How to knit a scarf for beginners – Step by Step

A free knitting pattern for knitting an easy scarf in garter stitch for absolute beginners. How to start it and how to finish a basic scarf.

So, you want to knit a scarf? Great! Scarfs are one of the easiest and most fun knitting projects for beginners. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you step by step how to knit a big chunky scarf, even if you never knitted a single stitch. This will be a simple scarf in the easiest knitting stitch known as the Garter Stitch (because it doesn’t curl)

Consider going through my free knitting school before you start, as it’s loaded with a lot of helpful tutorials to get you started as an absolute beginner. I will be linking you to the most important lessons here as well, so no worries.

Before we start: Materials you need to knit a scarf

Note: I earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this article.

The materials you will need to knit a scarf for beginners: yarn, needles, tapestry needle and scissors

You can’t knit a scarf out of thin air. Before you start knitting my pattern, you will have to buy a couple of things. But certainly remember to ask around – maybe somebody in your family already has what you need!

#1 Yarn

Knitting professionals can spin magic out of every yarn, but as a beginner, you are a bit more limited. For this scarf, I recommend you to get some good quality wool for needles size 15 (no blend, but 100% sheep wool) in your favorite color. I used Malabrigo Rasta in this tutorial.

You’ll find a very detailed guide to the best yarns for beginners here if you have trouble picking the right wool.

For this pattern, we will need around 160-180 yards which will yield a scarf of around 1.6 yards. Depending on your body size, you may want to knit a longer scarf and buy more yarn. So, here’s a detailed tutorial showing how to calculate how much yarn you need for a scarf.

#2 Knitting needles

It probably won’t surprise you either, that you will need knitting needles. I put together a very detailed buying guide to finding the best knitting needles for beginners here.

The short answer: Buy some bamboo single-pointed bamboo needles size 15. Like these Takumi Clover needles

If you have some other needles in that size around the house, you can, of course, use them as well. But bamboo is great for beginners as the needles are not as slippery.

#3 Scissors & TAPESTRY NEEDLE

You will have to cut the yarn at one point and you also will want to create some nice little fringes. You won’t need any special scissors. They should be moderately sharp so you can get a nice clean cut out of them, though. To weave the ends in, you’ll need a tapestry needle. (No worries, I’ll show you how later on).  Here’s a link to Amazon for a nice tapestry needle and scissors.

Important note: I firmly believe that size 6 to 8 needles are the best for beginners. The reason, why I recommended bigger needles for this project is not because they are easier to knit. In fact, because they are so big and heavy, they are actually harder to knit. BUT the simple Garter Stitch pattern looks better with big wool & it’s faster to knit. It’s a fine line, though and you can easily adapt this pattern & instructions to smaller needle sizes.

Tip: Here’s a more detailed post about the basic knitting supplies every beginner needs

how long does it take to knit a scarf?

knitting an a scarf easily for beginners on big needles

It will take you between 4-6 hours to knit a short scarf in Garter Stitch. You can take pauses in between. A lot of knitters pick up their project for an hour or two in the evening while watching TV. And nothing speaks against you doing the same.

Some expectation management at the start. It took me 2.5 hours to finish this scarf. But I’m a fast knitter and I know what I’m doing. If you never knitted a single stitch, you will probably need 2 hours to learn the basics, and then the first couple of rows will be slow going. You will probably end up with a mistake or two. From experience, chances are high that you might have to unravel the scarf on your first try. But don’t be afraid – I’m going to show you some tips how to avoid that so you can easily finish knitting your first scarf.

I broke down this simple scarf knitting pattern into three easy steps. I will be highlighting the essentials instructions in blue boxes. Read this tutorial, if you don’t know how to read a knitting pattern yet.

Step 1: How to start knitting a scarf

Casting on 16 stitches for a scarf knitting pattern for beginners

So, you’ve got your yarn, you’ve got your needles, and you are ready to start knitting a scarf. Great. Stretch your hands and let’s dive right into it.

Step 1: Cast on 26 stitches with size 15 / 10 mm needles

You probably don’t know how to cast on stitches yet. Here’s a detailed cast-on-tutorial where I show you 3 easy methods for beginners step by step. And of course there is also a video to get you started where I show the exact method used for this scarf:

I really prefer the long-tail cast on. It just looks neater and is easier to knit. But if you know the single-cast on, you can also use this method for this beginner scarf.

Step 2: Knitting the Scarf

Once you cast on your stitches, we can start with the actual knitting. This simple scarf is knitted in the Garter stitch. So, you only need to know how to knit the knit stitch. No other, more complicated stitches are required, isn’t that great?

Here’s the pattern:

  • Row 1: Knit every stitch in the knit stitch
    Turn the workaround once you reach the end of your row and remember to bring the yarn to the back!
  • Row 2: Knit every stitch
Continue working in Garter Stitch (that’s how the pattern is called when you knit every stitch as a knit stitch) until your scarf is around 1.6 yards long. This means, repeating row 1 and 2 over and over again.

