Knit a Spiral Scarf

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Walking through Georgetown recently looking for the perfect scarf, I felt a little like Goldilocks. Every choice was "too" something:

In store No. 1, the scarf was too wide.

In store No. 2, too scratchy.

In store No. 3, too dark.

What I wanted was a winter scarf that looked like a knitted ruffle -- full, soft and the color of lime sherbet. And I got just that, by knitting it myself.

I've been knitting for 50 years, ever since my nearly blind grandmother showed me how when I had to stay home from kindergarten one day with an earache. Even to me, the ruffled scarves in the stores looked complicated, as if they might be crocheted -- which I find daunting. But, surprisingly, making this scarf was simple.

I had seen a ruffled scarf at Knit and Stitch = Bliss in Bethesda, so I picked out my supplies there. The saleswoman was going to copy some written directions for me, but the copy machine was broken. No problem: The directions were so easy that I could remember them even during the craziness of the holiday season.

This is not a project to take on if you don't know how to knit at all, but it didn't take any advanced skills to make a wide ruffle that was the exact color and texture I wanted. A knitter must know only four things: how to cast on, how to do a knit stitch, how to increase and how cast off. (You don't even need to know how to purl.) This is also a forgiving project. If you forget to increase a few times, no one will ever guess.

The scarf took about five or six hours, squeezed in during car trips and while watching TV. I used high-quality yarn that is washable but soft with a touch of cashmere. And I bought a 46-inch circular needle that I intend to use forevermore. You may wonder why you need a round needle to make a straight scarf. It's easier to manage a multitude of stitches when knitting back and forth on a roomy round needle than cramming your handiwork on two standard needles. The circular needle will seem too big when you start. Trust me, you will need as much length as you can get.

Judith M. Havemann

Step One.

Gather your supplies: You'll need 250 yards of yarn to make our nine-row, 60-inch scarf. The yarn called for in the pattern was a heavy worsted weight. I used a lighter, softer yarn, such as you would use for a washable wool or wool-mix sweater. It was easier to work with and feels better around your neck. (If you want to limit yourself to buying only two balls, or skeins, you can use 200 yards and knit a seven-row scarf.) You'll also need one 46-inch size-15 circular needle.

It cost me about $40 for my yarn and needle, but the scarf could be made with much cheaper yarn and an existing needle for less than $10.

Step Two.

Loosely cast on 100 stitches. Knit one row. On the second row, increase one stitch in each of the 100 stitches, essentially by knitting two stitches in the same loop of yarn. You then will have 200 stitches. Knit the third row. Increase in the next row. Follow this knit-increase, knit-increase pattern for each row until you have 1,600 stitches. (Hint: You can stop at 800 if you're just too sick of the scarf by that time.)

Step Three.

Cast off, weave in the loose ends -- and wear.

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