Double Knitting the Trapper Cowl from Knits Winter

Who wants to knit another cowl? When I saw Lisa Myer’s Trapper Cowl in Knits Winter, I was all over that business. Lumberjack style shirts and patterns are pretty popular right now, so the plaid-reminiscent check pattern is super on-trend. It wears well with so many different outfits. This pattern calls for a double knitting technique, and since the pattern is quick and simple, I thought it’d be a good project for trying double knitting for the first time.

Double knitting is a technique that creates two layers of fabric simultaneously, opposed to the one layer when knitting normally. There are lots of ways to double knit, but this pattern is in stockinette, and so only requires alternations of knits and purls. The outer layer that faces you is comprised of the knit stitches in-the-round, and the inner layer is made up of purls with the stockinette facing inward. The way to achieve this is by starting with the two-color long-tail cast-on. It’s similar to the traditional long-tail cast-on, only you hold two different colors—one on your index finger and the other on your thumb—and alternate the colors as you cast on stitches. It looks like this:

two-color long-tail cast-on

Once the cast-on row is finished and joined in the round, follow the color chart and knit with the colors as they are shown on the chart. After each knit stitch, bring both yarn strands to the front of the work, and make one purl stitch with the opposite color from the one you just knit. Then, bring both yarn strands to the back once again, and make the next knit stitch. So it goes: knit, bring yarns to front, purl, bring yarns to back, knit, etc. Follow the color chart by knitting the color shown, then purling the other color, and a mirror image of what is showing on the outside is created with the reverse color pattern on the inside fabric.

double knitting double knitting double knitting
Knit stitch with (my) Color A Bring both yarn strands to the front Purl stitch with Color B









The color chart in the Trapper Cowl pattern is a 12-stitch repeat (which really means 24 stitches because those that you purl are not shown on the chart), so I placed stitch markers between every repeat. This just helped me keep track without having to constantly count.

double knitting stitch markers

After only 72 rows of double knitting, here’s my final product:


trapper cowl Knits Winter 2015
Yes, my outfit matched the cowl on this day.
I have no regrets.


Here’s what I found I like about double knitting:

  • Having two layers makes for a seriously warm cowl. When I bound off and showed my boyfriend, he wore the cowl around the house for a while, exclaiming every five minutes, “This thing is so warm!” Then I asked him to take it off before he spilled something on it.
  • The reversible fabric is really fantastic. I do have a few knots on the inside fabric where the yarn had been tied together in the skein, and where I weaved in the ends, but I love that the wrong sides are not visible. As you can see a tiny bit in the picture, the inside is knitted tidily and looks just as pretty as the outside.
  • This double knitting technique is as easy as knit and purl, and that’s all there is to it.

The one thing I did find a little hindering was how the yarns got twisted up in each other so much. There is a lot of switching which color shows on the outside fabric, so the yarns cross over each other a lot as the strands are going from back to front, front to back. After a while I figured out how to control the strands in order to keep them straight most of the time, so with time I may become more comfortable with maneuvering the yarn through these steps.

Of course you can use double knitting and not have to move the yarn back and forth between every stitch, say, if your pattern is in reverse stockinette. You’d purl the “outside” stitches, keeping that yarn to the front, and knit the “inside” stitches, keeping that yarn to the back. This would help with the speed and keep the yarns from becoming twisted. I learned this when I was looking for some tips on double knitting and watched Double Knitting: Essential Techniques to Knit Two Layers at a Time with Annie Modesitt. Annie’s video is filled with all sorts of different double knitting techniques and tips, and she touches on the variety of things you can make using double knitting.

If you are interested in learning more about double knitting, you can download Annie’s video or get it on DVD. It’s a great resource to add to your reference collection. Knits and Knitscene have lots of patterns that are double knitted, including this cute Fir-Cone Sachet from this year’s Knits Gifts. The pattern is fun, the project is adorable, and the balsam fir needles inside make the sachet smell divine, making this a really great gift item or home piece to have around for the holidays.

Lastly, if you love the look of the Trapper Cowl as much as I do, you can get this pattern from Interweave Knits Winter 2015! I think it’s a really strong issue, and I hope to knit some other things from it as well. In the meantime, I hope all your holiday gift-knitting (and personal knitting) is going splendid and keeping you happy and warm through these cold months. Knit on, friends!

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