Darwin's First Scarf
Every knitter has to get started somewhere. Just like every book has a beginning. So try a project that is simple and fun and that lets you practice your technique until you get the hang of it. Yup, we’re talking about a garter stitch scarf. Work the needles while you watch TV or wait on line at the movies; you’ll be finished before you know it.
Here’s what you need to get going:
1) A pair of needles.
You can use metal or wood. Your project will knit up faster if you use big needles: Try size 15 or so. Want a less chunky look? Opt for size 8
Color and texture is up to you! Use what catches your eye and fits your (Peri)pocketbook! You’ll need at least 200 yards for a thin scarf; 300 yards will allow you to make it wider and longer. (And be sure to allow extra if you want to make a fringe on the ends but that step is optional.)
Go with a super chunky yarn for the size 15 needles.
Try a worsted weight wool if you’re using size 8 needles.
3) A yarn needle and crochet hook.
You’ll use this for fringe and for finishing your work.
It's often more straightforward to see knitting steps rather than read about them. So don't hesitate to check out videos of casting on and the other steps below. Be optimistic: casting on and knitting become really straightforward once you understand the steps. You're really just making a series of twisted loops. Moving your needles in different ways results in a variety of patterns. Which is, when you think about it, pretty darn cool!
You'll begin with just one needle. Make a slipknot and put the right needle through the loop. Tighten the knot and make sure it's near the pointy tip of the needle. What you should have is a knot on the right needle and two tails — one tail will be short and the other will be long and still attached to your skein. That's why these tails are sometimes referred to as the short end and the long end (i.e. connected to the ball of yarn).
Hold the needle in your right hand and place the fingers and thumb of your left hand between the two tails of yarn. You'll keep your thumb and index finger straight but close your middle, third, and pinkie finger around the tails of yarn. (Remember when you were a kid shooting bad guys with your pretend finger gun? That's an easy — albeit kooky — way to remember this step. Make a pretend gun with your index finger and thumb, grasping the tail ends of the yarn with your remaining fingers.)
Now, using your right hand, you'll bring the right needle down. (Think of it as the needle is taking a bow before it begins it's fancy casting-on dance.) Bringing the right needle down while leaving your left hand still in the "gun" position will leave you with yarn looped around your thumb and on your index finger. What happens next is a series of moves that may seem complex initially but actually become quite easy.
Start by directing the pointy end of your right needle so that it pokes under the yarn looped on your left thumb. Slide up the needle a bit and then bring the needle OVER the yarn on the right finger. At this point, you'll turn the right needle so that you can slide that pointy end underneath the yarn on your index finger. (Note: your needle should be pointing towards your thumb.)
Keep moving that right needle so that you pull it THROUGH the loop on your thumb and let the yarn drop right off your thumb. Tighten gently. You have two loops! Repeat until you have cast on as many loops as you'd like to stitch. Then put the right needle with the loops in your left hand and you're ready to knit.
Making the knit stitch:
So now you have all the cast-on stitches on the left needle and a bare needle in your right hand. That's good! (Let's hope you didn't cast on too tightly or you may struggle a bit as you start stitching.)
Here's what you're going to do: You'll take that needle in your right hand and use the pointy end to poke into the first loop on the left needle, making sure the right needle is behind the left. How you slide the needle into that loop will affect the stitch so take care: One way to make sure you're doing the step correctly is to hold the right needle lower than the left needle. Then poke up the right needle from below, into the first loop, and keep pushing it up through the first loop so that the pointy end of the right needle is sticking out behind the left.
Now take your left hand and bring up the long tail of yarn — the part that is attached to the ball or skein — over the part of the right needle that's stuck behind the left needle. (The long end of the yarn will be coming down from the front of the left needle. Don't use the short end or you'll have to rip it out.)
Did you get to this point? Here's how it should look: Your right needle should be poking into and through the first loop on the left, resting behind the left needle, and the long end of the yarn will be wrapped around the right needle.