The basic knit stitch has 4 easy steps and requires you to hold the yarn in the back.

Step 1: Insert the needle from left to right.

Insert the needles into the stitch from left to right

Step 2: Wrap the yarn around the needle counter-clockwise.

wrap the yarn around the needle counter clockwise to do the knit stitch

Step 3: Pull the yarn through.

Pull the yarn through the loop

Step 4: And slip the stitch of your needles.

And slip the stitch off the needles to do the knit stitch we are using to knit this scarf

Continue repeating these four steps over and over again. You can find my very detailed knit stitch tutorial here. I am showing you the fast and easy continental method here. Definitely read my tutorial, but maybe start with this video first.

Like I said above, you just repeat the same stitch over and over again until you reached the desired length of your scarf.

How to join in a new skein when your yarn runs out

You have several options to join new yarn. It starts as simple as tying a knot. But for a two-sided project that will always be a bit too visible for my taste and leaves two tails you need to weave in later on. For most chunky wool yarns, the felting method is probably the easiest and best for beginners. It’s quite simple:

How to join two yarns using the felting method

Pick apart the end of the two strands with your fingertips so you get a very fringy end (step 1). Then, wet the two ends with a little spit (works best, but plain water works as well), and stack them over one another (step 2).

And now, put them into the palm and rub your hands really fast with the two joined yarns in between (step 3). This will generate a lot of heat and friction so they’ll felt. Tada – you joined the two ends (step 4). The yarn will be a bit thicker in this place but that cannot be avoided.

Once you joined the new skein, continue knitting as normal.

Step 3: how to finish knitting a scarf

A beginner scarf pattern on the needles

Once you reached the desired length for your scarf, you are ready to bind off the stitches. If you don’t, they will unravel, and we don’t want that, eh?

Cast off all stitches with that standard cast off method

It’s fairly easy to do so. You’ll find my detailed cast-off tutorial here (a different expression for bind-off you will find in a lot of knitting patterns). Or simply watch this video:

Personally, I love to add fringes to a scarf. Maybe that’s just me, but a scarf without fringes feels naked to my eye. You can easily add them by cutting strands of yarn double the length you want them to be long, and then tying them to scarf with a simple hitch knit.

An easy knit scarf in Garter stitch for beginners

I usually attach them to the last row of stitches. A crochet hook or the tapestry needle can help you to push the yarn through the loops. You really don’t need any special knot, in my experience, a hitch knot holds just fine. Then, take out your scissors and cut the fringes to the same length.

Best way to weave in the tails

Weaving in the tails of a scarf after you finished with a tapestry needle

If you don’t add fringes, you may want to tidy up the two tails from casting off and casting on. In this case, take up the tapestry needle and weave the end through the little ridges between the stitches.

Try to split the yarn with the tapestry needle. 2 inches in the one direction and 2 inches back is usually enough. Then cut away the excess yarn with the scissors and pull on the fabric lightly to even it all out. Tada. You are finished. (read this guide if you want a more detailed looking at how to weave in ends in knitting)

how to block a knitted scarf

Blocking a scarf with simple fixing pins on an ironing board

I knitted this scarf with beautiful hand-dyed yarn. I actually love that it looks a tiny bit rough. But if you want to bring your stitches to the next level, you need to block the scarf. For this, you need a soft surface and pins. There are special blocking mats (Here are the blocking mats I use), but your ironing board or a towel on a carpet will probably work for a start.

Then you have to pin your scarf to the surface in the shape you want it to be using either special blocking needles (or standard pins). This will take some time and try to push the scarf into the perfect shape with the needles so both sides are parallel and the scarf has the same width from end to end.

And now there are two methods:

a) you can either steam the scarf if your electric iron has that function. DON’T iron the scarf – you will press down the stitches and take away all volume. Just hover the iron over the work and let it “breathe” in the steam. Then, let it cool off/dry, remove the pins and your stitches will look like you have been knitting for 20 years.

b) you can also wet the scarf thoroughly with a dispenser and let it dry for a couple of hours. It’s more or less the same process but a bit slower (I’m impatient, so I never do it that way). You can also soak it in tepid water for 30 minutes, wring it out veeeerry gently, and then pin it to your blocking board and let it dry. For this thick yarn, I don’T recommend the soaking method, though.

As you start out, I don’t think it’s necessary to invest in all that special gear. Like a said, some pins, a soft surface, and a water dispenser, and some patience will go a long way. But be careful not to overstretch your project. This will look a bit weird as well!

And that’s it. That’s how to knit a scarf for beginners. I hope you were able to finish a lovely little project that will keep you warm in the winter. Please comment and tell me how you succeeded (or ask your questions).

how to knit a scarf for beginners - step by step tutorial

2 thoughts on “How to knit a scarf for beginners – Step by Step”

    • Hey Gail…well..it depends on what you define as wide. It’ like 20 cm…with such a bulky yarn, you don’t want it to be narrow either. Else your scarf will be thicker than it’s wide, eh? 🙂

      Reply

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