How to Knit a Scarf: An Illustrated, Step-by-Step Guide

Updated on September 29, 2016

A Beginner's Scarf

A scarf is a great project for beginners.
A scarf is a great project for beginners.

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 before you start.
Gather your supplies before you start.

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!

Even the simplest stitches can make a spectacular scarf.
Even the simplest stitches can make a spectacular scarf.

Casting On

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?

  1. 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.
  2. With your right index finger, bring the loose yarn under and over the point of the right needle.
  3. Now, draw the yarn through the stitch with your right needle point.
  4. 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

Insert the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle, from front to back.
Insert the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle, from front to back.
Bring the loose yarn under and over the needle.
Bring the loose yarn under and over the needle.
Draw the yarn through the stitch with your right needle.
Draw the yarn through the stitch with your right needle.
Slip the first loop on the left needle off.
Slip the first loop on the left needle off.
The new stitch will now be on your right needle.
The new stitch will now be on your right needle.
Begin the steps over with the next stitch on the left needle.  Insert needle and yarn over.
Begin the steps over with the next stitch on the left needle. Insert needle and yarn over.
Pull the yarn through the stitch.
Pull the yarn through the stitch.
Drop the stitch off the left needle, leaving the new stitch on the right needle.
Drop the stitch off the left needle, leaving the new stitch on the right needle.

Garter Stitch

The pattern that forms when you knit every row is called the garter stitch. It looks the same on both sides.
The pattern that forms when you knit every row is called the garter stitch. It looks the same on both sides.

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.

  1. Insert your right needle, from left to right, into the first stitch, and in front of the left needle.
  2. Hold the yarn in front of your work (the side facing you), and bring the yarn around the right needle counterclockwise.
  3. Using your right needle, pull the yarn back through the stitch.
  4. 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

Insert right needle into first stitch on left needle.  The right needle will be in front of the left needle.
Insert right needle into first stitch on left needle. The right needle will be in front of the left needle.
Bring loose yarn over the right needle, from right to left.
Bring loose yarn over the right needle, from right to left.
Bring loose yarn through the stitch, then drop old stitch off of loose needle.
Bring loose yarn through the stitch, then drop old stitch off of loose needle.
The new stitch will be on the right needle.
The new stitch will be on the right needle.
Here is a view of the purl stitch from further along the row.
Here is a view of the purl stitch from further along the row.

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.

Stockinette Stitch

Right Side
Right Side
Wrong Side
Wrong Side

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.

The Pattern:

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.

In English:

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

Cast-on.
Cast-on.
Ribbed Scarf after a few rows.
Ribbed Scarf after a few rows.
See the pattern?
See the pattern?
Completed scarf.
Completed scarf.

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.

The Pattern:

CO 21 sts.

Row 1 (WS):

Row 2: *P1, K1, rep from *, end P1.

Rep Rows 1 & 2 until desired length.

BO.

In English:

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

Right Side
Right Side
Wrong Side
Wrong Side

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

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        20 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        My prayers are now answered. I'm a beginner and got stuck making a head band. Glad you included the video on casting off. I want to add a wooden button at the tail end. Any tips you can give me will be appreciated. Making head bands for Xmas gifts this year.

        I'm excited to follow the steps in this fabulous hub. Pinning and sharing and above all . . . saving!

      • theflirtyknitter profile image

        Michele Kelsey 

        2 years ago from Edmond, Oklahoma

        Stacie,

        This was a very well written and informative article. I think you did an excellent job at balancing the teaching with the valuable information. You did a great job with the step by step illustrations.

        Do you make knitting tutorials on You Tube? If so, how do you make them? I would love to learn more. How to you best take pictures of the various steps in knitting? I noticed in the step by step instructions you took great pictures of your hands.

        I think this is a great way to illustrate what you mean when you are trying to explain something in knitting terms. Seeing something is much easier than reading about it when it comes to this craft. How did you get the angles so great in those photos? In other ways, how did you hold the camera so that you could take an image of both of your hands?

        I hope you will decide to follow me as it appears we have this hobby in common, and I would love to make another like minded friend! I am also on G+, pinterest, etc. as theflirtyknitter if you want to look me up. I am very active right now on Twitter. My username on there is flirtyknitter. I hope you look me up and follow me on here as well!

