grey unbuttoned cowl worn with blue cardigan
Our latest free knitting pattern Horseshoe Lace Cowl features a straightforward lace pattern. 

Knitted flat and buttoned up into a cowl, it's a great beginner lace project and is easy to adapt for different yarns and lengths.
It looks striking with a few buttons undone.

Or how about folded in half horizontally for a collar effect.

grey button cowl worn with orange jumper

Or you can wear with the buttons at the back

grey lace cowl worn with a purple cardigan

Or crumpled down

grey lace cowl worn with a blue lace jumper

Or bunched.

grey lace cowl worn with green jumper

Designed by Sue (aka Woollen Wave) the pattern is both written and charted.

We think this is a good first lace project for a beginner lace knitter. The classic Horseshoe Lace design uses simple yarn overs and 3 different stitch decreases:
  • K2togknit two stitches together. A 1 stitch right leaning decrease.
  • SSKslip the stitch knitwise, slip a second stitch knitwise, insert left needle into the front of the 2 slipped stitches, wrap the yarn around the right needle and pull loop through. A 1 stitch left leaning decrease.
  • sl2, k1, p2sso: slip two stitches together as if to knit together, knit one stitch, then pass the two slipped stitches over this stitch. This is a 2 stitch decrease, sometimes called a Central Double Decrease because the decrease is... central.😆

grey lace cowl with buttons on a dark wood table

You can find some lace knitting tutorials here:

But our Horseshoe Lace Cowl is very straightforward to work and is worth a go if you've never knitted lace.

It's only 57 stitches wide and you are not adding any increases to change the shape - it stays a rectangle all the way up.

And as the horseshoe pattern has a small stitch and row repeat it's a great project to learn how to read charts with the added assurance of the written instructions too. You can see more about lace charts at Tin Can Knits here.

Our sample uses Gotland DK (out of stock) but you can use any DK, you need about 155m. You could try:
  • 2 balls of Rowan Alpaca Classic which will give you even more halo fluffiness and the cowl will have more drape. 
  • 2 hanks of Socks Yeah DK. It is  75% Merino wool and has a strong smooth stitch definition that will really show off all the different types of decrease stitches.
  • 1 hank of WYS Bluefaced Leicester DK. This will give a luxurious woolly feel.


lace grey cowl

The cowl is 32cm tall and 30cm across when buttoned and laid flat.

You can make it wider which would give a looser fit around the neck. To do this just knit more rows of the pattern. You will use more yarn to do this.

To make it taller or shorter you will need to cast on more or less stitches. The lace pattern is worked over 10 stitches. And there are 3 and 4 stitches at each end to give a nice defined straight edge. So if you change the number of stitches you cast on you need to make sure that the number is divisible by 10 and then add on 7.

For example the original pattern has 50 stitches (5 pattern repeats) + 7 edge stitches.

Using the gauge mentioned in the pattern you could make a cowl approximately 5cm shorter by casting on 47 stitches (4 pattern repeats + 7 edge stitches).

To make it taller you could start with 67 stitches which would add approximately 5cm.

Of course you don't need to button this rectangle up into a cowl. By knitting more rows you can make it into a scarf. You will use more yarn.

Another way to make the pattern is to use a different thickness of yarn. By changing the needle size you can determine how loose or firm your cowl or scarf will be.

Try these needle suggestions:
  • Finer weight yarns like lace and 4ply would be good with 3.5mm needles
  • Aran, which is thicker than DK, works well on 5 or 5.5mm needles
  • Chunky, even thicker, would be good on 6 or 6.5mm
Remember you may have to adjust the number of stitches you cast on to get the size you want. A rule of thumb is to cast on more stitches for a finer thickness yarn to get the same width and cast on less stitches for the thicker yarns. Remember it needs to be a number you can divide by 10 and then add on another 7 stitches. And, the amount of yarn you use will also vary.

Horseshoe Lace Cowl knitting pattern available for download here.

Measures - 32cm tall and 30cm wide laid flat. Simple to modify size.

Yarn - we used 155m of DK Yarn

Needles - 4mm. Straight or circular.

You will also need a wool needle to weave in your ends.

6 buttons, 15-20mm. We used patterned shell buttons.

Techniques - cast on; work back and forth; knit; purl; yarn over; decreasing (K2tog, SSK and sl2, k1, p2sso);  cast off. Abbreviations are explained in the pattern.

Want more info on the jumpers and cardigans in the photos? Click the links below for all their details. 👇

4 garments
top row - Line Dried & Rocquaine, bottom row -Dandelion & Wildwoods
Fiona Wright
Tagged: free pattern neck