My First Scarf: A Story and Free Knitting Pattern

The beginning of the first scarf I knit

This is the story of my first knitting project. It’s a story that spans 50 years. It’s about yarn and memories and connections that come full circle. And it includes a free beginner pattern.
This striped garter-stitch scarf is a good beginner project for novices who have the patience to knit a whole scarf. Don’t want to knit so much? Make it a coaster or cowl instead.

This post contains affiliate links.

In the Beginning

When I was about six, one of my favorite books was A Gift from the Lonely Doll, by Dare Wright. In the story, The Lonely Doll —whose name is Edith—knits a scarf for her dad, Mr. Bear.  She knits diligently at every possible opportunity and (spoiler alert) the scarf ends up too long. It’s worth reading the book for all the adorable details.

A Gift from the Lonely Doll cover image

Like my doll heroine, I wanted to knit a striped scarf for my father’s Christmas present. The scarf must be red and black, the team colors of his beloved University of Georgia Bulldogs.

My First Knitting Project

My maternal grandmother lived with us and was happy to teach me to knit. We started with a skein of black Germantown worsted wool, some leftover bits of red Germantown, and a pair of straight needles. She showed me how to cast on—the German twisted cast on, no less!—and how to do the knit stitch.

I knit and knit. The stitch count changed from row to row, but that didn’t matter to me.

The subtle shaping was due to inadvertently added stitches. Surely a design element, right?

I knit and knit and knit. I learned to change colors, although not always on the correct side.

I clearly didn’t have an idea of “right side” and “wrong side”.

I knit and knit and knit. The scarf grew slowly. Yarnover holes and incomplete stitches magically disappeared overnight. It’s the only time in my life that the Knitting Fairy has corrected my knitting.

 I knit and knit and knit and knit and knit. Now it was starting to look like a scarf. I tried it on frequently to see if it was long enough.

Is it long enough yet?

I knit and knit and knit and knit and knit and knit . Nana kept urging me to knit a few more rows, but I was on deadline and anxious to finish on time. (Sound familiar?)

Just in time for Christmas, the scarf was long enough. Because the edges were so wobbly, Nana single crocheted around the whole thing to tidy it up. We wrapped it up in anticipation of the big reveal the next day.

On Christmas morning, Daddy opened the package. He made all the appropriate noises about how beautiful the scarf was, and how hard I must have worked to make such a special gift. Apparently it was the best gift ever!

I never saw him wear it, and I eventually forgot about it.

About 25 Years Later

Visiting my parents’ house, I caught a glance of red and black rolled up in the back of a drawer. It was my first scarf! Daddy had saved it all those years!

But that photo doesn’t really do it justice. Let me help you understand the scale of this scarf.

It is 4″ wide x 22.5″ long. Despite all my efforts, and even trying it on my skinny six-year-old neck, it was way too small to be worn by an adult male! Furthermore, we lived in Georgia where scarves aren’t even needed. The scarf came home with me, to remind me how much my technique had improved.

About 25 Years Later

As I wandered the aisles of a trade show, my eye caught a familiar sight: Germantown yarn from Kelbourne Woolens.  I’m pretty sure I squeed out loud. I may have jumped up and down a little bit.

Germantown Yarn colorful skeins

About Germantown Yarn

For that first scarf, and for many projects after that, Brunswick Germantown Worsted was my go-to yarn. 

Knitters who have been around for a long while will remember this ubiquitous yarn. There weren’t nearly as many yarns available as there are now, but Germantown was a classic worsted weight standby that came in many colors.

Germantown Yarn in black and red

Read Germantown: Redesigning a History for the story of how Kelbourne Woolens revived the brand, then read A Brief History of Germantown Yarns for a fascinating look at this American yarn. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you do that.

When Kelbourne Woolens owner Courtney Kelly heard the story of my first scarf and what Germantown meant to me, she immediately suggested that I make another scarf, and provided the yarn for me to knit it.

My First Scarf Knitting Pattern

So here, fifty years after the original scarf, is the pattern for My First Scarf. This version is meant to be easy enough for new knitters to knit, and long enough and warm enough to actually be worn by an adult.  

Presented in Georgia Bulldog red and black, of course. Note that black is not the best choice for beginners; feel free to use different, lighter colors for easier visibility.

My First Scarf

The free pattern is below; you also can purchase a printer-friendly pdf.

Buy the Printed Pattern Button

Want to knit it in Germantown yarn? You’ll get 10% off the price if you use code EDIEECKMAN at checkout here.

