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. If you want to receive all my free patterns, consider subscribing to my newsletter.
Reading tip: 10 easy projects for knitting beginners
Before we start: Materials you need to knit a scarf
Note: I earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this article.
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!
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 a bit 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?
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 essential 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
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 16 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 included. But if you watch the full video tutorial for this scarf I included in this post, you’ll see my preferred version step by step: The long-tail cast on. It just looks neater and is easy 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
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.
Step 2: Wrap the yarn around the needle counter-clockwise.
Step 3: Pull the yarn through.
Step 4: And slip the stitch of your needles.
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. 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:
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. Here’s my step-by-step tutorial on the spit splice.
Once you joined the new skein, continue knitting as normal.
Step 3: how to finish knitting a scarf
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). But here’s the gist:
Step 1: Knit 2 stitches
Step 2: Now you have to stitches on your right needle. Lift the second stitch (the one father to the right) over the first one and drop it off the end of the needle. Now there’s only one stitch left
Step 3: Knit another stitch (two stitches on the right needle again)
Step 4: Lift the second stitch over the first one again
Repeat those last two steps until you bound off all stitches.
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 the scarf with a simple cow hitch knot.
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
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
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!
23 thoughts on “How to knit a scarf for beginners – Step by Step”
Isn’t 26 stitches cast on going to make a very wide short scarf when using bulky yarn?
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? 🙂
Hi Norman! Your site is just what I’ve been looking for. I learned to knit years ago but never really learned to make anything! I am now going to finally make something with the help of your website! I love the idea of knitting so much I have bought lots of yarn over the years but like I said I have never really made anything. So, I have this gorgeous Italian yarn that is 100% wool by Zara. I’m going to make this scarf using this lovely yarn. I have 5 skeins 50 grams each. I’m just going to start knitting. Wish me luck.
best of luck then! And remember, feel free to comment again in case you have any questions!
I ordered the suggested yarn and love this project!
Question about the fringe. The yarn seems to get get quite a bit fuzzy when by itself. Did you do the fringe in the same yarn? I think over time it will look like pulled apart cotton balls.
Thanks for any help!
I agree, the yarn is fluffy and very warm but also a bit fuzzy. I did the fringes like this and didn’t see any major problems, but then again I didn’t wear my scarf like every day either and I am generally very careful with handknit items to begin with.
But all these super bulky yarn sadly are not meant to last forever. So, it’s a trade-off between stellar optics, fast knitting, and and not lasting for ever.
As a beginner, your videos for this scarf are beautifully done Stellar optics? I need to know this term.
I finished the length tonight, now I need to think about all this blocking stuff.
Thank you so much for your guidance!
thanks for the lovely feedback becky! 🙂
Could you tell me the weight of the yarn used for this pattern? I’m wanting to try my hand at making a scarf for my sisters anniversary
I used the malabrigo rasta yarn for this scarf. We don’t use yarn weights here in Europe.
This is a great tutorial for beginners! The video is helpful too.
Hey Norman, I have just discovered your website. I learned to knit (basics) about 29 years ago from my grandma, but recently went back to knitting. While I’m very good at crochet, knitting was not my forte and your blog has helped me a lot remembering the patterns my grandma used to teach.
Loved this tutorial!! Thanks Norman! I’m wondering what yarn you used for this?
says so right at the top of the tutorial!
Norman, can I do this on circular n eedles.
Is this continental style? And are all of your knitting tutorials continental style or does it vary throughout?
all are continental style. yes
As a new knitter I had tried several other you-tubers before I found you. Your excellent videos have made all the difference! I watched your beginners videos and practiced and practiced (pulling apart and knitting over) until things started to look even. Now I’m working on my first scarf. Near the end of my first skein I noticed something had gone awry a few rows back. I knew the best thing was going to be to back up a few rows. I somehow managed to keep my stitches straight undoing one at a time. But every time I got to the end of the row something was not quite correct. Eventually I was able to get back on track but do you have a video on careful frogging for a few rows?
Yes, Barabara, there is a video on “How to fix mistakes” on my youtube channel that shows you how to do that.
That video is great! I am going to try that on my next practice piece so I’m not attempting it in the panic of the moment. I’m sure that will work better for going back several rows. When I went back 1 stitch at a time somehow when I got to the end of the row my working yarn ended up 1 stitch inside of my row on the needle. I think somehow I figured out that that stitch needed to be on my other needle and then things looked as it should. I need to watch your anatomy of stitches video several more times as I learn to see what a stitch should look like. Your patient tone and encouragement is especially nice for us beginners!
Hi Norman! your tutorials are awesome! I am now blocking my scarf and am very happy with it. I wish I could post a picture to get your input! Looking for my next project. Do you recommend continuing with the 10 beginner patterns or something else. This was my first ever kniitting experience. Thank You, Sue
Well, you don’t need to continue with my patterns. But the general ideal behind that list is probably a good start for you.