Lessons

Lesson 2: Beginners Chunky Cowl or Ear Warmer

After the success of our first women’s craft group meet-up I decided to tackle something a bit trickier – crochet! Crochet is something I taught myself through videos and online tutorials and is definitely one of my favourite cold weather crafts.

As it’s currently winter in the Netherlands, I see so much crochet and knitwear inspiration every day from scarves to beanies to lovely big sweaters to ear warmers. How cute are these examples from instagram?!

This Toasty Heart beanie by Homelealass on Insta is the most beautiful colour and made from Aussie Merino yarn! Buy the kit to make your own here.
I have a feeling this scarf worn by Lolariastyle on Insta is knitted but couldn’t resist including it – isn’t it dreamy?

After doing some experimenting with what might be achievable for our group in a two hour meeting, I settled on a couple of options. The first is a chunky, twisted ear warmer which is perfect for the chilly weather (and bad hair days). And the second is a cowl which can be made narrow or wide and can be worn two ways depending on your mood! Both options use the same supplies and techniques and are a great entry-level crochet project to get you hooked (<— see what I did there?) on crochet!

Supplies

For this project you’ll need some hooks – 10mm and 12mm work best and mean that your crocheting will go nice and quickly. You’ll also need some bulky yarn. I bought mine from Action here in the Netherlands but any large size yarn will do. You can also make these projects with yarn you might already have – just look at the label to match your yarn size to the hook you will need to use.

If you want some chunky yarn that is similar to mine, HobbyCraft in the UK has a large range of beautiful colours and patterns! The Hayfield Bonus Super Chunky yarns look very similar to the yarn I used so definitely check that out.

Skills and Techniques

After finishing this project, you will be able to:

  • Crochet! But in more detail –
  • Do the double crochet stitch
  • Chain stitch
  • Sew on a button
  • Tie variations of a slip knot
  • Identify the front and back loops of a crochet stitch
  • Effectively weave in your yarn ends

Method

This is an easy beginner’s crochet project with a few variations, no experience required! This tutorial can be used to make:

  • An ear warmer or cozy headband
  • A wide cowl
  • A narrow cowl that can be worn two ways

If you have some crochet experience, here is the short form of the pattern (US terms used throughout):

  • Ch: Chain
  • DC: Double Crochet
  • sk: Skip

Ch 58 (or chosen necessary number of chains to reach desired length).

Row 1: DC into 3rd chain from hook, DC into each chain until the end.  

Row 2: Ch2, turn, skip 2 chains, DC into back post only in each stitch until the end.

Repeat row 2 until the work is desired width. For an adult ear warmer or narrow cowl, five or six total rows should be enough but play around with a number you’re happy with! For the wider cowl, nine or ten rows should make a nice warm garment – it’s up to you. Follow step 10 for the cowl or ear warmer below.

If you are a beginner or need some refreshers, below is a step by step tutorial! A free printable version of this tutorial is also available under the ‘Resources’ section below.

Step One – Slip knot: Make a loop with your yarn, on the left side will be your tail, the right should be connected to your ball of yarn. Bring the right side behind the loop and pull it through. This will create the loop we use for our hook. Hold onto this loop and pull the two sides until the loop becomes small enough to fit your hook. It should be loose enough to wiggle around a bit and to work with.

Step Two – Chain: The first step (above left) is pull your working yarn, the one connected to the ball of yarn, over your hook to the front. This is called YARN OVER (or YO). Use your hook to pull this yarn through the loop on that is already on your hook. You’ve completed your first chain!

Continue to make the number of chains you need for your project. For the cowl (using a 10mm or 12mm hook) this will be around 58 chains. For the head wrap, measure the circumference of your head (or the head your making for!) and chain a length that is 2-4 inches / 5 – 10 centimetres LESS than this number. So for example, if you’re head is 55cm in circumference, chain a length that is 45cm for a tighter fitting head band, up to 50cm for a looser fit.

Step Three – Double Crochet into Third Chain from Hook: Now you will have a length of chain that we can stitch into! For these projects we’re doing a stitch called the DOUBLE CROCHET and the first double crochet (or DC) will go into the third chain from your hook (see below).

To start the stitch YO and push your hook into the third chain from your hook. YO again and pull this through the chain. You will now have three loops on your hook. YO and pull this yarn through the first two loops. You will now have two loops on your hook. YO and pull this yarn through the remaining two loops. You have just done your first Double Crochet!!

