How many stitches to cast on for a scarf?

March 10, 2008 at 11:38 am 1 comment

Hi SweaterBabe,

I was wondering if you could tell me, how many stiches shall i cast on when i’m doing a scarf. I want to do a average scarf but i don’t know how many stiches to cast on.

Many Thanks Toni x Age 13 x

Dear Toni,

Good question.  And the answer is – it totally depends!

What needle size are you using?   What yarn weight are you using?  What stitch pattern are you using? 

And the real question is, what knitting gauge are you getting?

More on all this in a minute. 

If you are just a beginner doing the Garter Stitch and trying to figure out how many stitches to cast on for a simple scarf, then here are some easier/quicker suggestions….

— If you don’t mind winging it, take a scarf that you like and measure it’s width (scarves are often 7-10″ wide).  Cast on some stitches on your needle – like 30 sts.  Stretch/spread them out a little on your needle and see how many of those stitches get you the the same width of the sample scarf.  If you cast on too many, take those cast on stitches off the needle and undo them. If you cast on too few, just cast on how many more it looks like you need to meet the width of the sample scarf. This will give you a scarf width that is close enough.

— Then, after knitting a few rows, you can check and see how the width is coming out.  If you aren’t happy with it, start over and cast on more or less stitches to adjust.

If you wish to be more precise about the whole thing… then here is long answer:

— The main thing you need to do is determine your gauge with the needles, yarn, and stitch that you will use for the scarf. 

To do this, knit a 4×4 or so swatch.  You’ll be guessing how many stitches will get you 4″ or more, so just cast on what looks like enough.  OR, go by the gauge stated on the yarn label and base it on that.  For example, if the yarn label says this yarn gets an average of 4 sts = 1″ on size 8 needles, then assuming you are using size 8 needles (or larger), cast on 16 or more stitches.

After you have knit what looks like a square, bind off.

To be really precise, you should then block the swatch using whatever method you will be blocking your scarf.

Lay the swatch down flat on a table and measure across the stitches.  See how many stitches can measure exactly 4″. If you end up counting partial stitches, then try for 3″ and see if you can get “whole” stitches.

Once you have determined your stitch gauge, you can use it to calculate how many stitches are needed to create any width.

For example, if you are measuring 16 sts = 4″, then you easily calculate how many sts to cast on for a 8″ wide scarf: 16 / 4 = 4 sts to each inch.  Times 8″ = 32 sts.  Cast on 32 sts.

The row gauge can also be determined by measuring your swatch.  This is optional for a scarf since you can just knit until the scarf is long enough for your liking.

Hope I’ve answered your question!  Sorry for the long answer, gauge is one of those topics that can be so important when knitting projects need to come out the right size (sweaters especially).  So, it’s good practice to learn how to use it for simpler project first.


— SweaterBabe

If you have a knitting or crochet question for SweaterBabe, please email it to  Please do NOT post it as a comment here.  Not all questions can be answered due to the large volume of questions, but many are selected and answered each month here on the Blog and in the newsletters.  Thanks!


Entry filed under: Ask SweaterBabe, Knitting Questions and How to.

New Knitting and Crochet Patterns Coming Soon! Determining how much yarn to order.

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jayne Wilson  |  March 20, 2008 at 6:59 am

    I make a lot of scarves and I have found that you really don’t need more that 12-15 stitches at any time especially if you use size 13 to 19 when doing garter stitch and wanting a quick scarf. Also many times I will use two size needles. Perhaps a 13 or 15 for one and a 19 or 35 for the other. This gives a somewhat lacy effect to a simple scarf. I seldom use a guage for a quick knit scarf. Some great scarves turn out using one strand of any eyielash yarn and one strand of something else as the carrier and knitting the two strands together. Good luck and enjoy.

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