How to Write a Knitting Pattern for a Scarf

Write a knitting pattern? For a scarf, it's actually pretty  straightforward and simple.  All that is required is some simple math and a bit of creativity.  The instructions below allow you to use any yarn size or type that you like.

Step One. Select your stitch pattern

The first step is to pick out a stitch pattern.  I have a few "go to" sources such as the Harmony guide to Knitting Stitches, A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker and Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary by Wendy Bernard. I especially like the Harmony Guide as it is in color. The Treasury of Knitting Patterns is very thorough, every stitch you can imagine is in the book. The Stitch dictionary is also in color and although not as extensive, it gives guidelines for knitting flat as well as in the round.    There are so many fun stitches out there just waiting to be incorporated into a project.  There aren't any restrictions to making your selection however, I would make sure that you understand all of the steps in the stitch. Another thing to consider is whether or not the the stitch that you select lies flat.  For example, I f you were to knit a scarf in all Stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row), the scarf would curl.  Most people don't care for that look.  So, if your swatch curls you will need to add a border to prevent that from happening.  You can learn more about that in Step Four.

Step Two- Knit your swatch (yes it's necessary!)

Next, work up a swatch.  This is where we'll begin using a little math.  When using any of these stitch guides, there are numbers given that guide us along our pattern writing path. The stitch guide will give you a number similar to this A Multiple of 6 + 3. This information gives us the requirement for how many stitches the stitch pattern needs to properly knit the stitch.  Therefore, you must cast on a multiple of 6 stitches and then add 3 additional stitches. An example would be casting on 18 stitches (a multiple of 6) plus those 3 additional stitches for a total of 21 stitches.

So, let's say we want to cast on enough stitches to yield 4 inches which is a good amount for a swatch.  We first consult our ball band on this.  If the ball band says that you will need 24 stitches to get 4 inches, we want to get as close to 4 inches as possible.  So, going back to our example of a multiple of 6 + 3, we know that 24 is a multiple of 6 which is right where we need to be to yield 4 inches.  Great! However, we still have to add those 3 stitches.  So, we would cast on a total of 27 stitches for our swatch.  When picking a needle, I would also follow the needle size suggestion on the ball band too.  If you think it's too tight, go up a needle size.  If it's too loose, go down a needle size.

knitting gauge

This gauge shows that I'm getting 3 and a half stitches per inch. From the beginning of my ruler I count 3 full stitches and the "1" falls in the middle of the 4th stitch, making the gauge 3.5 stitches per inch.

Step Three- Measure your swatch

Ok, you've knit up your swatch, now comes the measuring.  Just like a swatch for any other pattern, you need to get out your tape measure and measure how many stitches you are getting to the inch. This is pretty straightforward and shown in the photo above.  I like to measure over two inches and then take the average.  Once you have determined how many stitches you get per inch, the pattern writing can begin.

Step Four- Calculate how many stitches to cast on for your scarf.

Once you have your stitches per inch figured out, you're almost ready to cast on.  However, you need to consider two other details.

1- How wide do you want your scarf?

The typical scarf is usually between 6 and 10 inches. But, this measurement is up to you.

2- Will your stitch pattern need a border?

If your stitch pattern curls, you will most likely want to add a border. If you choose a pattern stitch such as a garter stitch that lies flat, you will not need to add any border unless you prefer the look of a border to frame your work.   A garter stitch border is probably the easiest border to make.  I usually add anywhere from 3-5 stitches for a border, depending on my stitches per inch.  Personally, I like about a half inch border.  This is up to you. Instructions for adding the border are laid out in Step C.

Step Five- Write your Knitting Pattern

For an example we will follow the criteria below.

  • The stitch pattern requires a multiple of 2 + 1 stitches.
  • We are going to make a 7 inch scarf.
  • We are getting 4 stitches to the inch.
  • We will add a border.

Step A: Take the desired width and multiply it by the stitches per inch.  For our example : 7 (desired width) x 4 (sts per inch)= 28 stitches to cast on.

Step B: So, 28 stitches will yield a 7 inch scarf.  HOWEVER, my stitch pattern is a multiple of 2 stitches plus 1 stitch. Easy enough to adjust.  28 is a multiple of 2 and then I simply add 1 stitch. Slightly over the required 28 stitches but certainly not enough to make a sizable difference.  Therefore, I would cast on 29 stitches for my scarf.  If we were not adding a border, we would be done.  Because we are adding a border, we will go to Step C.

Step C: We know that if we cast on 29 stitches we will have a 7 inch scarf.  However, if you add a border, that will add width.  I've decided that I would like my border to be between a half inch and one inch. If I am getting 4 stitches to the inch, allowing 3 stitches on each side will fit that requirement. That will add 6 stitches to the width of my scarf, a total of 35 stitches.   If I take 35 stitches and divide it by 4 (the stitches per inch), My new width would be 8.75 inches. Way too wide for my desired width of 7 inches. So, I need to reconfigure.

Adding the border we need to determine how wide the border will be.  We have decided to add 3 stitches on each side. If we know that in our example 4 stitches equal 1 inch then 6 stitches equal 1.5 inches. So, if our border takes up 1.5 inches and we want our scarf width to be 7 inches then 7 minus 1.5 equals 5.5 inches.  This is the new width that we need to use to calculate our scarf stitch pattern.

5.5 (desired width, not including the border) x 4 (stitches per inch) = 22

22 is a multiple of 2 so that works out great.  Now we just need to add the 1 stitch to the multiple of 2, 22 in our case.

22+1 (as per our stitch pattern requirement) +6 (stitches needed for the border )= 29 stitches to cast on.

So we will cast on 23 stitches + 6 stitches for the border, 29 stitches in all.

scarf pattern


Step D

I am going to knit a simple garter stitch border. I will also add a stitch marker to separate the border from the rest of the scarf.  This will be very easy to keep track of as the stitches outside of the markers will always be knit, no matter which side you are on.  Lastly, if you're going to add a border on the sides, you should add a border on the bottom and top.  I will knit 4-6 rows of garter stitch before beginning my pattern.  I will end with 4-6 rows of garter stitch too.

"]knitting pattern

My scarf with a border.

Give this a try today and post your creations!



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