I love the cowl neckline detailing. A cowl collar adds drape and a relaxed, but elegant, look to tops.
If you look at sewn patterns with cowl neck lines, you will see that the front bodice is cut in an outward angle, like an upside down trapezoid. This is to allow the front neck to fall forward when the sides and shoulders are in place. To do a cowl, the front of our knit top should be shaped with angles the same way.
Working top-down and seamless, the idea of the cowl would have to be the first detail decided on. But, when I am designing a knit top I often have not decided what type of collar I want to use until the majority of the top is completed. This means I have to add the collar after the fact. As an afterthought, this type of shaping is obviously impossible.
If you start off with a wide/low neckline, you can still get the same feel of the open neck and full drape of the cowl. Unfortunately, on the sweater that I am working on right now, I had planned originally for a boat neck. This means I have ONLY stitches at the top edge for the back and front neck (no sides, and not particularly open or low.) This has not discouraged me from trying anyway, since I know that the PERFECT look with this design would be a drapey wide cowl-neck collar.
The important thing to remember, BEFORE, you start adding your collar to your basically finished knit top, is that your collar will lay with the inside out. That means you want to work the stitch pattern from the wrong side of the sweater. Additionally, you want the collar to roll out and over at the neckline. Therefore, stitches should be picked up from the inside giving you a seamless look from where the collar rolls out from the inside of the neckline. Thirdly, you want to be sure that the bottom edge of the collar will either lay flat or curl under – not over. So if you are working a mostly-knit stitch pattern, you want to be sure to work a few rows of purl at the end so it will curl towards the body rather than away.
At this point, the collar is actually a funnel neck collar. But when the length of the collar is worked every couple of inches with progressively larger needles, the collar will not only grow in circumference, but the stitch pattern will become looser and flow-ier. Giving you the draped look you are going for.