        I look forward to hearing from you! Have a jolly day!

        Michele Kelsey

      • profile image

        Tiddledeewinks 

        3 years ago

        I have now learned how to bind off, and am knitting a few things to sell in my etsy online shop, MysticalRaindrops.

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        4 years ago

        Another excellent instruction on knitting. I used to do this simple scarf technique, but it has been years and years. I love that I can click on your hub for instruction when I get to the point of taking this up again. Thanks for sharing. Voted up++

      • misslong123 profile image

        Michele Kelsey 

        5 years ago from Edmond, Oklahoma

        On the pattern on the Simply Pretty Scarf, Row 1 doesn't have directions (except below). You may want to add that. I love those free pattern websites! Thanks for sharing. Is there a pattern for that first scarf or is it just plain knitting? I really liked it. You did a great job at doing the abbreviations and tutorials. I couldn't have put it better. What are the benefits of being a member of the Daily Knitter vs. a visitor? Very thorough and great stuff! I look forward to following you. Michele

      • profile image

        hope 

        5 years ago

        wow good but awesome to

      • profile image

        C-Bless 

        6 years ago

        ... just getting back to knitting after putting down my needles ten years ago. Great hub - many refreshers! Thank you for sharing.

      • profile image

        Jenny snow 

        6 years ago

        I am 11 years old and I thank you because I have learnt how to knit now !!!!!

      • profile image

        Em's 

        6 years ago

        Thanks for the great tips they are very useful

      • profile image

        madison daugherty 

        6 years ago

        I am 9 years old so I have no clue whatsoever about any of this!:[

      • profile image

        Emma 

        6 years ago

        Hey :) I tried knitting so many times and failed miserably, bit when I found this site it was so much easier! I don't know why, but I used to despise knitting. Now I just love it!! Thanks so much!

      • profile image

        lucy fahy age 8 

        6 years ago

        I still cant knit it is a pain in the bum AAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!so please teach me!

      • profile image

        Renata 

        6 years ago

        @Stacie or whoever can help....

        I have also started a scarf with the stockinette pattern and the sides curl in. I am using 5mm needles. I thought it would straighten out as I continue but 1/4th of the way done and it still curls. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks. and great website!

      • profile image

        Sivita Harrison 

        6 years ago

        How do I change from stockinette back to garter again so I can finish my work ta

      • profile image

        Shawna Morris 

        6 years ago

        wow. thank you so much. there are many videos out there but this puts it in plain English with videos. I have some patterns that I want to do but I didn't understand how to read them. Thanks!

      • profile image

        Kwame cool 

        6 years ago

        Hi dear friend I want lean lace front style

      • profile image

        Tawny 

        6 years ago

        Thank you SOOO much, i love knitted clothes, i went through maybe 30 videos and didn't learn anything, but after watching yours, maybe twice, i got the hang of it.

      • profile image

        ggraham 

        7 years ago

        Great information. I sit with my 94 yr old Mother and have taught myself to knit with your help. LOVE IT...and GREAT INFORMATION... THANKS

      • profile image

        sanjeewani 

        7 years ago

        great...

      • Stacie Naczelnik profile imageAUTHOR

        Stacie Naczelnik 

        7 years ago from Seattle

        @ Cyndee - this happens to me sometimes too. What kind of yarn are you using? As you continue to knit, it might straighten out. You can also not alternate the first few stitches - instead of purl, knit, purl, do 3 purls, then start alternating. Let me know if the curling continues.

      • profile image

        stu 

        7 years ago

        Extremely helpful. I haven't knitted since my nan passed away and after taking her needles out of the draw and reading this, I got going again. I'm now curently in the middle of a simple garter stitch scarf

      • scoobydeb profile image

        scoobydeb 

        7 years ago

        Great tutorial!

      • profile image

        Cyndee 

        7 years ago

        I love the simply pretty scarf and started it a few days ago with size 10 needles. But the sides are rolling inward. Can you tell me why this happening?

      • craftybegonia profile image

        craftybegonia 

        7 years ago from Southwestern, United States

        Nice hub, thanks for sharing!

