Birthday scarf

The linen stitch scarf is finished! I was listening to some old Stash & Burn podcasts while I was nearing the finish line with this project where Jenny says that when you get three quarters done with a scarf it is just grim determination to get to the end, and it’s true, but I’m so happy with the result now it’s done.

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I’m calling this my Birthday Scarf because I finished it on my birthday last week, although that isn’t strictly true on account of me messing up the bind off. This weekend I soaked and laid it out to dry and then unpicked a couple of rows to redo the bind off according to some notes from Hilary Smith Callis for her Cerus scarf pattern.

Of course I should have known how to bind off in linen stitch because I knitted Hilary’s Cerus scarf back in 2011 using Rowan Tapestry. My Birthday Scarf though is knitted in Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend in a variegated olive green colourway called “Augusta”. I based mine on the pattern for a linen stitch scarf in Bruce Weinstein’s Boyfriend Sweaters, a book that I bought at Barnes & Noble on Union Square in New York City on my way back home from the Charleston library conference last year, so it’s a nice reminder of my trip too.

The Cerus scarf was knit longways over 355 stitches. Bruce’s book has versions knit both longways and, well… what do you call the opposite of longways? Normal? Anyway, Bruce says the non-longways version is more masculine so that’s his pattern for men. I’m not sure I agree, but as I’d already knit the longways Cerus I decided to go with the short version this time and I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Bruce’s pattern is for five 50g skeins of Silk Blend and has you cast on 71 stitches, but as I had two 100g skeins I made mine a bit narrower and cast on 57 stitches. I think it’s plenty wide enough. It’s certainly long enough, longer than I am tall anyway, which is apparently the rule of thumb for a man’s scarf.

One thing about linen stitch, for me anyway, is that as it involves alternating slip stitches in different patterns on front and back I find it very easy to lose concentration and drift off pattern. It is much better finding out that you’ve duffed up at the end of a 57 stitch row than 355 stitches so, if you are planning to have your first shot at linen stitch, a non-longways scarf might be a good bet!

Linen stitch really does come into its own with a variegated yarn. The variegations help to show off the woven effect of the stitch, while the slip stitch pattern helps to break up any pooling. My two efforts have been with with tonal variegations but I think it would look pretty awesome in a multicolour yarn, or using alternating strands of different yarns. Linen stitch is reversible and doesn’t roll in, so great for scarves, although there is a definite front and back as you can see in the picture below. I like them both.

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There are plenty of patterns around for linen stitch scarves. The main tip is that you’ll need to cast on an odd number of stitches and for a neat edge knit the first and last stitch of every row. I’ve seen some patterns which don’t tell you to do this and I think it does give a really neat finish. You’ll also need to go up at least two needle sizes from the recommended needle size for your yarn. The recommended needle size for Silk Blend is 4 mm and I went up to 5 mm which came out fine, but even so with quite a dense fabric. For something with more drape you might even want to go up to 5.5 mm. Also, to avoid my mistake, check out Hilary’s tip for the bind off!

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One response to “Birthday scarf

  1. Beautiful — you’re right — the variegated yarn shows off the stitches and your work perfectly. And happy belated birthday!

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