How to knit a scarf faster

A ball of black Lincraft cosy wool yarnA couple of days ago I decided to knit a scarf for someone who’s moving overseas to colder climes. While I’ve knitted half a dozen scarves for myself, I tend to use very simple patterns, and I’m not particularly picky about the style because the colours are my main concern.

My intention was to knit with black wool so I needed a pattern that would be visible while being suitable for a man. I searched online for some scarf patterns for boys and men and I decided that the seeded rib easy reversible scarf would be fun to try while still being relatively simple (just knits and purls). It seemed like a perfect project to get through in the week before I see the person receiving the scarf.

Attempt #1

On Friday I bought two balls of black 100g Lincraft Cosy Wool Yarn and I started on the pattern. A few rows in to the knitting, I decided that the scarf was looking very dense and black so I decided to try and add a stripe. For a few rows I switched over to a dark grey that I found in my wool stash and then back to the black but I wasn’t entirely happy with the look of the colour switching on the back of the scarf. “What’s done is done” I decided and, rather than keep alternating, I’d just add another stripe towards the end of the scarf to match and hope that once the scarf was off the needles the join would be less obvious.

After some more knitting, I held the scarf up to my neck to see how it was feeling and I realised that the black wool was scratchy against my skin. How disappointing! I touched the grey stripe and it was nice and soft, but the black wool the majority of the scarf would be made of felt slightly course. I’m sure with some wear the wool would soften up but I wanted the scarf to be perfect from the start. Along with the feel of the scarf, I was also getting concerned at how little progress I’d made considering I only had a week of evenings to complete it. I was losing interest in the scarf, but I was determined to have a gift ready in a week.

The seeded rib easy reversible scarf on a knitting needle
One evening’s progress on the striped attempt at the seeded rib easy reversible scarf

Attempt #2

Ball of Moda Vera pure wool 8 plyThe next day I decided I had to start again. I went to another shop and thankfully they had plenty of black wool in the same style as the softer grey, Moda Vera pure wool 8ply. Unfortunately this style of wool was only available in 50g balls and I had no idea how many I’d need. I picked up four balls, juggled them in my hands wondering if they felt like the weight of a nice long scarf, and then reading from the labels that they were each approximately 80m (87 yards) I decided, to be safe, to pick up two more (I told myself that they were on sale! and I can easily use left overs on another project).

Back home, I tried a few rows with the new black and it was definitely softer, but again I started to fret about how little time I had to complete the scarf, so….

Attempt #3

I unravelled what I’d done and decided to try knitting with two balls of yarn at once. At a guess, I thought that as the label suggested 4.5mm needles for one ball, I’d try knit with 9mm needles, and because of the larger stitches I cast on with 23 stitches (calculating it by the rule for the pattern requiring a multiple of 4 + 3, and measuring the width after the first few rows) instead of 35. And I knitted. And it worked. And it was faster.

Knitting needle with a scarf on it
Knitting with two balls of yarn at once

In one evening I made it through most of the first two balls of yarn achieving a length of almost 50cm (19″) so I should end up with a good length scarf of around 180cm (6 feet) when I get through all six balls. The scarf now also feels less rigid (and this makes me feel like it doesn’t need stripes anymore) which hopefully will be more the style of the person I’m giving it to, and with the simple pattern now firmly in mind, I shouldn’t have any troubles completing it over the next week.

What I learned:

  • Double-up the yarn to allow yourself to use larger knitting needles (approximately double the size required by the single yarn) and your knitting will be completed faster.
  • If you’re crafting to a timeframe, be realistic with the scale of the project to make sure you can complete it on time.
  • All wools are not the same when it comes to softness.
  • Take care mixing and matching different types of yarn in one piece (I really shouldn’t have reached for random wool in my stash when I was aiming for a consistent look in my scarf).
  • Consider how switching colours will look on pieces that can be seen from either side of the fabric.
  • If it doesn’t feel right, start again. Think about what isn’t right and how you can make it better. You’ll be happier with the end product even if it takes a little extra time.

Looking back at the first attempt with the single yarn, it’s a much tighter knit and I like the way it looks but not the way it feels. I’ll definitely give it another go when I’m not under a time constraint, and I’ll make sure to pick a more suitable yarn for wearing against the skin.


PS. Are you wondering about that red bow on my knitting needle? I decided to put it on the needle that I start the first row with so that I know, when that needle is in my left hand (I’m right handed), I’m working on the “front” or odd row number. As the scarf has grown the pattern has become easier to see but I’m still a beginner knitter so the bow helps keep me starting each row with the right stitches.

(Note added 2 June 2013: Check out Faster scarf completed to find out how this project went.)

Knitting needle with 50cm scarf piece on it
One evening’s progress knitting with two yarns and larger needles