      • profile image

        erin 

        7 years ago

        My boyfriend who is left handed, knits right handed. He taught me how to knit and I am knitting my second scarf and I have only actually been knitting for 2.5 weeks. I used videos to help me with casting on and binding off, as I can't ask my b/f to show me cause he lives 2.5 hrs from me. I knit 2-3 hrs a day so as to not get bored of it, but believe me I was very stubborn and get easily frustrated. I also have ADD and if something does not interest me I generally don't pay close attention to it. My ADD is also why I don't have tons of hobbies. Luckily my b/f is very patient and sat there with me and helped me through any problems I had. He was with me for a week when he taught me. I now know how to cast on, bind off, and fix my mistake when I accidentally add stitches. I never thought I would find a hobbie that I liked and learn it so quickly. I still have a long way to go, but I am pleased at what I can do now.

      • profile image

        NicoleACY 

        7 years ago

        Hi, I would like to know, for the simplest way of knitting, why the amount of casts I produced is duplicating? Which steps I've gone wrong? I need help... Thanx! :)

      • profile image

        xaraa elliott 

        7 years ago

        thay can be very cnfusing but i like the vidos and i have just started a scarf it doesent tell me how to casst of and how to chang couler (sorry about my spelling im disslexic)

      • profile image

        karen 

        7 years ago

        Great instructions! I'm knitting my first scarf using the ribbed scarf pattern. One thing to note for beginners is that when changing from knit to purl (or vice versa), to bring the wool to the back or front respectively before inserting the right needle into the stitch. Otherwise, you'll end up like me...getting extra stitches and thinking that I've lost count! I undid the stitches and tried again up to 5 times and each time, concentrating very hard before suspecting that I haven't lost count at all, LOL! Hope this will help another beginner :)

      • profile image

        janye 

        7 years ago

        I just want to learn knitting but too hard!

      • profile image

        bev 

        8 years ago

        my mum tried to teach me to knit years ago but i didn't have the patience now i have kids of my own an decided to try again hopefully this time round ill get the hang of it :-)

      • profile image

        Setsuna Yasumi 

        8 years ago

        I love knitting. I started since child, I got the hobby from my grandma.

      • heart4theword profile image

        heart4theword 

        8 years ago from hub

        I am a knitter too, love it! Some good starter things your showed for those just learning:)

      • profile image

        mini 

        8 years ago

        i cant understand the pictures you show.

      • fiona_33 profile image

        fiona_33 

        8 years ago from UK

        Terrifc hub. I tried knitting a few years ago but couldn't get the hang of it. I think I'll give it another go now.

      • profile image

        ashly 

        8 years ago

        they r 2 cute

      • profile image

        vickie stigleman 

        8 years ago

        Great Site. I am using one of the two patterns listed to make my FIRST scarf. Thanks again for all the easy to read and understand instructions and videos.

      • profile image

        Tracy Monroy 

        8 years ago

        Oh so glad I saw this. I'm planning to teach my daughter how to knit over the summer. She would love to make a scarf.

      • profile image

        Fran 

        8 years ago

        I learned to knit when an accident prevented me from being active and have tried to teach several people over the last

        75 yrs. I found this web site by browsing, and find it to

        be the best I have ever seen to teach.

      • Simplest Notions profile image

        Simplest Notions 

        8 years ago from McKinney, TX

        Thank you for this easy instruction. I am a crochet fanatic because I can't make my knitting stitches uniform. I'm going to follow your instructions and give it another go!

      • profile image

        Jess 

        8 years ago

        With your site and the help of a book I taught myself to knit in a weekend. Your site helped more then the book though! I am going to attempt the "Pretty Scarf" pattern! :)

      • profile image

        Shelley 

        8 years ago

        one of the best sites I've found....made it look very simple...thanks

      • profile image

        Angelalice Satsuki 

        8 years ago

        wow! im really bad at knitting, im only know how to braid in knitting! Hey, Miranda Cosgrove, how come you can type into this comment, I even not know about that you are really put it on the comment!

      • profile image

        ak 

        8 years ago

        i did a bit of knitting twenty over years ago & stopped. Now when i wanted to start again, i've forgotten. Your site is the best for beginners. It all came flooding back once i went through your steps. It was a great help. Thanks a lot!

      • profile image

        Jenny 

        9 years ago

        i think im gonna try this, my grandma taught me one time but i messed up and never started another scarf again!

