How to Knit a Scarf: An Illustrated, Step-by-Step Guide
A Beginner's Scarf
Since learning how to knit, I’ve made a lot of fabulous things, like scarves, hats, and sweaters. I’ve also taught others how to knit—from summer camp counselors to third graders. I have to say that I’m most proud of teaching a stubborn Navy Seal the art of knitting.
Once you get the hang of it, you will quickly become addicted. The click, click sound of knitting will become a constant in your life. When you first learn how to knit, a scarf is a great beginning project. It offers you easy practice, but also leaves you with a handmade scarf to add to your wardrobe.
Gather Your Supplies
I could tell you exactly which products to buy, but that won't be best for you. I choose my knitting needles and yarn based on how they feel. You need to be comfortable with how they feel in your hands. Choose your products carefully and make sure you feel comfortable with them.
Yarn: You will want to use worsted weight yarn. When you first begin, you should choose one solid color (later on you can use multiple and variegated colors). Make sure you touch all of the different yarns you like before buying. If you don't like the feel of the yarn, you won't want to knit with it.
Needles: Knitting needles are available in many different materials, like metal, plastic, bamboo, resin, and different kinds of wood. I personally prefer wood or bamboo needles, and they are great for beginners. Again, choose something that feels most comfortable to you.
Crochet Hook: It is helpful to have a crochet hook for picking up dropped stitches (size H or close).
Scissors: You should keep a pair of scissors on hand to cut your yarn. You shouldn't break your yarn by tearing it as this will cause unravelling or stretch it out.
Hand Cream: This might seem like an odd material, but it is necessary. Choose an absorbant cream, so it won't end up on your yarn. Wooden needles and the yarn absorb oils from your hands. You need to find a way to keep your hands moisturized while keeping your yarn clean.
Knitting Terminology, Abbreviations, and Symbols
After you learn how to knit, you will need to know the terminology to follow patterns. I won't cover every single knitting term here, but these are the most basic.
- Cast On (CO): When you cast on you are creating a row of initial stitches on your knitting needle. This is how you begin your project.
- Knit (K): The knit stitch is the basic knitting stitch.
- Purl (P): The purl stitch is kind of like the inverse of the knit stitch. You often combine it with the knit stitch in many projects.
- Right Side: This is the side of the garment that will show when worn.
- Wrong Side: This side of the garment is the side that will be inside when worn.
- Right-Hand Side: The side of the work closest to your right hand as you are working on it.
- Left-Hand Side: The side of the work closest to your left hand as you are working on it.
- * :The asterisk is used to mark the beginning and end of a portion of instructions that you will do more than once. So, "repeat instructions between *s until end of row" means to repeat the instructions between the asterisks until you get to the end of the row.
- (): Parentheses enclose instructions which should be worked the exact number of times specified by the number following the parentheses. (Knit 1, purl 1) twice means that you will complete the instructions between the parentheses two times before moving on with the instructions.
Choose Your Favorite Yarn!
Casting on is one of the most difficult parts of knitting to learn, but is easy once you get the hand of it. Because it is a bit complex, I recommend you read my article How to Cast On if you are a beginning knitter. This is an easy, illustrated, step-by-step guide to this beginning step to any knitting project.
How to Knit
Knitting is made up of two basic stitches, the knit stitch and the purl stitch. You can combine these two stitches to create a lot of different effects and textures. Ready to learn the knit stitch?
- Cast on 24 stitches. Hold the needle with the 24 cast-on stitches in your left hand. Insert the point of the right needle into the first stitch, from front to back under the left needle.
- With your right index finger, bring the loose yarn under and over the point of the right needle.
- Now, draw the yarn through the stitch with your right needle point.
- Slip the first loop on the left needle off, so you now have the new stitch on the right needle.
You have completed your first knit stitch! Repeat these four steps in each stitch remaining on your left needle. When all of the stitches are on your right needle, with none left on your left needle, one row has been completed.
Turn the right needle, hold it in your left hand, and use the free needle in your right hand. Work another row of stitches. Practice by knitting 10 more rows of knit stitch.
Knit Stitch: Step-by-Step Photos
How to Purl
The reverse/companion of the knit stitch is called the purl stitch. The difference between the knit and purl stitches is that with purl stitch, you insert your right needle point from right to left, in front of your left needle. You can cast on more stitches, or continue on with the 10 rows you knitted from above.
