Saturday, January 15, 2011

Converting Gloves to a Scarf

Reader Brook sent an e-mail to let me know she'd like to use the motif from Unstrung in a scarf, and wondering if I had any tips on how to do that.

I very nearly replied instantly with a note of which stitches in the pattern are part of the motif, then realized it isn't nearly that simple. And by the time I had worked out exactly how to do it, I had enough material for a blog post, so here we go.

1. Identify the motif and plan around it.

At the beginning of the pattern, the motif is 17 stitches wide. (This shifts over the course of the pattern, but this is the number we need to start with.) It also happens to be right at the beginning of every row in the directions for the mitts, which is handy.

I'm going to put it right in the middle of my scarf, because I like symmetry. It doesn't have to go in the middle, as long as you know where it is.

Now, on either side, I'm going to need a bit of a stockinette buffer to let the motif breathe, and on the outsides of the buffer I'm going to want a border of garter stitch or seed stitch or something similar so the scarf curls less. So let's say it looks like this:

unstrung scarf chart

Yes, that's a lot of plain stockinette there, but one advantage is that it works out to 41 stitches, which is also the starting stitch count on the mitts, so you could still use the stitch counts in the pattern to check your work if you wanted to.

Using stitch markers between each section will probably prove very  helpful.

2. Add rest rows.

You could just work the pattern flat by completely reversing every other row, but that would be a pain in the neck. So instead, I suggest making all the wrong-side rows rest rows. (If you're crossing off numbers, you could go 1, 1b, 2, 2b, and so on.) On every wrong-side row, work the border, then purl to the opposite border, and work that border.

You could knit the stitch on either side of the middle stitch to keep that purl-knit-purl definition, but the goal is to make these rows easy, so it's not really necessary.

Adding these rows will elongate the pattern, but as you can see from my test swatch the same basic shape is still there.

Unstrung Scarf

3. Read the pattern.

Now to work the scarf. Begin with a border of a few rows of your choosing, and then on the next RS row, which will be Round 5 of the mitt pattern, do this:

Row 5: Work right border, work right buffer, work Round 5 of pattern, work left buffer, work left border.

If your buffers and borders are simple stockinette and garter as in my swatch above, this makes following the instruction "k to end" very easy--you can still do that. If you've chosen something more complex, then any time the pattern reads "k to end", substitute "k to next marker", and then work the buffer and the border you've chosen.

Work as many repeats of Rows 8-19 as you like, and following the pattern up to that point should be pretty easy.

When you're ready to finish the leaves and add the flower, move on to row 44 and continue as you have been doing until you get to row 50. Now here you will have to cross out some parts of the instructions, because, of course, you are not going to knit a thumb gusset into your scarf.

Row 50 reads, "k2, k2tog, k1, p1, k1, p1, k10, m1, pm, k2, pm, m1, k to end". Change the k10 to k7 (which should take you to your stitch marker) and ignore the rest.

Most of the rows after this point you can follow as you have been, but every third row (53, 56, 59, etc.) has gusset instructions. What you'll do here is knit up to where it says "knit to m"--and do just that, knit to the marker--and then ignore the rest and knit your left buffer and border. Also note that if you've been using the stitch counts as a reference up to this point, they are no longer your friends since they include the added stitches for the thumb. Ignore them.

On row 71 you'll drop the stitches for the anthers of the flower. Ignore row 72 and finish off the scarf with a border of your choosing. You're done! Now go block it to make it lie flat and look pretty.

4. Variations

But I hate blocking, you say. Isn't there a way to make it lie flat without blocking?

We-ell, yes and no. Those not-stockinette borders you put on the edges are going to help a little; the wider you make them, the more they'll help. But the plain fact of it in the case of this pattern is that you've got a 17-stitch motif on a stockinette background to contend with, and it's probably going to want to curl.

What if I did it on a garter stitch background instead? you ask. The answer looks something like this:

Unstrung Scarf

To tell the truth I don't care for how this looks. The pattern gets lost and it's way more difficult to read your knitting. But it will keep the scarf from curling.

(But you were going to block it anyway to make the dropped stitches look their very prettiest, right?)

You can also mess around with yarn weight and needle size and putting different things in the panels around the plant motif to make things interesting. I do recommend keeping at minimum a one-stitch stockinette buffer on either side of it, though.

Here's one set of variations I tried, with varying success. I switched to US size 8 needles (the previous examples were worked on US size 5s, and the yarn is the same sport weight I used on the original mitts. I probably should have mentioned that earlier), switched the borders to seed stitch, and added some lace panels.

Unstrung Scarf

I probably should have stuck to 5s; I think the 8s leave too much yarn in the dropped stitches and they look sloppy. For this pattern I like a gauge that is not too loose and not too tight. What I do like about this variation, though, is the added interest of the lace. If I were to knit a whole scarf with this pattern I would probably stick with something like that on the sides. The borders I could go either way on; I might play around with those some more.

So, Brook, I hope that answers your question! And if any of you lovely readers have anything to add, I'm all ears.

Oh, and in totally unrelated news, GO PACK!

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