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Whakairo Cowl

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Whakairo is the art of wood carving in Maori culture, a prominent and respected role. Many traditional structures, such as the posts of wharenui (meeting houses) or the prow of a waka (canoe), and objects like the taiaha (weapons) are covered in this elaborate carved decoration. While it is a work of art, the carvings also tell a story. Whakairo requires patience and diligence and is a skill that many Maori continue to hone to both honour their heritage and carry the stories and lessons embedded in the carving forward.

Knitting, like whakairo, requires patience and diligence. I use knitting, specifically knitwear design, to honour my heritage and carry the stories, values, and lessons of my people forward. I wanted to create a piece to pay tribute to this art form, which I was able to recreate the feel through the usage of twisted stitches and cables for a fabric rich in texture.

On a personal note, some members of my family are wood-carvers, using their talents to decorate wharenui and marae.

The Whakairo cowl is worked bottom-up, starting at the cast-on tip, growing as a triangle until the desired width is achieved, then worked straight up to form the body around the neck. Buttons and buttonholes are then attached so you can close the piece. There are options to work the body in the round for a buttonless version or to turn it into a shawl.



  • 382 - 440 yd./360 - 400 m
  • Fingering/4-ply Dubai Knits Yara (80% Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon; 440 yd./400 m; 100 g). 1 skein in Damask.
  • This yarn has incredible stitch definition which really allows the cables and twisted stitches to pop and shine.

  • US 5/3.75 mm size or size needed to obtain gauge.

  • 24 sts x 40 rows per 4 in./10 cm in main stitch patterns with suggested needle size and after blocking.
  • One repeat of the center lace pattern (23 sts and 12 rows) equals 3.5 in./9 cm by 1.5 in./4 cm.

  • Five 21 mm buttons
  • 6/0 (3.5mm) crochet hook
  • Darning/tapestry needle
  • Sewing needle and scrap yarn for buttons

  • Width: 23 in./58.5 cm; Length: 22 in./56 cm.
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