Continue doing one DC in each chain to the end.

Step Four – Chain Two and Turn: Following the same process as step one, chain two (YO, pull through). Turn your work by moving it towards the left so your hook is now on the right and your work is on the left.

Step Five – Double Crochet into the Back Loop: For the remainder of the rows in either the ear warmer or the cowl we will do double crochet stitches into the BACK LOOP of each stitch (see below right). Skip the two chains you just made (these count as our first stitch) and complete a DC into the back loop of the first proper stitch in the row (see below left). Follow the DC instructions in step three if needed.

Step Six – Chain Two and Turn: Once you have completed the row by doing a DC into every stitch, repeat step four by chaining two and turning the work again so the hook is on your right and work is on your left.

Step Seven – Repeat Steps Five and Six: To complete the cowl or ear warmer, repeat steps five and six until you have the width you desire. For an adult ear warmer or narrow cowl, five or six rows should be enough but play around with a number you’re happy with! For the wider cowl, nine or ten rows should make a nice warm garment – it’s up to you.

Step Eight – Slip Knot to Finish: Once your project has reached your desired width, we can finish off with another slip knot. We do this the same as in step one but this time we don’t need the loop so it can be pulled all the way through. To do this, YO, pull the yarn through and cut the length of yarn attached to your ball. If making an ear warmer, leave enough of a tail to do some final stitching – about 25cm. Pull on the loop until your tail comes loose and pull tightly to finish your knot.

Step Nine – Weaving in Ends: At this stage you will have two tails, one at the start and end of your work. Threat your large yarn needle with the shorter of the two and weave the tail into the work. Try to weave in the direction of the rows. It is also a good idea to stitch first in one way and then go back the way you came (in a different row) for stability. Use sharp scissors to cut the end of the tail close to your work, being careful not to cut the work itself!

If you are making the cowl make sure to weave in your other tail as well as it won’t be used for stitching!

OPTION 1: Ear Warmer

Step Ten – Stitch Short Sides Together: To finish up the ear warmer, hold it length wise, pinching the short ends together as pictured (top left). Fold these two ends into each other so they interlock as shown below (top right). Make sure your loose tail is on the top layer as you will use this to stitch things together. Thread your yarn needle and, making sure to go through all layers, stitch up and down from right to left until the ends are firmly stitched together. Tie a slip knot by stitching into your work to make a loop and threading the end of the tail through. Pull the tail to tighten. Follow step nine to weave in this last tail and neatly cut the end.

Turn your ear warmer inside out and voila, all finished!

OPTION 2: Cowl

Step Ten – Add Buttons: To finish your cowl all that’s left to do is add buttons. I added two to my large cowl so it can just be worn in an infinity scarf style, and three buttons to the narrow cowl so it can be worn in the infinity and cross over styles (see above). As the crochet rows are used as button holes you can choose exactly where to stitch your buttons and how you want to wear your cowl!

I have chosen buttons with four holes but a button with two would work as well. I don’t recommend shank buttons (the ones with a little loop on the back instead of holes) as they might not be as sturdy but it’s up to you!

To sew your buttons on, thread a needle that will fit through your button holes with a thread that matches your scarf (or not, contrast can be fun too!) and make a knot in the end of the thread – I used another slip knot. Place the button where you would like it and, on the underside of the cowl, stitch through a small amount of yarn to anchor the thread. Push the needle up through one of the holes in your button, pull tight and head back down through the hole diagonally opposite. Continue to go up and down in the same two holes three or four more times before switching to the other two holes.

To finish off, tie a slip knot by stitching into the work to make a loop and threading your needle back through this loop. Pull tight and weave through your work to hide the end before cutting the thread.

Repeat for any other buttons you’re using and you’re all done!

The Plan

The plan for this project was to go through step through step with the women and help individuals when needed. I (rather foolishly) thought that everyone would be able to sort of, maybe, kind of work through the pattern step by step. I was not anticipating the complete lack of crochet experience or the influx of young girls! But never fear, I will go over some suggestions for what to do if this happens to you below in my reflections.