Materials

Craft Yarn Council Icon for 4 Medium Weight Yarn

Kelbourne Woolens Germantown (100% North American wool, 220 yds/201 m, 100 g), 1 skein each #005 Black (A) and #625 Scarlet (B), or colors of your choice.

US size 8 (5 mm) knitting needles or size to obtain correct gauge

Stitch marker or safety pin

Finished Dimensions

3.75″ (9.5 cm) wide x 61″ (155 cm) long

Gauge

20 sts and 39 rows = 4” (10 cm) in garter stitch (knit every row)
Gauge is not crucial in this pattern, but for best results match the gauge of the pattern. Watch How to Measure Gauge in Knitted Garter Stitch.

Pattern Note

Leave a 4-5″ [10-13 cm] tail of yarn each time you change yarns so that you’ll have enough yarn to securely weave in the tails. Each time you change yarn colors, the yarn tails should be on the rightmost edge of the scarf.

Instructions

With A, long tail cast on 19 sts.

Row 1 (Wrong Side): Knit.

Turn the work and place a marker on the right side to help you keep track of the right and wrong sides.

Rows 2-15: Knit.

At this point you have a total of 8 garter ridges and you have ended by knitting a wrong side row.

Cut A.

Rows 16-27: With B, knit. End by knitting a wrong side row. You have 6 garter ridges of B.

Continue working alternate stripes of 8 garter ridges (16 rows) in A and 6 garter ridges (12 rows) in B, until you have 20 stripes in color B. End by knitting a wrong side row.

Last stripe: With A, knit 8 garter ridges (16 rows). End by knitting a wrong side row. Bind off on a right side row.

Weave in all ends. Block.

Crochet Yarn Overs and Yarn Unders: What’s the Difference?

Are you using yarn under graphic

Almost every crochet stitch includes the instruction “yarn over”. But what is a yarn over and how is it different from a yarn under? Does it really make a difference in your crochet?

Yes, it does make a difference. Let me explain. Read all the way to the bottom of the post, then watch the video.

I’m using American crochet terminology.

How to Yarn Over

Start with your hands in the ready position, as shown in the photos. The hook is in front of the working yarn.

Neutral "Ready" position for right hand
Neutral “ready” position for right hand

Your dominant hand holds the hook and your non-dominant hand controls the yarn, with the working yarn coming over your index finger. This means that if you are right-handed, the hook is in your right hand and the yarn in your left. If you are left-handed, the hook is in your left hand and the yarn is in your right.

Neutral "ready" position for left hand
Neutral “ready” position for left hand

Press back with the hook and at the same time bring the yarn over the hook from back to front. The yarn will be crossing the front of the hook from upper right to lower left if you are right-handed, and from upper left to lower right if you are left-handed.

Yarn over for right-handed crocheters
Yarn over for right-handed crocheters
Yarn over for left-handed crocheters
Yarn over for left-handed crocheters

How to Yarn Under

Start in the ready position as described above, but bring the hook over the top of the working yarn, so that the yarn crosses the front of the hook from lower right to upper left for right-handers, or from lower left to upper right for left-handers.

Yarn under for right-handed crocheters
Yarn under for right-handed crocheters
Yarn under for left-handed crocheters
Yarn under for left-handed crocheters

Single Crochet: Yarn Over and Yarn Under

To work a regular single crochet, insert the hook into the stitch, yarn over — notice the position of the yarn — and pull up a loop, then yarn over and pull through two loops on the hook.

Some crocheters work a yarn under instead of a yarn over at a crucial point. Often they don’t even know they are doing a yarn under! Here’s what typically happens:
Insert the hook into the stitch, yarn under — notice the position of the yarn — and pull up a loop, then yarn over and pull through two loops on the hook.

Why Does It Matter?

Take a look at the photo below. In the first few rows, I crocheted a regular single crochet, made with yarn overs. The two legs of these single crochet are parallel to one another.

regular sc compared to crossed sc
The stitch circled in red is crossed, while the stitch circled in green is straight.

Then I switched techniques on the last row. On that row, after I inserted the hook into the stitch, I did a yarn under then finished off the second step with a yarn over. In this example, the two legs of the single crochet are crossed.

The yarn unders create twisted stitches, but they also change the gauge and the drape of the fabric. Chances are, if you’ve been working unintended yarn unders, you’ve been having trouble matching the pattern gauge! Try it yourself and see the difference.

Some people like to use yarn under single crochet stitches for amigurumi projects. That’s fine, as long as it is intentional!

