think it looks bad. It looks a bit like a turtleneck peeking out of your coat 🙂
    Second, if you end up not befriending it, you could try making one that already has a twist in it by construction (I think these are called infinity scarves or Moebius scarves, after the “inventor” of a geometrical plane with only one edge).
    Julia

    Reply
  • Jan Atherton

    Shorter cowls tend to work best for me if the yarn is very lightweight, either lace weight, or fingering weight, where they have a bit more flexibility.

    Reply
  • jamindel

    OMG! I knit the exact same cowl in the exact same yarn and had the exact same reaction. it’s now sitting unused in my closet. I hate the way it drapes (or rather doesn’t drape). Plus, the bind off I used was way too loose and it now even worse. I keep thinking I’m going to redo the bind off and see if that changes anything, but I doubt it. This will be a give away.

    Reply
    • Jen

      Oh damn, I’m glad to know there’s two of us even though it also sucks that there are two of us. I’d say the bind off probably won’t matter much unfortunately. I think mine will also be given away soon.

      Reply
  • Kelly

    Repurpose it! Maybe a cute little pillow? It doesn’t look bad in these photos, but this is an awkward size to wear. Such a pretty stitch pattern, though!

    Reply
    • Jen

      The stitch pattern is definitely pretty and the density would for sure be better suited to a pillow. It’s tapered at the top, though it’s hard to tell in these photos, so I’m not totally sure it would work, but it’d be worth a try for sure. Thanks!

      Reply
  • Cathy

    I’m kind of loving it on you! If you want a slightly closer fit, you can use a shawl pin to pull in the top portion. If it feels too high on the neck, you can try folding under both the top and bottom ribbing when you wear it. I do think wearing cowls, especially those that are not long and drapey, takes a little getting used to.

    Reply
    • Jen

      Someone suggested that on Instagram so once I get my hands on a shawl pin I think i’ll give it a go. Might also force myself to wear it out a few times and see if it grows on me at all. Fingers crossed!

      Reply
  • Fabric Tragic

    I love a short cowl, and just finished one yesterday (in fluffy brioche stitch, nowhere near as ambitious as this one). What makes it work so well is the ribbing pulls it in at the top and bottom, giving it a little structure and stopping it droop… if you can be bothered trying to pull the ribbing in a little you might like it better…

    Reply
    • Jen

      Hmmm, I hadn’t thought about that but it’s a good point. Maybe I’ll try to weave in a bit of clear elastic or something. I definitely can’t knit it any tighter unfortunately, but I’ll ponder this idea.

      Reply
  • Anie

    I am firmly in NO cowls for me camp so I can’t advise you otherwise on wearing it as neckwear. But what about as a skirt?? Might need to add length but…

    Reply
  • francescapia

    THis post rang so many bells! I have unpicked quite a few cowls in my time. I remmember one particular one by ilga Leia which I used to wear with a little shawl pin to keep it snug against my neck till I got so nervous with it always falling out and flopping that I ripped it out and made a little ascot. I find that the best are some version of a ribbed polo neck – I think it’s called turtleneck in the States – to keep my neck snug, and ideally they flare out at the bottom. I love my Kenya (also by Ilga Leia) because it does that. Grand Place is brilliant, it is high round the neck and can be a hood, but somehow isn’t too loose, and because of the sort of ribbing stitch it stays up to keep your neck warm, and then flares out so you don’t get that cold piece between your cowl and your chest or shoulders. Gudrun Johnston has a gorgeous pattern – crofter’s cowl – which stays up and is narrow. Free download. Another of my favourites is a version of purl soho’s mountain capelet which is like a cowl turning into a shaped poncho… I’ve used just the neck and shoulders portion for a really cosy neck and shoulder cowl thing.

    Another thing you have to watch is yarn. Too soft and drapey and it won’t stay up. Not soft enough and it will drive your neck crazy. I use Clara Parke’s method for determining the second facto – stick a small ball in my bra and see if it irritates me:).

    Reply
    • Jen

      Ah yes, the turtleneck! Sadly those make me feel like I’m being choked in the most involuntary and awful way. I’ll definitely check out the patterns you’ve recommended though, because I feel like a good cowl could be a great thing to have! Also laughed about the yarn in the bra trick, but that Clara knows what’s up!

      Reply
  • Katie Emma

    I think I’m the zillionth person to offer this perspective, but I love cowls that wrap around the neck twice – you can kinda squish things around to get just the right coverage/height, and you can unloop it and wear it longer if you get a little warm. The single ring cowls are so hard to wear – if it’s keeping your neck warm it’s in your face, and if it’s not uncomfortable then it’s not providing any coverage! I love the Avery cowl from Quince & Co – it’s a textured cowl knit in Aran/bulky yarn so that might be a good one to try.

    Reply
  • Giselle

    Yep, cowls are the sort of thing that you need a yarn for that you love. It definitely has to be something that the skin of your neck wants to snuggle up to. If that’s not happening then the whole thing won’t work. Do gift it with a clear conscience: someone will buy it because they love it.
    I also think that this pattern makes a very rigid fabric and I wonder at its use for a cowl. Seems weird. It’s bound to bow outward at the middle, as opposed to either top or bottom circumference. Just totally awkward. That just doesn’t work as a cowl.

    I think I prefer short scarfs where you can overlap the ends at the bottom, sort of at an angle or even at 90 degrees, maybe have a couple of shanked buttons to push through to keep it in place?

    If you want to try another cowl then I would also recommend plain ribbing, like many others did. You get to see relatively quickly if it’s too big or too narrow and can start again.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  • Laurie

    I’ve got WAY too many cowls in my Ravelry library and queue, tho I prefer long, skinny cowls like the Honeycowl. I can wrap them around but they don’t touch my face or choke me. Another thing I think about is, “As soon as I put this on, I’m going to get makeup on it. How do people wear these?” Those cool patterns pull me in, every time.

    Reply

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