Steps to Designing Your First Scarf

Image of designed scarves

A hand knit scarf is one of the top 5 projects knitters love to make, and is often a beginner’s first project. One of the reasons for its popularity is it’s often a straight piece of knitting with little finishing, other than weaving in yarn ends. Designing one is the perfect project to learn how to knit one of your ideas.

Let’s Look at the Steps to Designing Your First Scarf

  • Capture Your Idea – project ideas come from a variety of sources. Maybe you have a creative drive to experiment with yarn or replicate a favourite garment. Visual stimuli such as art, color, items seen in a store, or from fashion magazines can conjure up possible projects. I carry a tape measure in my purse for those moments in a dressing room when I can take a few measurements of something I would like to make. After you’ve decided on your design, capture it on paper. Choose a style; a cowl, infinity loop, wrap, or a simple straight scarf. Determine the measurements and pattern stitches you’d like to incorporate into the test swatch. Pattern stitch books are a great resource. My favorite pattern stitch books are those by Barbara G. Walker. Consider whether or not you’ll knit flat with straights or in the round with circular needles.
  • Choosing Yarn – the sky is the limit here, but there are some tips to keep in mind. Consider your project’s characteristics: In what season will it be worn? Do you want it to be cozy and warm or more decorative? Answering these types of questions helps you choose the best yarn for a scarf. These elements, fiber content, yarn structure and stitch pattern work together to create a successful scarf project. Color is important, not just because you like one, but they enhance or detract from pattern stitches. A highly textured stitch pattern may not be as obvious when made in a dark color. If you’re sure about the yarn to use, go ahead and purchase. Otherwise you can just buy a ball to test swatch before you commit. Yarn quantity is somewhat of a guessing game. Consider the scarf size and pattern stitch. Generally, the more complicated the pattern stitch and larger the piece, the more yarn you need. To give you a very rough idea, approximately 4-5 50gram balls of medium weight yarn (around 100-120 meters/ball) is needed for a simple, basic stitch pattern 7 inches wide by 65 inches long. The test swatch can be used to better estimate yarn quantity.
  • Make a Swatch – decide on the pattern stitch and needle size. If you don’t know where to start, the yarn ball band gives a guideline as to needle size and gauge for a 4 inch swatch in stockinette stitch. You may have to experiment with a few swatches to get the look you want. Make the swatch at least 4 inches square to obtain an accurate gauge. When designing, I find making swatches more fun than when trying to match mine to one in pattern instructions. For each swatch, record the number of stitches cast on and the number of rows to complete each one. Knitting in the round with circular needles affects the direction of the pattern.
  • Calculate the Gauge – measure total width of the swatch and calculate the stitch gauge per inch. Row gauge is usually not as critical with simple, straight scarf designs. Row counts matter when you are knitting complex pattern stitches, such as cables or lace. To determine the number of stitches to cast on multiply the desired width of the scarf by the stitch gauge per inch. When calculating the number of stitches to cast on, remember to adjust for “multiples”.
  • Work to the Desired Length – keep in mind when knitting in the round that the right side is always facing you. This affects how you knit the wrong side rows of pattern stitches.
  • Bind Off and Finish – depending on the style, you may be seaming the ends together to form a loop. Weave in yarn ends. I block projects like scarves and socks by hand washing, and laying flat to dry.

You’re finished designing and knitting your first scarf! That wasn’t so hard was it.