Double Crochet: Yarn Over and Yarn Under

Double crochet has three yarn overs, and thus three opportunities to make yarn unders. However, let’s concentrate on what happens when you do a yarn under right after you insert your hook into the fabric, as above.

Here’s a regular double crochet: Yarn over, insert the hook into the stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, (yarn over, pull through 2 loops) two times.

See how the legs at the base of the double crochet are parallel?

double crochet with parallel legs made with yarn over
The strands on the base of this double crochet are parallel.

Here’s a twisted double crochet: Yarn over, insert the hook into the stitch, yarn under and pull up a loop, (yarn over, pull through 2 loops) two times.

Twisted double crochet stitches made with yarn under
The base of these double crochets are twisted.

This time, the legs at the base of the double crochet are twisted.

Know the Difference

If you are just learning to crochet, pay attention to the way you are wrapping the yarn over the hook. Get into the habit of checking that you are working a yarn over (unless the pattern says otherwise).

If you have been crocheting for a while and have only just discovered that you are doing unintentional yarn unders, it’s not too late to change!

Take time to study what you have been doing, then practice working yarn overs instead of yarn unders. It may feel strange at first, but you will eventually find that it is easier to get the yarn through the fabric with a yarn over.

Has this post been eye-opening to you? Have you discovered that you were yarn undering when you should have been yarn overing? Let me know in the comments.

The following affiliate links might provide a small income to me if you buy something, but don’t cost you anything extra.

The yarn I’m using in the photos and video is Marly Bird’s Chic Sheep from Red Heart. The crochet hook is Clover Amour, size 5.5 mm.

Keep Learning

Want to know more about crochet? I’ve got resources and links to up your skill level.

Free Knitting Pattern: Easy Two-Toned Pillow

This easy two-toned knit pillow uses the simplest of stitches to create a modern geometric design. Gauge isn’t crucial, because you just knit until the size is right.

Easy Two-Toned Pillow for beginners designed by Edie Eckman

Instructions for the pattern are listed for free below, but if you’d like an easy-to-print and easy-to-carry ad-free version, buy the pdf.

CTA Buy the Pattern

This post may contain affiliate links, which help support me but don’t cost you anything extra.

The Yarn

Craft Yarn Council 4-medium weight yarn
Craft Yarn Council 4-medium weight yarn

Medium-weight (worsted-weight) yarn is easy for beginners to use. Lion Brand Feels Like Butta has a dreamy-soft feel that you really want to snuggle up to!


Feels Like Butta yarn

I choose Pale Grey and Charcoal for a modern neutral palette, but the yarn comes in eighteen colors, so you are sure to find a couple of colors that appeal to you. It only takes one ball of each color.


The Pattern

Garter stitch is the first stitch pattern that beginners learn, because there’s no purling involved. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a versatile stitch! You can do all sorts of incredible things with just garter stitch!

Matching the pattern gauge is always important, but sometimes it’s more important than others. In this pattern, you want to at least get close to the pattern gauge so the fabric you are knitting is tight enough and so you don’t run out of yarn. However, don’t fret if it’s not EXACTLY the same; you have a little bit of leeway so you can knit until the size is right.

Easy Two-Toned Pillow

One Size: 12″ [30.5 cm] square

Materials
Lion Brand Feels Like Butta Yarn (100% polyester, 3.5 oz [100 g], 218 yd [199 m]), 1 ball each #150 Charcoal (A) and 149 Pale Grey (B)

US Size 7 [4.5 mm] knitting needles or size to obtain correct gauge

2 stitch markers or bits of waste yarn

Tapestry Needle

12" square. pillow insert

12″ {30.4 cm] square pillow insert


Gauge
21 sts and 42 rows =4″ {10 cm] in garter stitch. Although gauge is not crucial in this pattern, it’s is best to take time to check gauge. Watch How to Measure Gauge in Knitted Garter Stitch.

Abbreviations
garter stitch: knit every row
k2tog: knit two stitches together
kfb: knit in front and back of one stitch
RS: right side
st(s): stitch(es)
WS: wrong side

Instructions
Make 2 pieces alike, as follows:
With A, long-tail cast on 3 sts.
Row 1 (WS): Knit.
Row 2: Knit to last 2 sts, kfb, k1—1 st increased.

Place a marker on the front of the row just knit to indicate the right side of the fabric.

Repeat Row 2 until there are 85 sts on the needle, or until one shorter edge of the piece measures about 11″ [28 cm], ending by working a WS row. Cut A, leaving a 6″ [15 cm] tail.

With B, knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1—1 st decreased.
Repeat this row until 3 sts remain.
Bind off.

