Bookish DIY Gifts: A Cozy Cowl for the Well-Read

Posted by Margaret Dunham

Winter’s chill is fast approaching, and with it the season of gift giving and curling up by the fire with a beloved leather-bound book… or at least wrapping yourself in a fleece blanket and huddling beside the radiator. But what happens when you have to venture outside?

Help is on the way in the form of this cozy fleece cowl that’s incredibly easy to make for yourself or to give as a gift.  It’s such a simple design you can even make it with scraps!  Here’s how.


First, gather your materials:

  • Fleece: This is the soft, slightly fuzzy stuff that stretches a little and is generally made from recycled plastic. It doesn’t even need to be hemmed! You can buy your fleece new, cut it from and old fleece blanket, or use up scraps from another fleece project. The finished project in this example fit in an 18 by 6 inch rectangle, so that would be about the inimum size for your fabric scraps.  For the average neck, 18 inches in length will be fine. If you’re making a cowl for a more buxom throat, measure the circumference of the neck its widest point and then add 4 inches.


  • Needle & Thread: Choose thread that matches your fleece and a needle that’s easy to use.


  • Large Button: The button will fasten behind your head, so it will help if the button is large and easy to manipulate. This project is a great way to use that large, random button you have hanging around but never have any idea how to use.


  • Sharp Scissors: Fleece is pretty easy to cut, but it’s always easiest to work with fabric when you’re using sharp fabric scissors.


  • Permanent Marker: You’ll use this marker to write out the message on your cowl.


  • Optional – Fabric Paint: Fabric paint (the kind in the bottle with the a narrow nozzle) can be used to go over the wording and make it pop visually.



First, cut your top curve.

Cutting this curve is fairly simple and customizable. Essentially, you’re cutting out the shape of a broad smile. The curve at the top of the cowl should be about 2 inches deep to accommodate the curve of the human throat comfortably.


Cut your bottom curve.

The bottom curve is even more customizable! Decide how much cowl you really want considering the size of your fleece, the size of the wearer, and the cut of the wearer’s coat. This example runs about 8 inches wide at its thickest point.


Trim edges and place button.

Hold the cowl in place as you would like it to fit when buttoned, and mark where the button and buttonhole will need to be placed in order to assure that fit. Lay the cowl out, and fold it as it would be worn. Place the button according to your mark, and line it up with the mark for your buttonhole. Trim any excess fleece and sew on your button.


Cut your buttonhole… carefully!

Try that cowl’s fit one more time, and check the position for your buttonhole. A few things to consider:

  • The furthest edge of the buttonhole should line up with the center of your button, since that is where the fabric will fall when it is worn.
  • The buttonhole should be cut parallel to the floor, or so it cuts across the neck as a necklace would. This will keep the fabric from puckering or sagging.
  • The opening of the buttonhole should be a little smaller than your button – fleece stretches, so making it a little smaller than the button will keep the cowl secure when worn.


Add the writing.

For this example we wrote “Well Read” in old-school cursive, but “Book Lover” “Great Reader” or “Shh… I’m reading” all make good statements to write on your cowl! Write your message out in permanent marker, and go over it with your tube of fabric paint (if you like). Let the cowl dry as directed on the bottle of paint, usually a few hours.


Give/ wear, read, and enjoy!

Once the cowl is dry it’s ready to wear outdoors! Layer it under a coat or pair it with a thick sweater, and it’ll keep your or your loved ones cozy all the way to the bookshop or library this fall and winter.

Cowls like this are excellent gifts, easy to make, and endlessly customizable. They also make fantastic gift wrap for any books you’re giving, you wonderful book lover you! Make a few cowls in a day and you’ll keep everyone on your list warm this holiday season.