- Insert your right needle, from left to right, into the first stitch, and in front of the left needle.
- Hold the yarn in front of your work (the side facing you), and bring the yarn around the right needle counterclockwise.
- Using your right needle, pull the yarn back through the stitch.
- Slide the stitch off of the left needle, leaving the new stitch on your right needle.
Yea! You have completed your first purl stitch! Repeat these four steps in every stitch across the row to complete one row of purled stitches. Now, transfer the needle with the stitches from your right to left hand. Knit every stitch in the row. At the end of the row, transfer the needle with the stitches to your left hand, then purl every stitch in the next row. Knit another row, then purl another row.
Purl Stitch: Step-by-Step Photos
Stop and look at your work. When you alternate between knit and purl rows, you create a common stitch pattern called the stockinette stitch. Continue practicing the stockinette stitch until you feel comfortable with the knit and purl stitches.
Ribbed Scarf Pattern
These scarf patterns are fairly simple and easy for beginners, but still very cute. You can make a scarf of all garter stitch, all stockinette stitch, or follow one of the patterns below.
The Ribbed Scarf
This is a fairly basic scarf which will let you practice the two stitches you just learned: knit and purl. The ribbing on this scarf will make it skinnier than it will first appear on your needles.
CO 38 st. (for a skinny scarf: 18 st.)
Row 1: Work 2x2 rib across row, beg with K2 and ending with K2, turn.
Row 2: Cont. rib by working sts., beg with P2 and ending with P2.
Rep last two rows until scarf is desired length.
BO in rib.
Cast on 38 stitches (or 18 stitches if you want a skinnier scarf).
Row 1: Work 2x2 ribbing across the row by knitting two stitches, then purling two stitches, then knitting two stitches, etc. You will begin this row by knitting two stitches, and end the row by knitting two stitches. Turn your work, so the stitches will once again be on your left side.
Row 2: Continue the ribbing by working the stitches as they appear. Begin this row by purling two stitches and end with purling two stitches.
Repeat these two rows until the scarf reaches your desired length.
Bind of the stitches in rib. Weave in ends. You can add fringe if you want.
As the scarf gets longer, you will easily see the pattern. It will be easy to see any mistakes, so keep an eye on the work you have already done. I left a long tail at the beginning of my work as a way to mark when to purl. When the tail is on your right side, you start and end the row in purl.
Ribbed Scarf Photos
The Simply Pretty Scarf
This is a fairly simple scarf. You can make it thin or wide, depending on how you want your scarf to turn out. Until you have mastered it, follow these directions.
CO 21 sts.
Row 1 (WS):
Row 2: *P1, K1, rep from *, end P1.
Rep Rows 1 & 2 until desired length.
Cast on 21 stitches.
Row 1: First row is the wrong side. Knit the entire row.
Row 2: Purl one stitch, then knit one stitch, alternating until the end of row. The last stitch of the row will be purl.
Repeat rows 1 & 2 until scarf reaches desired length.
Bind off. Weave in ends, and add fringe if wanted.
Simply Pretty Scarf Photos
More Knitting Resources
So you have finished your scarf, what do you do now? The scarf was great practice because it allowed you to get comfortable with the basic stitches. Now that you can do the stitches, you are ready to try something more difficult. You will find that the next steps involve learning even more about knitting. I suggest you follow some of the links provided on this page, to learn about gauge, increasing, and decreasing--as these are all important when you move on to more difficult projects. I also recommend that you find a reference book on knitting. Although you can find endless information on the internet, a book you can go to at any time is helpful. Before buying a reference book, shop around. You want to feel as comfortable with this book, meaning it should be clear and understandable, as you do with the feel of your knitting needles and yarn.
Good luck, and have fun!
The Knit Stitch
The Purl Stitch
Binding Off a Knitting Row
Binding Off a Purl Row
Putting Fringe on a Scarf
- Putting Fringe on a Knit Scarf
Learn an easy and effective method for adding fringe onto the ends of your completed scarf. The yarn used for the fringe here is leftover from the yarn used to knit the scarf. After learning how to add the fringe, you can experiment with various co
Help Casting Off
- The Knitting Site - Knitting Casting Off
You learned to cast on, knit, and purl, now you need to finish your project by casting/binding off. This site offers easy illustrations and a video explaining how to cast off at the end of a project.