Finishing
Weave in ends.
Hold pieces with wrong sides together and with colors matching.
With tapestry needle, sew around three edges using mattress stitch andmatching yarn color.

Insert pillow form. Sew final seam. Weave in ends.

Other Projects

Check out these other easy knitting patterns:

Quick & Easy Summer Placemats

Blue Springs Double Cowl

Easy Quick-Knit One-Skein Tea Cozy

Molly Hat

Stoneybrook Shawlette

Zig Zag Eyelet Scarf

Free Knitting Pattern: Quick & Easy Summer Placemats

Easy Summer Placemats Free Knitting Pattern by Edie Eckman
Easy Summer Placemats Free Knitting Pattern designed by Edie Eckman

Brighten up your summer with these quick and easy summer placemats. They are a perfect first project for beginning knitters, and they make a great house-warming gift for new neighbors.

This post may contain affiliate links, which help support me but don’t cost you anything extra.

The Yarn

Craft Yarn Council Size 5 yarn icon

Bulky-weight yarn makes the knitting go fast! Lion Brand Rewind Tape Yarn is fun to work with. Because of its construction, it’s less bulky than you would think, and it imparts a great texture to the fabric.

 

Lion Brand Rewind Tape Yarn

I love the exuberant colors that I used, but you can also choose from more muted shades to suit your taste. The instructions below are for two placemats in different main colors. If you want to make four placemats, two of each color shown, with a yellow stripe on each, you’ll need two balls each of the blue and pink, and one ball of the yellow.

 

The Pattern

Garter stitch is about as basic as a knitting stitch can be, and that’s all you need to know to knit these placemats! Minimal pattern-reading is required, and gauge doesn’t even matter all that much.

Easy Summer Placemats Free Knitting Pattern designed by Edie Eckman

Quick & Easy Summer Placemats

One size: 16″ x 13″/40.6 x 33 cm

Materials
Lion Brand Rewind Tape Yarn (70% polyester/30% viscose, 3.5 oz / 100 g, 242 yd / 221 m), 1 ball each color 148 Fish Bowl (A), color 195 Think Pink (B), and color 157 Make Lemonade (C) [See note above about yarn amounts for multiple placemats.]

US Size 10.5 / 6.5 mm knitting needles

Stitch marker or piece of waste yarn

Gauge
13 sts and 22 rows = 4″ / 10 cm in garter stitch (knit every row)
Gauge is not crucial in this project.
Watch How to Measure Gauge in Knitted Garter Stitch for more information.

Pattern Notes
Leave a 6″ / 15 cm tail for weaving in each time you begin and end a yarn.

Beginning knitters will want to knit the pattern exactly as written. More experienced knitters may create a slip-stitch selvedge by slipping the last stitch of each row knitwise with yarn in front.

Abbreviations
k: knit
RS: right side
st(s): stitch(es)
WS: wrong side

Instructions
With A, long-tail cast-on 42 sts. Knit 1 WS row. Turn work, and place a marker or piece of waste yarn on this side to indicate that the side is the right side.

Knit every row until piece measures 13″ / 33 cm from cast-on edge, ending with a WS row. Cut A, leaving a 6″ / 15 cm tail for weaving in.

With C, knit 10 rows (5 garter stitch ridges). Cut C.

With B, knit 2 rows (1 garter stitch ridge). Cut B.

With A, knit 6 rows (3 garter stitch ridges). Bind off.

Weave in ends.

Make a second placemat, substituting B for A and A for B in the instructions above.

Other Projects

Check out these other easy knitting patterns:

Blue Springs Double Cowl

Easy Quick-Knit One-Skein Tea Cozy

Molly Hat

Stoneybrook Shawlette

Zig Zag Eyelet Scarf

 

How to Measure Gauge in Knitted Garter Stitch

knitted garter stitch closeupThe first knitting stitch you learned was the “knit” stitch, and the first stitch pattern you learned was probably Garter Stitch. Measuring gauge in knitted garter stitch is pretty straightforward, but if you are unfamiliar with the concept of measuring gauge or counting stitches and rows, a few tips are in order.

To create garter stitch, you knit every row (or purl every row) when knitting back and forth. When you work in the round, of course, you have to knit one round, then purl one round to make the same stitch pattern.

Watch this video that covers the basics of measuring gauge in garter stitch.  In future posts, I’ll talk you through what to do when you run into problems like uneven stitches or varying stitch counts.

Do you have questions about measuring gauge in knitted garter stitch? Or questions about gauge in general? Let me know in the comments.