Photo: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
Scarves are an easy choice for a first knitting project, something to take on-the-go, or a project to work on while you watch TV. Cast on, then work in the stitch pattern of your choice until it's long enough or you run out of yarn, as you prefer. Easy enough, but figuring out how wide to make your scarf depends upon the wearer and the yarn.
Width for the Wearer
Scale your knit scarves to the wearer. Children need narrower scarves, no more than 4 inches. Petite women want at least a 4 1/2-inch to 5 1/2-inch scarf. Larger women or men require a wider scarf for adequate warmth. Make their scarves no less than 6 inches wide. These are general guidelines and are most applicable to worsted-weight yarn. Worsted weight yarn, also called 8-ply yarn, is the most widely available yarn weight in craft, discount and yarn stores.
Match the width of your scarf to the weight of your yarn. A wide scarf knit in bulky weight yarn would be heavy, cumbersome and difficult to wear. Make bulky scarves a bit narrower for cozy comfort. Add inches for very lightweight yarns for warmth and a fabulous flair. Knit a wide scarf in a fingering-weight yarn, like that used for socks, and it will be light and comfortable. Scarves knit in lighterweight yarns can be folded or bunched without looking bulky and can be versatile enough to wear with a coat in the winter or tossed around your neck for a night on the town.
The knitting pattern or stitch pattern you select for your scarf can also impact the best width for your project. If you're knitting from a pattern, it offers information about how many stitches to cast on and the final size of your finished scarf. If you're working from a stitch pattern rather than a scarf pattern, you may want to knit a few swatches or squares to see how the fabric drapes and feels and help you decide whether you to go wide or narrow with your knitting. Stiffer stitch patterns work best a bit narrower, while you may want to add width for a lacy pattern.
While many hand-knit scarves are worn for warmth, you can also knit fashion scarves for year-round wear. Try cotton, linen, hemp or ribbon yarn for these scarves. Work wider 8-inch to 10-inch scarves in fine laceweight yarn or narrow ones 4-inch to 6-inch scarves in worsted weight linen. Choose open-stitch patterns for greater comfort in warm weather. Make a wider scarf to toss over a beachy sundress, or a narrow one to layer over a tank and shorts.