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How to Make a Cowl Scarf

Aug 31, 2015
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Whether in drapy fabric (left) or a textile with body (right), the cowl scarf frames the face beautifully.

In Threads no. 60, Karen Morris showed how to make a charming, retro-inspired cowl scarf. Based on a vintage 1950s “smoke ring” scarf, this accessory pulls on over the head and automatically falls into a face-framing, comfortable style. There’s no need to master tricky scarf-tying techniques.

Many fabrics work for this scarf, from sheers with body or with drape to slithery silk velvet to polyester fleece. You can make it with two different fabrics for a reversible scarf, or place the upper edge on the fabric fold for a single-textile piece. One yard of fabric makes two scarves, so you can sew one for yourself and one to give away.

Cut one or two layers of fabric, sew a couple of seams, and you’re finished. It’s important to keep track of the fabric grain when cutting: Be sure the pattern is placed correctly on the bias. This ensures that the finished scarf drapes beautifully.


  • For a single-fabric scarf, 1 yard of 60-inch-wide fabric makes two scarves.
  • For a two-fabric scarf, use 3/4 yard of two fabrics, 60 inches wide; each fabric makes two scarf halves.

Gridded pattern paper

Thread to match fabric


The pattern includes 1/2-inch-wide seam allowances on all sides.



1 Enlarge the pattern. Draft it to measure on gridded patternmaking paper, so that the gridlines are 2 inches apart. To make a complete pattern, place the center-front line on the fold of another piece of paper, trace around it, and cut both layers. Mark the grainline and the center front.

2 Cut the fabric. For a two-fabric scarf, layer the fabrics with right sides together. Position the top edge on the bias.

For a single-fabric scarf, cut off or fold down the 1/2-inch-wide seam allowance along the top edge. Fold the fabric on the bias, with right sides together, and place the top edge on the fold. In both cases, pin the fabric layers together and cut.organza layers

3 Sew the top edge. If you’re making a single-fabric scarf with the top edge on a fold, skip to step 4. If you’re using two fabrics, sew the upper edge, with right sides together. Stretch it slightly as you stitch, so there’s some give. Trim the seam allowances and press them to one side. If your fabric is sheer, trim the fabric close to the stitching and finish the allowances with a picot stitch or a small zigzag. Opaque fabrics don’t need a seam finish.

TIP: Control shifty fabric.

If your fabric is unstable or slips around as you handle it, keep the pattern pinned to the layers for the first few steps. Fold the pattern edges back to expose the seamline, and pin it around the edges and throughout the center of the piece. Sew the upper edge and V point, then remove the pattern.

4 Sew the V seams. With right sides together, sew from center back to center front on one side, then turn the work over and repeat on the other side. Clip the point, trim the seam allowances, press them flat, then to one side.scarf with v-seams shown

5 Prepare to sew the center-back seam. Reach into one center-back opening, grasp the opposite center-back edge and pull it inside and through the scarf, until the raw edges align, with right sides together. Match the V seams and the top seam (if present), and pin around the opening.

scarf being turnedscarf with edges aligned and pinned 6 Stitch the center-back seam. Sew around the center-back seam, leaving a 3-inch-long opening for turning. Trim the seam allowances to 1/4 inch.scarf with center back seam shown

7 Finish the scarf. Turn the scarf right side out through the opening, and press the center-back seams to one side. Pin the opening closed, and hand-sew to close. Press the scarf’s V edges flat, but don’t press the top edge flat.

turn right side outhand-sew back seam

 Do you have a favorite fabric that you’d like to use for a smoke ring scarf?

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  1. User avater EmilyBint September 1st

    Oh, good idea! The fabric should be elastic, though, right?

  2. rosiedoodle September 1st

    I like the smoke ring plan for the scarf, but I will have to make a few changes. I only have 1/4 yd of 60 inch wide light silk, in muted autumn shades. The predominate color is burgundy, and I have purchased some silk in burgandy to make a set. I will probably play with the idea of a soft lining or ultra thin batt to give it a little body. But I hadn't thought of putting it on the bias before. Good idea, for a nice drape.

  3. redmaria October 11th

    I loved this pattern when it originally came out, and I'm so happy to see it again, with updated fabric ideas. For a variation, it also hangs beautifully with a smoothed curve instead of a V.

  4. Bordeaux35 November 20th

    I am usually pretty god at figuring out how to read pattern, but this one...I just can't make the measurements work.
    The way the arrow shows straight of grain on the pattern??
    is the 22" fold, center front on the bias?
    I wish there would have been a video, or a bit better explanations.aybe I'm too dense :-(
    Can someone clarify this one? Thanks.


  5. Liz4983 August 22nd

    Help.....the neck is too small to go over my head. What did I do wrong?

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