The one pictured here was made for my SIL for Christmas. It is knit up with Misti International 100% Alpaca, hand dyed worsted weight yarn. Details are on ravelry.
Here's the basic formula:
1) Cast on 100 stitches, more or less depending on gauge and how big you want the final diameter to be**.
2) Knit in stockinette for 5 rounds.
3) Purl one round.
4) Continue in stockinette for 9 inches, more or less depending on how 'scrunchy' or 'drapey' you want the cowl to be.
5) Purl one round more.
6) Continue in stockinette for another 5 rounds.
7) Bind off all stitches and weave in yarn ends.
How to I love thee cowl? Let me count the ways...
1) The yarn - you are free to pick anything that feels good against your skin. You can pick something bulky if you are looking for warmth, or something lace weight of you want something pretty.
2) The ease - you can practically knit this in your sleep if you like. It is stockinette all the way (with two purl rows). Or, if you are up for a challenge, you can plan something more complex. There are some gorgeous patterns out there like this, or this. Or you can design your own with practically any pattern from a book.
3) The color - the combinations are endless. You can go with a self-striping or variegated pattern. You can go with a solid to show off a stitch pattern. You could make one in every color of the rainbow.
4) The quickness - these knit up fast too. The two that I've made have took less than 4 hours each. Of course, the more intricate you get, the more time they take, but they are well worth the effort.
5) The "wow" factor - you can wear them around and I guarantee that people will comment on them. You can casually drop in that you made it yourself, or you can be shy about it and just say "thanks." Whatever you prefer, I guarantee it will be noticed.
6) The low cost - this can easily be a one skein project. Perfect for showcasing some stash yarns or it can be an excuse for picking up that one skein you can't live without.
7) One word of caution - many yarns can stretch over time and won't necessarily return to their original shape with a hand washing. Keep this in mind when picking yarn, and be sure to knit up a quick swatch!
** You can take your gauge swatch and your tape measure and determine the perfect fit for you. Just multiply your gauge by the number of inches you want the cowl to be in circumference. Or, take your tape measure and lay it around your neck to determine the circumference you'd like. Then multiply by your gauge and you have the right number of stitches to cast on. For example, if you want the cowl to be 20 inches in circumference and your gauge is 5 sts per inch, cast on 5 x 20 = 100 sts.