      • profile image

        hannah 

        9 years ago

        knitting is sooo fun!! although i dont know how to get it just right!!! o well, its still fun!!!

      • profile image

        Aida 

        9 years ago

        I had to learn to knit back in my country for home studies class. I hate it at the beginning. But now I'm glad I did. Thanks so much, I"m gonna use the tips to knit a scarf for myself. Hopefully I won't get tired and give up in middle and leave the rest to my mom. ^_^

      • profile image

        Nancy's Niche 

        9 years ago

        I am in awe with anyone who can knit…I have tried several times and given up; I’m all fingers and get in my own way…Grrrrrrrrr! This is something my mother and grandmother did all the time. In fact, they sewed most of my school clothes.

        Great article with easy to follow directions…

         

      • profile image

        Nola 

        9 years ago

        Thanks soo much, the binding off demo it was perfect! Im almost done with my first scarf and was kind of dreading poping in my dvd on how to knit, my son is 10 months and it's hard to pay attention and push the buttons to go back on what I missed. Thanks again, cant wait to try it!

      • profile image

        Lisa McGrimmon 

        9 years ago

        What a great, detailed hub. I would love to learn to knit. A couple of people have tried to teach me, but I'm left handed, and every time a right handed person shows me, everything seems completely backward. Thanks for taking the time to post such helpful, detailed instructions.

      • profile image

        Miranda Cosgrove 

        10 years ago

        I like it but I'm VERY bad at knitting. WWWWWWWWWWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

      • profile image

        Diane Corriette 

        10 years ago

        Wow! I didn't realize that knitting was back in! My daughter started a few months ago but gave up. I will definitely tell her about this page!

      • Stacie Naczelnik profile imageAUTHOR

        Stacie Naczelnik 

        10 years ago from Seattle

        Thanks everyone, your comments make me feel fabulous.

        Seamus, although I did make my own videos for my How to Crochet hub, I was able to find some quality, pre-existing ones for this hub. I found them on YouTube.

      • elisabeth reid profile image

        elisabeth reid 

        10 years ago from Colorado

        An outstanding hub...I'm a knitter and I found this to be very informative, helpful and reader-friendly.

        Excellent.

      • seamus profile image

        seamus 

        10 years ago

        Wow, this provides a lot of detail. I wish I'd had videos when I learned to knit. Did you make those videos yourself?

      • profile image

        dafla 

        10 years ago

        Stacie, I've truly enjoyed your knitting lessons. Keep up the good work!

      • profile image

        ksc7 

        10 years ago

        Great Hub!

      • shesagogetter profile image

        shesagogetter 

        10 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Great hub. It is great to see so many people learning the art of knitting again!

      • caspar profile image

        caspar 

        10 years ago from UK

        A lovely project for a beginner knitter. I've just taught my daughter to knit and she's made about half of a scarf...it's been abandoned for now!

      • livinrural profile image

        livinrural 

        10 years ago

        Its a great way to get others started on knitting . I have been knitting for many years but sadly the art is dying somewhat

      • profile image

        Tiddledeewinks 

        10 years ago

        I'll have to try this sometime. I tried to teach myself to knit, and started a scarf, but never figured out how to bind off. Nice pics!

      • upikabu profile image

        upikabu 

        10 years ago

        Wow, I've been looking for this since forever. Thanks Lissie

      • Stacie Naczelnik profile imageAUTHOR

        Stacie Naczelnik 

        10 years ago from Seattle

        Good tip Lissie. I have patterns that interchange the two--I have to pay attention!

      • Lissie profile image

        Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

        10 years ago from New Zealand

        Just a note for the English/British readers - bind off = cast off (CO) !

      • Isabella Snow profile image

        Isabella Snow 

        10 years ago

        Yes, this is what I want to do first! I will have to come back and look this over more tomorrow. Its a lot! :)

      • cgull8m profile image

        cgull8m 

        10 years ago from North Carolina

        I will pass this to my niece she seemed to be getting new interest in knitting. Wonderful tips.

      • G-Ma Johnson profile image

        Merle Ann Johnson 

        10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

        Wow eeee stacie what a great hub Lot's of time here my sweetie...glad i am already a knitter....G-Ma :O) hugs

      working

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