To prepare I bought enough supplies for around 16-20 people to each have 100 grams of yarn and a crochet hook. I had enough buttons for around 10 people as anyone who made the headband wouldn’t necessarily need any (of course they could always be used for decoration). I also brought about 10 yarn needles and a couple of packets of smaller tapestry needles that would fit through buttons. I also had some scissors, thread and measuring tapes but these were not used by many people as are only needed at the very end of the project.

Reflections

This week we had a few familiar faces in both the volunteers and refugees which is great! We also had quite a few younger girls, probably aged around 9 – 12 years old which was a huge challenge. I would recommend this tutorial for ages 12 and up, it really is for adults or confident younger women. In total we also had around 15 participants, with more or less at different times, which also made things tricky for me as the only person who was a semi-confident crocheter! That said, below is a summary of my thoughts on our second meet up.

What Worked:

  • Crochet as a craft went down very well. When we showed the cowl and ear warmer to people to entice them down to the craft room the response was great, people love some chunky yarn-wear!
  • Something I hoped would happen and actually did was that people worked together to create their pieces and helped each other learn. No one had much (if any) experience but the people who caught on more quickly would lend a hand to the women around them. Shout out to the volunteer who learned to double crochet then surrounded herself with small girls to pass on her new skill!
  • Crochet is a good take-away craft which is relatively tidy and you barely need many tools – you can really get by with yarn and a hook. For us this meant that people felt happy taking their ball of yarn and hook home to carry on in their spare time.
  • Our chosen project was also a very simple pattern consisting of identical rows of one stitch. This meant that once someone mastered the basics, the project could progress without too much trouble (in theory)! Of course, the basics aren’t always easy to master and the little ones had some issues. That said, I would certainly attempt this again with the older women.
  • The print outs worked well. For our watercolour painting we didn’t have a working printer so the tutorial sheets for that class had to stay on my computer. This week we had more success and many people ended up taking the sheets home – a good sign! I think the photographs were particularly helpful and it is much easier to use an app to translate written rather than spoken word.
  • Crochet was another craft that was quite easy to communicate across the many language barriers we have. It is much easier to show someone how to do it than to tell them which works just fine for us!

What I would change next time:

  • Age restrictions – Our group is meant to be for women, i.e. grown ups only. However, as it takes place in the local refugee centre itself, the inevitable child shows up and wants to participate – crafting is popular with all ages! In the future we will make sure that we are either much stricter with who is allowed to participate or have a second, easier version of the craft for younger people to try. Perhaps try finger knitting or french knitting (using a ‘knitting Nancy’) for the young ones!
  • Crochet teachers – After being the only one with any crochet experience in a room full of enthusiastic beginners, I felt like I’d run a marathon! As I can’t clone myself, next time I would definitely try to have at least one or two volunteers do a practice run so they had some idea of what to do at least.
  • Extra supplies – As I said in the watercolour tutorial, you can never have enough supplies! Okay, so that might be an exaggeration, but I would definitely err on the side of caution. I think I may have one or two balls of yarn left after the class but my trolley was considerably lighter on the way home. I over-estimated on the yarn I would need and did not regret it at all. People will want to take things home and if you have the budget, it’s nice to provide some extras for those who are particularly enthusiastic.

Overall the meet-up was hectic but productive and I think everyone felt as though they learned a new skill which is a lovely feeling. As next week we are doing a project which probably won’t take the whole two hours of our time together so I’ll make sure I have some crochet supplies for those keen to continue!

If you use this blog or the resources below to teach yourself or a group, let me know, I’d love to hear how everything goes!

UPDATE 6 / 2 / 2020:

There was one lady in our craft group for this project who really took to crochet like a duck to water! I don’t know how much prior experience she had had (if any) but she really enjoyed the process and picked it up much more quickly than I ever did! After the meet-up ended for the week, she took away some yarn to finish her project.

During our next lesson a week later, she came down to the craft room with a lovely surprise – her finished cowl AND an ear warmer! And even more special, she was kind enough to give them to me. I was so impressed with her skill and the pieces are beautiful, I will wear them with pride for many winters to come!

It never ceases to amaze me that people who have been through so much can still be so generous and kind. Or how creativity and some time creating together can transcend so many boundaries. Whether you’re crafting alone or with a group, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses! Appreciate the big or small things you can create with your own two hands – you are amazing.

Love,

Resources

Head to my Pinterest board for this project for some great online resources!

2 thoughts on “Lesson 2: Beginners Chunky Cowl or Ear Warmer”

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