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How to Knit A Scarf

How to Knit A Scarf

How to Knit A Scarf


Imagine having a mindfulness practice that yielded physical results.  Each meditation, focusing on one stitch at a time, resulted in tangible progress.  As you grow more comfortable with the basic techniques, you find yourself getting lost in the simplicity of it.  It becomes less about the activity itself, and more about achieving a sense of timelessness.  When the yarn runs out, you have a lovely wool garment to wear that will keep you warm and remind you of your hours of meditation.  Many crafters I talk to describe this relaxing flow state as one of their main reasons for loving their craft.  Knitting is a very accessible craft to pick up because all you need is some yarn, a set of needles, and a willingness to love the process.  It is a wonderful hobby that is simultaneously relaxing and productive.  One of the most surprising things about knitting is the sheer amount of time it takes to finish a project.  I am often amazed when I total up the number of hours that I spent knitting a pair of socks.  No matter how long a project takes, it never feels like wasted time.

This article describes how to knit a wool scarf.  This was one of the first projects I knit nearly 20 years ago.  It only requires 3 basic techniques: casting on (starting your project), the basic knit stitch, and casting off (finishing).  The entire scarf will be knit with the garter stitch, meaning you will only be using the knit stitch back and forth on the project.  The result is a loose, ribbed texture.  Another popular stitch is the stockinette stitch, which involves knitting the right side rows and purling the wrong side rows, resulting in a flat piece that is smooth on one side and tightly ribbed on the other.  There are great videos on how to purl on YouTube, but I consider it a level 2 skill.  This project is very simple, and requires no pattern, so it is the perfect thing to make if you have never knit before.

Tools and Materials

1. Yarn of your choice:

I recommend a worsted weight (medium weight) wool yarn for this project.  You will need about 400 yards. Yardage and weight can be found on the label. You are welcome to use a heavier yarn if you want the project to go faster (less stitches and fewer rows).  Wool technology has come a long way in the past 100 years. Merino wool has exploded in popularity because of its softness, warmth, and versatility.  I do not recommend using synthetic yarn, because although it is cheaper and easier to wash, it isn’t nearly as warm.  Natural fibers are also much more environmentally friendly to produce and will result in a higher quality project.  When you are spending this much time on something, saving a few dollars on the materials simply isn’t worth it.

A great place to find high quality wool yarn is at your local yarn shop.  They are often independently run and staffed by incredibly kind and knowledgeable people that will answer any questions you might have.  Most yarn shops also teach lessons and host knitting clubs if you want to progress further on your knitting journey

2. Straight needles that work well with your yarn size:

The yarn label will have the recommended needle size.  I am using size 7 needles for this project.  I am using Brittany needles because they are made from sustainably harvested birch and are lightweight yet durable.  The heavier your needles, the more difficult it will be to knit for long periods of time.  As with the yarn, I recommend starting out with nice needles because knitting is such a meditative experience.  If your needles are clunky or not fun to use, it will be much more difficult to finish your project.

3. Scissors

4. Embroidery needle for weaving in your ends

Steps (All photos of the steps are ordered sequentially across from top left):

1. Prepare for Your Project: Read the Yarn Label

The label that came on your yarn will have important information such as fiber contents (what the yarn is made out of), weight and yardage, as well as the gauge.  The gauge will tell you how many stitches will knit an inch using the recommended needle size.  This label recommends a size US 7 needle and estimates that 5 stitches will measure 1”.  Each knitter is different, and you might find that your 5 stitches will measure either more or less than an inch, depending on your tension.  This project is very forgiving on size, so you can estimate the number of stitches by multiplying the desired width by the gauge on the yarn label.  I am casting on 40 stitches so my scarf will be approximately 8” wide. Be sure to count at least twice to make sure you have the right number of stitches.  In more advanced projects that require a more accurate gauge, it is helpful to knit a small square gauge swatch before starting the project.

The label will also have care instructions.  These are important to follow later, because there is nothing worse than spending countless hours on a project and then shrinking it in the dryer.

2. Cast-On

Casting on is the process of adding stitches to your project.  There are many cast-on methods, but this project will utilize one of the easiest: the long chain cast-on.  With this method you will make new stitches from previous stitches and keep adding them to the front of your left needle to form a long chain of stitches.

Note: There will be two strands of yarn in this step: the working end (attached to your ball of yarn), and the tail (the leftover 6” or so from your first slip knot).  It is very important that you make new stitches with the working end and not the tail.

First, make a slip knot which can be tightened by pulling on the working end.  Slip it onto your left needle and pull to tighten.  Then, slip your right needle into the front of the first stitch, being careful not to split the stitch. Wrap your working end around the right needle from back to front (counterclockwise around right needle).  Pull the needle and the new wrapped stitch back through the first stitch.  With loose tension, slip the new stitch onto your left needle, in front of the first stitch.

To cast on all other stitches: stick the right needle underneath the left needle between the two newest stitches. Wrap the working end of yarn around the right needles counterclockwise from back to front and pull both back through to the front.  Add the new stitch to the front of the left needle, as you did with the previous stitch. Repeat until you have the correct number of stitches for the gauge of your yarn.

3. Knit

Once you have cast on the correct number of stitches, it is time to knit your first row.  Simply put, you will be making a new stitch row on top of the previous stitches by looping a new stitch through each current stitch.

First, slip your right needle under the front strand of your first stitch.  Wrap the working end of your yarn around the right needle from back to front (counterclockwise).  Then pull the needle and wrapped stitch back through the first stitch, transferring the new stitch on your right needle, and the previous stitch off your left needle. You will notice that the old stitch is resting on the new stitch and is one row lower.  Repeat with the next stitch, gathering the newly made stitches on your right needle until your reach the end of your row and all the stitches from the left needle have been knit over to the right needle.  Flip your right needle around, making it the new left needle.  With your working end in back, knit this next row the same way you knit the previous row, by slipping the right needle through the front of each stitch, wrapping a new stitch, and pulling it back through and onto your right needle.  When you reach the end of your first skein of yarn, simply tie the new end to your old end with a square knot and continue knitting.  You will weave the ends in later.

4. Cast Off

Once you have knit your scarf to the desired length (or you are nearly out of yarn), it is time to finish the project. To cast-off, knit the first two stitches as usual, stitch 1 and stitch 2, respectively. Then, take stitch 1 (on your right needle) and bring it up over stitch 2 and off the right needle. Knit stitch 3. Bring stitch 2 up over stitch 3 and off your right needle. Continue until you only have one stitch on your right needle remaining.Cut or break your working end yarn so that there is a 6” tail. Loosen the final stitch into a loop, removing the right needle. Tuck the tail through the loop and pull to tighten the final stitch. Weave in all ends and tails from the beginning, skein changes and the end of your scarf. I weave in my ends with a large needle and sew them from side to side into my project, trying to match the yarn colors. Try on your newly finished scarf and go take it for a test walk (possibly to the yarn shop to buy more yarn).

Written by Emilie Rigby

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