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Free Knitting Pattern: Changing Leaves Cowl or Scarf

An avid knitter for over 10 years, Donna enjoys sharing her free patterns and knitting experience with other fiber fans and yarn lovers.


I love the changing leaves of Fall. In fact, the only thing I might love more is the changing colors of beautiful yarn! This free knitting pattern combines both: this charming neckwarmer features a colorful design of falling leaves while displaying some of your favorite colors of yarn. This is a great project for using some of your leftover yarn!

This pattern includes directions to make a cowl or a scarf. However, this is not a pattern for beginning knitters. You will need to know how to switch colors while knitting in a row and how to read a charted pattern.

To make it easier to print and read these charts, I've posted all three charts as one jpeg on my blog. You should be able to click on this jpeg, resize it so you can read the charts, and print it out on one sheet of paper.


My Materials

Main Color - 2 (for cowl) or 3 skeins (for scarf) of Knit Picks Swish Worsted Weight yarn (110 yards each) in Squirrel Heather

For leaves - assorted balls (about 30 yards each) of worsted weight yarn in various colors (I used 4 different colors)

size #7 needle ( or correct size needle for gauge)

tapestry needle to weave in ends

My Gauge

20 sts x 32 rows = 4 inches

Finished Size

8 inches by 30 inches for cowl

8 inches by 60 inches for scarf


Directions for Cowl

This cowl is knitted back and forth, then the ends are joined together to form a loop. Using the leaf charts, you can add as many leaves as you want, and place them around the cowl as you choose. I put three leaves in a line on one side of my cowl, then included just one leaf on the other side as an accent. The directions below describe my placement, but you can modify this for your own design.

To start: Cast on 40 sts in main color. I used a provisional cast on so I could join my ends to finish my cowl, but you can use the cast on of your choice and just seam the ends together in a loop.

Knit first 3 sts following Edge Chart (above), place marker, knit rest of row to last three sts, place marker, and follow Edge Chart for last three sts. Continue to follow Edge Chart through the entire cowl. This will create a rib design on edges of three knit rows and three purl rows.

Knit 30 rows in Stst (continue to follow Edge Chart for first 3 sts and last three sts). End on a WS row.

Scroll to Continue
underside of leaf design

underside of leaf design

Start you first leaf by following Chart A, knitting the leaf in a contrast color. For the first one or two rows of the leaf chart, I floated my main color behind the leaf stitches, being careful not to pull my main yarn too tight behind these stitches. As I moved further up the chart, I joined a second ball of my main color to knit the left side of my background. As a result, I was working with three balls of yarn across one row of knitting. This way, I did not have long floats behind my design. I twisted my lines of yarn colors to avoid holes in my knitting when it made sense to do it. When I was finished knitting the leaf, I went back to knitting with only one ball of my main color.

Chart A


After completing Chart A, knit in main color for 6 rows in Stst. Remember to continue the rib edge throughout the pattern.

Then begin Chart B.

Chart B


After finishing Chart B, switch back to main color and knit for 6 rows in Stst.

Knit third leaf following Chart A.

Then knit for 30 rows in main color in Stst.

Follow Chart B for final leaf.

Continue knitting in main color in Stst for 42 rows. Be sure to end on row 6 of Edge Chart.

You may want to block your cowl gently before joining by pinning it down and spraying with cool water. This will smooth any wrinkling in the leaves and at the edges. Join ends together using three needle bind off or seam together. Weave in loose ends.

free knitting pattern for changing leaves scarf

free knitting pattern for changing leaves scarf

Directions for Changing Leaves Scarf

The scarf pattern follows the same design as the cowl, only with a garter border. You can place the leaves as you choose.

Cast on 40 sts in main color. Knit for 4 rows in garter st, ending on a WS row. Next row: knit first 3 sts in garter, place marker, knit across row in Stst to last three sts, place marker, knit 3 sts in garter.

Knit 6 rows (total) in Stst, maintaining 3 sts garter border on both edges. Begin first leaf by following Chart A.

After finishing leaf design, knit 6 more rows in Stst with main color.

Begin Chart B. Then switch back to main color for 6 rows of Stst.

