Totally Tubular: How to Sew a Cowl

comments (8) January 9th, 2014     

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CalPatch cal patch, contributor
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A cowl is the perfect quick and cozy gift!
The smaller cowl.
The giant cowl.
A cowl is the perfect quick and cozy gift!

A cowl is the perfect quick and cozy gift!

Photo: Cal Patch
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I love cowls. I'm always just a bit chilly in the winter, and a cowl adds that snuggle factor to just about any outfit. They're also incredibly versatile: They can be casual or dressy, and work for women, babies, and even men! I like cowls better than scarves because they're more practical for wearing indoors (no pesky scarf ends in your way) AND they can't fall off!

Most of the cowls you see are either knit or crocheted, but consider how easy (and fast!) it is to SEW a cowl. It's merely a tube! Which means one seam! Hooray, it's the ideal project for beginners, tight budgets, lazy folks, or those who leave their gifting 'til the very last minute.

This is also a perfect project for using up scraps, as they don't take much fabric. I'd recommend using only knits (jersey, rib, fleece), as the stretch is good for getting it over the head. Recycled sweaters work well, too.

I made two different styles, or, really, sizes. One is a typical cowl that fits fairly snugly around the neck and one is the trendier giant cowl. This one can be twisted and doubled around the neck or worn loosely draped over the shoulders. You can experiment with all kinds of lengths and widths so no two are alike. Check out the range of possibilities!

  Here's the smaller cowl on a mannequin...
  ...and here's the giant one, loosely draped over the shoulders...
  ...and here's the giant one doubled-up for a snug fit.

Here are the basic steps:

1. Cut out your rectangle. A tube is simply a rectangle, folded in half and seamed down one side. The minimum width is your (or the recipient's) head circumference, although you can skim off a couple of inches if the knit is stretchy. Check if the knit only stretches in one direction and make sure you use that for the width. About 22 to 23 inches should work for most women, and add an inch for seam allowance. The length is up to you. The longer you make it, the more the cowl will scrunch around the neck. I made the smaller one about 13 inches long, by exactly my head size, 22 inches (11 inches after sewing). The giant one is 15 inches long by 40 inches wide (20 inches after sewing).

  The small cowl lying flat. It's 13 inches long by 11 inches wide (double that for the full circumference).
  The giant cowl flat. It measures 15 inches long by 20 inches wide (40 inches around).

2. Fold the fabric in half (make sure you're folding the width and not the length) and sew the seam. I overlapped my edges and used one of the decorative embroidery stitches on my machine. You could just fold right sides together and sew a plain seam. I also stopped sewing a few inches from the end, so it can split open at your shoulder, but you can sew to the bottom if you prefer. Most knits won't unravel, so you won't even need to finish your edges.

3. Be creative! Since this is such a simple project, you can go wild with the embellishment possibilities: Add a ruffle, crochet edging, embroidery, stretchy trims, fringe, beads, or appliqué.

How's that for a quick, easy, stylish, practical, budget-friendly, works-for-anyone project? You can use this same idea to make cuffs and legwarmers (also tubular), too. Totally awesome!

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posted in: trendy, fabric, gift, cowl

Comments (8)

shelleyskud writes: I love making scarves but never wear them. this is JUST what i'm looking for. Thank you Cal
Posted: 8:48 am on January 3rd
tequello writes: How awesome!!! I'm going to make one and simply add some buttons. Thanks for the great idea!
Posted: 4:13 pm on January 1st
purplebouquet writes: The timing of this idea was perfect. On Dec. 23, I found myself in need of a couple of presents. After reading this, I stopped at my local fabric store and found some black poly velvet with some sparkling ribbon interwoven. One yard yielded four small cowls, about 24 inches wide, 14 inches long. I overlocked all the edges with pearl rayon thread to it would look a little dressier. I attached a recipe card with instructions ("Recipe for: Stylish Warmth; Ingredients: Velvet Cowl; Directions: Pull over head so flared opening is at bottom. Scrunch around neck according to taste. Optional: add jewelry."), and had four easy, inexpensive, stylish gifts, which were enthusiastically received.
Thanks for the suggestion.

Posted: 10:34 am on December 30th
floristic writes: Thanks for the idea. I know have a way to use up that zebra prints remnants that I have.
Posted: 12:44 am on December 30th
grumpyor writes: great idea, try it with polor fleese.
Posted: 9:18 pm on December 21st
lindsaydonner writes: So,it would have worked better had the remnant I was using stretched lengthwise, instead of width-wise. That said, I finished a project, I'm warmer and it would be totally easy to embellish! Yay, thanks!
Posted: 4:19 pm on December 20th
queenopearls writes: Cal, you are so cool! I love this and you are so kind to share. I'll work on some today for last minute gifts and, of course, for me!
Fleece, trims, buttons, devore, ... not to forget mini-cuffs to keep the cold from headed up coat sleeves...
=-D Thank you, Christina
Posted: 7:43 am on December 20th
islandgirlbags writes: Love this idea!! Thanks for sharing!
Posted: 3:18 pm on December 16th
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