The Monday Top 5!
Best 5 stitch patterns for knitting scarves:
Let me just start this off by saying that I am the Scarf Nazi. First of all, a scarf should be reversible - it should look the same on both sides. A lot of knitting books have these scarf patterns that have a definite "wrong side." Do they think the wrong side won't show when you wrap the scarf around your neck?
Second, a scarf should be warm. Maybe if you live in L.A. those skinny scarves will be enough for you. Winters in New York are cold and they are windy. I want a scarf that is at least five inches wide - it should cover my mouth, nose and neck when I wrap it around. Also it should be long enough to wrap around a couple times. And it should not be goddamn lace! I don't know what's up with all the lace scarf patterns I've been seeing. Wind blows right through that shit.
Anyway, on to the top 5:
Hands down #1: Cartridge Belt Rib.
Multiple of 4 stitches plus 1.
Row 1: [K3, slip 1 with yarn in front] to last stitch, k1.
Repeat Row 1 for pattern.
This pattern is visually interesting without being (a) yarn-consuming, or (b) so busy that it doesn't look good when done in a variegated yarn. It looks good in any weight yarn. It's very stretchy. The slip stitches create this vertical furrowing that make it extremely warm. Every row is the same, so it's super easy to memorize - if you knit on the bus like I do, you don't want to be looking at charts while you're knitting.
#2: Alternating ribbed cable.
Multiple of 16 stitches plus 8.
Rows 1-4: [k1, p1] to end.
Row 5: [slip 4 stitches to cable needle and hold to front, (k1, p1) twice from left needle, (k1, p1) twice from cable needle, (k1, p1) 4 times] to last 8 stitches, then slip 4 stitches to cable needle and hold to front, (k1, p1) twice from left needle, (k1, p1) twice from cable needle.
Rows 6-9: [k1, p1] to end.
Row 10: [(k1, p1) 4 times, slip 4 stitches to cable needle and hold to back, (k1, p1) twice from left needle, (k1, p1) twice from cable needle] to last 8 stitches, then (k1, p1) 4 times.
Repeat rows 1-10 for pattern.
This pattern looks great. The only flaw is that being a multiple of 16 stitches, for certain yarn weights you may get into a situation where you have a choice between a scarf that is a bit too narrow or way too wide. I noticed this when I tried to knit one in a chunky yarn - 24 stitches was just a bit too narrow, and 40 stitches was gargantuan. It works pretty well in worsted or DK yarns, though, with 40 or 56 stitches.
#3: Plain ribbing.
2x2 is my favorite, followed by 1x1. I don't generally use wider ribbing.
#4: Garter stitch.
This stitch is great for beginners, because you just knit every stitch. Personally, I find plain garter stitch boring to knit and boring to look at, unless you use a variegated yarn. To reduce the boredom factor, you can knit your scarf sideways or on the diagonal. Also, you can use color - either stripes or two-color garter stitch. I especially like stripes on a sideways-knit scarf. I also like to use short rows in garter stitch scarves to create interesting shapes. I'll provide the pattern for two-color garter stitch at the end of this post.
#5: (Begrudgingly) Seed stitch.
I hate seed stitch. I have to admit it looks pretty good, especially in chunky yarns. But it takes forever, since you have to move the yarn back or forward after each stitch. And it doesn't take stripes well, so a seed stitch scarf is just about the most boring thing you can possibly make.
Two-Color Garter Stitch
Note: This will not work on straight needles. You need to use a circular needle for this. You need 2 different color yarns, A and B. One side of the scarf will be mainly color A, with little bits of B peeking through. The other side will be mainly B, with little bits of A.
With A, cast on any number of stitches.
Row 1: With A, knit one row. Do not turn work - slide it to the other side of the needle.
Row 2: With B, purl one row. Turn work.
Row 3: With A, purl one row. Slide work to other side of needle without turning.
Row 4: With B, knit one row. Turn work.
Repeat rows 1-4 for pattern, finishing with row 1. Bind off with color A.