Thursday, April 4, 2013

How To: Make Scarves

I have discovered the joy of making scarves. They are easy and so much fun. The scarves have been a bright spot in a long cold winter. 
 After reading this post, even if you never actually make a scarf, I hope you understand a bit of what it takes to do so.
I started by studying the scarves that are for sale in Internet stores. I was especially interested in fabric content, finished size, and edge treatments.
Size matters. We all understand that. It is helpful to realize that fabric generally comes in width of approximately 45 inches and 60 inches. Generally, scarves are either a square fabric or a rectangle. The length of the rectangle should be about three or four times the width. Vintage fabric, my favorite, often was sold in narrower widths ranging from 30 to 39 inches. Cutting a length of modern fabric in half lengthwise, will yield two scarves either 22 inches wide, or just under 30 inches wide. 

After determining the size, I started finishing with a two-thread rolled hem application on my serger. Remember that fabric, whether woven or knit has most of its stretch on the cross grain.
Choose thread that matches a color somewhere in your fabric. Thread is an important decision, because the edge finish is very evident when the scarf is worn. I am not a sewing teacher, but there are videos on You Tube that can teach you about rolled hemming. It can be accomplished by hand, but is tedious.
When making a solid color scarf, I try to match the thread to the fabric as perfectly as I can. The scarf on the beautiful model above is made of vinage emerald green silk. 
A pink light weight linen-look fabric was finished with a fringed edge. This scarf is a 60 inch square. Large square scarves are very luxurious when made of silk, but this fabric softened nicely when I washed it. (Be sure to wash a test piece before throwing the scarf into the washer.) Large scarves add warmth to our Spring outfits. Spring is often snowy and cold, but hearty optimists persevere!  
Fringing the scarf involves removing threads from the raw edges of the scarf. I determine the straight grain of the fabric by pulling a thread, then cut on that line. The straight cut allows me to remove the threads from the edges of the scarf. I usually make the fringe about one-half to one inch deep.
Wool challis is my favorite winter scarf fabric. It fringes perfectly and lends itself well to a rolled hem. Once constructed, they are nearly indestructible, so I don't mind spending hours hand hemming or incorporating tedious details. I have lived my whole life in North Dakota. I appreciate the warmth that a 60 inch square of wool, folded into a triangle and tied over my coat provides on a cold windy day.
The scarf above is finished with a torn edge. I snipped through the selvedge and tore across the grain to the other selvedge edge. On the selvedge sides of the square, I snipped and tore off the selvedge edge. This removed about one-half inch on each side of my fabric. Since the fabric started at nearly 60 inches wide, there was plenty to work with. The fabric is a rayon challis with some glitter on it. I wanted to add a tough-girl attitude to the scarf because the print looks especially nice with denim.
I have been a collector of vintage fabrics and this project was an ideal way to whittle down my stash. I realize that true collectors do not whittle, but all of my fabric was purchased to be used. The above is a vintage sheer cotton fabric that has been quietly waiting in a drawer to be discovered. It is difficult to see on the photo above, but the lace is edged in the salmon pink of the fabric. 
Oh the joy of a stash! (add dramatic music here!)
On this rectangle, I left the selvedge intact and applied lace to the ends of the scarf.
There is a clear right and wrong side to the ends of the scarf, but the fabric is beautiful on both sides. There is a serged finish on the ends of the fabric.
 The above scarf was made from a modern remnant that I found discounted at a fabric store. I decided to see this in black and white. Scarves are fun and this one was especially so. I used a black two thread rolled hem to finish the edge, then applied black rick rack. 
I used white bobbin thread and a zig-zag stitch. Adjust the tension to try to lock the thread precisely. Remember that a scarf is a free flowing accessory, so we want to be sure that the wrong side does not detract from the overall beauty of the scarf.  
I finished each corner of the scarf with a button stack from my vintage button accumulation. I don't like the word collection which carries the connotation of never being used. I intend to use the things I purchase, eventually...and so I think of them as an accumulation.
  A two thread serger edge gave a ruffly edge to this scarf. It is made of light weight wool jersey. It is a nice warm addition to a cold winter day.
 In an effort to keep the scarf above from becoming too prissy and young, I used a hot pink finish on the edge. Because of the machine embroidery that creates the eyelet design in the fabric, I could not give this a torn edge. It is a scarf that can work if not taken seriously, worn casually, perhaps with a pin. 
I include this photo to illustrate how a hem can make or break the under side of a scarf. Whether finished neatly invisible, or purposely, attractively visible, the edge can be the most interesting point of a scarf made from a simple fabric.
When finishing a fabulous fabric such as this vintage, embroidered silk, the edge finish is used to keep the fabric secure. I left the selvedge edges untouched and treated the ends with a wide hem to add weight. It will allow the scarf to hang rather than float. 
I didn't count how many scarves that I made over the Winter. More than I would dare to admit. It was long and cold, but now is almost over in GriggsDakota.


  1. These scarves are wonderful. "Thank You" for posting the tutorial. I also make scarves -- but
    it's so nice to see someone else's work. I especially like the vintage fabrics also.

  2. Appreciate this post; I am experimenting with scarves as head covers after chemo and had only 1 scarf which ended up being too small to use as a head cover. Right now, I am too weak to make my own head wraps. Has anyone tried using the sizes show in this post as head wraps? I am not too concerned about hems at this point. Just need protection from cold and air conditioning at this point. Thanks for input!

    1. If you go to the "about me" page you will find my email address. Send me an email with the size that is too small, and what size that you think might work for you, I will send scarves. Be sure to include your mailing address. God Bless You,

  3. Love your scarves and ideas! I have accumulated lots of materials from friends and relatives over the years and was trying to find a way to make scarves out of the non-cotton materials that I have (I save my cottons for lap quilts). The homeless need scarves through our local Salvation Army group, and now I can use your instructions to use up my stashes of wool and knits. (We also live in a cold, snowy area.) Thank you so much! Marijo