Continue pattern by knitting Chart A, then Chart B, separated by 6 rows of Stst until your scarf is about 60 inches long or to desired length. End scarf with another 4 rows of garter st. Bind off and weave in ends. Block lightly to smooth leaves.

© 2013 Donna Herron. No part of this pattern may be copied or reproduced in any way without permission from the author/designer. For personal use only. This pattern and materials made from this pattern are not meant for commercial sale.

Looking for more knitting patterns and ideas?

Check out my other FREE knitting patterns and articles:

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Simply Special Washcloth

Lace & Cables Table Runner

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Field of Flowers Recycled Tote Bag

Flirty Flower Pin with Button Center

High Tea Collar Necklace

Chunky I-cord Statement Necklaces

Loopy Loop Necklace

Crossroads - A Lightweight Textured Shawl

Textured Fingerless Mitts or Gloves

Stash-o-motastic Fingerless Mitts or Gloves

Changing Leaves Cowl or Scarf

This Way Up! Chevron Cowl

Slightly Shifting Knitted Cowl

Cabled Modern English Cowl

Blooming Colors Scarflet

Reindeer Tracks Cowl

Mosaic Baby Blanket or Lap Afghan

Color Field Baby Blanket

Sweet Cables Baby Blanket


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An Introduction to Knitting-Themed Novels (Knit-Lit Books)

How to Start a Knitting Group

A Simple Guide to Blocking Your Knits

How to Make and Attach Fringe Tassels to a Scarf, Shawl, or Sweater

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How to Pick the Sweater Pattern That's Right for You!

A Review of "A Stitch in Time", Vols. 1 & 2 (Knitting Books)

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Donna Herron (author) from USA on February 03, 2016:

Thanks, Kristen! You should try knitting someday - I think you would like it. It has some of the relaxation and meditative aspects that people enjoy from yoga. Thanks again for your wonderful comments! I appreciate it!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on February 02, 2016:

Donna, this is beautiful. I love the pattern of the fabric. If I was a knitter, I would try this someday. I love your hubs!

Donna Herron (author) from USA on October 25, 2013:

Hi Glimmer Twin Fan - Thanks so much! I wish I knew how to sew and quilt :) We all have our special skills. Thanks for the share and commenting!! So sweet of you :)

Claudia Porter on October 25, 2013:

This is lovely, I wish I was a better knitter.

Donna Herron (author) from USA on October 19, 2013:

Thanks, Ellebee! Anyone can do it - knitting just takes two sticks and some yarn :) Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it!

ElleBee on October 19, 2013:

So cute. I love fall. Now I just wish I knew how to knit!

Donna Herron (author) from USA on October 09, 2013:

Thanks, CraftytotheCore! I appreciate your kind comments!! Sorry knitting wasn't your thing, but you do amazing projects of your own!! Thanks again for commenting.

CraftytotheCore on October 09, 2013:

You have an incredible talent. Wish I could do it. I've tried and cried. That was the extent of it for me! Beautiful work!

Donna Herron (author) from USA on September 28, 2013:

Hi kidscrafts!! Thanks so much! I always appreciate your comments and support :) Have a great weekend!

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on September 28, 2013:

What a superb piece of knitting, Purl3Agony! I love the look and the colours!

Voted up and awesome!

Donna Herron (author) from USA on September 27, 2013:

Hi Lee - You're very ambitious!! I love the idea of using this pattern for a throw!! I'm sure it will be beautiful :) Good luck with the throw and your washcloths. Let me know how they all come out!

Thanks for your comments!!

Lee Tea from Erie, PA on September 27, 2013:

omg oak leaves!! my last name (my real last name, which i'm sorry to point out is not really "tea" lol) means "small oak" and i'm a sucker for all things oak and acorny :) Can't wait to make this into a throw for my living room...

right after I pump out a few of these luxurious washcloths - I'm binding off my first cloth this morning :)

Donna Herron (author) from USA on September 27, 2013:

Great minds think alike :) So glad you like it! Thanks, as always, for your comments!!

Kimberly Schimmel from North Carolina, USA on September 27, 2013:

This is gorgeous! Just in time for scarf-knitting/gift-giving season, too!

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