Now you should pull that long end of yarn down between the needles so that you can make the next step. What you want to do here is to allow the right needle to slide down a bit so that you can catch that new long end of yarn with the pointy tip of the right needle. Pull through the right needle - you can see a new loop formed on your right needle — and then gently ease off the loop that is still on the left needle. (In other words, you're pulling off the first loop on the left needle, the one in which you began this step by pushing the right needle into it. Make sense?) What'll you get is a new loop on the right needle and the beginning of a row of stitches. All of the rest of your cast-on row will still be on the left needle, awaiting their turn. You'll repeat this step until all the loops have gone from the left needle to the right. Don't worry if things look a little loosey-goosey here; your knitting will take shape as you do more rows and your technique improves.
Just remember: At the end of a row you'll turn the work (which means you'll take the needle in your right and put it into your left, so the knitting is in your left hand) and repeat.
You're almost there! It's easy to bind off from a knit stitch — you already have the skills. Start at a new row (the scarf will be on the left needle) and then knit two stitches onto the right needle. Just two: Let's call them Loop 1 and Loop 2. Now we're going to do something different. It might seem a little tricky initially but it's actually simple: You need to take your left needle — the one that still has most of the scarf on it — and bring it over to the right needle. Then you slide the left needle under Loop 1, the first stitch you knitted onto the right needle. Once your left needle is into Loop 1, you will pull that stitch UP (to create a little bit of space) and lift it OVER Loop 2. So Loop 2 stays on the needle, Loop 1 is pulled right over it and then you let Loop 1 slide gently off your left needle. Congratulations! You've just cast off one stitch. (Casting off = Binding off. It's another way to describe this step.)
So let's regroup: You'll have one stitch — Loop 2 — still on the right needle. And Loop 3, Loop 4, and on and on until the end of your knitting will be on the left needle.
Now you need to knit Loop 3 onto the right needle. Just poke the right needle into the left and knit a stitch as always. That will result in Loop 2 and Loop 3 being on the right needle. And this time you're going to bind off Loop 2. You'll bring the left needle into the Loop 2 stitch, pull it UP and OVER Loop 3, and let it fall right off the left needle. You've just cast off your second stitch! See how easy it can be?
Repeat this step — knit a stitch onto the right needle so you have two loops there, then pull the first stitch UP and OVER the other and let if fall off the needle — until your last stitch is on the right needle.
Then just tie it off by pulling the end of the yarn through the loop. Tighten gently. (If you are still attached to a big ball of yarn at this point, you'll want to cut a tail before you try to pull it through.)
5) The Pattern:
Cast on at least 20 stitches, up to 30 stitches for a wider scarf. Knit straight across, then turn your work, and knit across again. Simplicity is key: using the knit stitch over and over will produce what is known as garter stitch, and your finished scarf will look the same on both sides. (No worrying about which is the front or the back!)
The other great thing about doing a scarf is that you can keep on knitting as long as you’d like. Every now and then try out the length simply wrap the scarf around your neck while it’s still on the needles and check it out in the mirror. Need it longer? Keep knitting!
If you’re running out of yarn…don’t worry! Wait until you get to the end of a row, turn your work, and then tie a new ball onto the yarn that you’ve been using. (The end from your original ball of yarn will be coming down from the front of needle.) Push up the knot you tied with the new ball of yarn until it hits the first stitch on your needle. Then simply start knitting with the new yarn. When you’re all done, you’ll use your yarn needle or hook to sew in those pesky ends. For now, just ignore them!
Keep counting…every so often, count your stitches to make sure you are still doing the same number per row as when you cast on. Sometimes you may forget, or you may add an extra. If you’ve made a mistake, you can rip it out and do it again or embrace the beauty of your one-of-a-kind handcraft and just try to keep doing the same number per row. Your scarf is as unique as you are and as beautiful!
Want to add a fringe? Cut a long piece of yarn about 5 inches or so and fold it in half. Then place the yarn on the crochet hook. Slip the crochet hook through a stitch in the last row of the scarf (near the edge) and pull up, making a loop. Remove the crochet hook. Using your fingers, pull the two ends of yarn through the loop and tighten. Voila! And repeat. You’ll add between 15 to 25 loops, depending on the width of your scarf and how dense you want the fringe to be. Just be sure to space them evenly across the scarf. (You can also use different colors of yarn for a unique look.)
Your beautiful scarf is done.