How to Knit Your First Scarf

Posted by on Dec 31, 2013

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Knitting a scarf inspires cozy images of bright yarn, clacking needles and instant success. For a beginner knitter, though, visions of handmade creations can be as distant as springtime during a snowstorm. Expert knitter and designer Helen Rose offers the inside tips and tricks for knitting your first scarf.

What are your favorite yarns to use for knitting a scarf?

It really depends on a few different factors. If I am on a budget, I really like Plymoth Encore. It is affordable and washable, wears well, comes in many colors, is a perfect weight and has enough wool in it that it felts a little over time so the garment doesn’t stretch much. It is really nice yarn, but doesn’t have a wow factor. If I want "wow" and I have a little money to spend, I love MadelineTosh yarns. The yarns are also washable, which is nice. The thing I like best about these yarns is that the colors are super saturated and really beautiful. The yarns work well with a textured stitch, like seed. 

If I want a thicker luxury yarn, I often go with Manos del Uruguay Wool Clasica. This is an aran weight yarn, so I would work this with a US 10. The yarn is soft and warm and the colors are beautiful.

Do you recommend a specific type of needle for knitting? 

I tend to like wood with a sharper tip, which I find to be the most versatile. Wood is not too slippery, so I don’t drop many stitches. Plus, the sharper tip allows me to work those fiddley stitches, like purl 3 together! I tend to use circular needles a lot, and not straights. I will use metal when I have a lot of stockinette or garter to do in the round. My favorite brand is Addi needles. They are super fast, but the tips are too fat to use for more difficult stitches. 

What are the best stitches for knitting a scarf? 

The best stitches for knitting a scarf should lie flat and be reversible. I love seed and moss stitch, linen stitch is unusual and really beautiful on both sides and garter is a classic stitch that can look wonderful in an interesting yarn. 

Is there anyway to fix a dropped stitch when knitting a scarf? 

Use your crochet hook to pull the stitch forward or back, depending on which stitch is due, knit or purl. I haven’t quite figured out how to pick up more difficult stitches! Knit Fix: Problem Solving for Knitters by Lisa Kartus is a great book for all the more confusing stitches. 

Any tips for preventing warped edges on a scarf? 

It’s very important to block. It’s easier than you would think! Soak your garment in lukewarm water, squeeze out the water (don’t twist), roll in a towel to get out the excess water, pin down (to a folded towel or to your mattress) along edges in the dimensions specified, and wait to dry. If you are using unusual fibers, you may want to search the web for blocking methods for the particular fiber. 

Any tips on getting the sizing right on a scarf? 

You should do a swatch. I never used to do swatches. Stubborn, I guess! But swatches really help, and don’t take that long. Most people don’t get the gauge specified on the yarn, so you need to try it out. You should also block your swatch. Sometimes yarn grows or shrinks when you block it.

small child wearing knit sweater
For more about Helen Rose or her unique knitting pattterns, head to her Ravelry store, Helen Rose!

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(1 comment)
  • by archer1955
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    Not exactly what I was expecting in this article. Guess I was expecting a beginner lesson. Garter stitch is the simplest way to knit your first scarf but I do not like the way it looks - like something is turned inside-out so, I prefer Stockinette but working Purl stitches can be a real test for beginners if you haven't gotten use to knitting in general by knitting a wash or dish cloth in Garter stitch. Just my two-cents worth.

    • by nikelz
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      nikelz Rate this comment 0 0 | Report

      Hi Richard, I recently learned to knit over Christmas and I have to agree that I don't care for the way that the garter stitch looks by itself. Purling isn't that bad for me. Turning the work and casting on are the hardest for me to get right at this point. There are tutorials here on CF though. Theres even a dishcloth like you suggested that is easy enough with knit and purls.