On this new Makeover Monday, I present my Ode to a Scarf. I wear one scarf or another almost daily, almost year-round, so I have a lot of them: silk, wool, pashmina, mohair, cashmere, cotton, rayon; striped, solid, printed, jacquard; scarves I designed and hand-knitted for myself, gift scarves, thrift-store and hand-me-down scarves, even one upcycled from a skirt into a scarf.
Out of this motley but well-loved collection, there’s one scarf I love best: my hand-knitted brushed-wool entrelac scarf, in the most luscious combination of deep, dark brown and rosy, pink-y reds.
Entrelac, from a French word meaning “to interlace”, is the name of the knitting technique I’ve used to make this scarf. It involves knitting one block at a time, rather than back and forth all the way across in rows, and is actually much easier to do than it looks. If you’re interested in learning this fascinating (and addictive to knit) technique, I have a pattern in my Etsy shop you might consider; the pattern is for a pillow cover (a great small project to introduce you to entrelac), and includes full instructions for the entrelac technique, as well as for two pillow sizes.
I made this scarf about 9 years ago, not long after I started Knittique (then a retail yarn shop in Dayton, Ohio). I used a soft brushed wool that’s dyed to produce beautifully color-blended stripes when knitted straight; when you use a self-striping yarn in entrelac, which creates diagonally-oriented diamonds, you get the color-blocked effect you see in my scarf. And since I find it hard to exclude at least a little glitz, every time I ran out of a ball of yarn, I added a sparkly strand to the next block to mark the start of a new color. (This is an easy way to add a slightly random, patchwork-like touch, which I think is fantastic in an otherwise symmetrical piece.) I’ve worn this gorgeous scarf for years now, and still love it as much as ever. But…
… Here’s my tiny little issue with it. Two, actually.
1. Even on my tall frame, it’s a little too long; unless I wrap it around my neck at least once, it hangs almost to my ankles. (Did I mention entrelac is addictive? I just couldn’t stop.)
2. It’s a little too warm to wear except in the coldest weather. And winters in Portland are not at all like winters in Ohio, where I was living when I made this scarf; here, it barely goes below freezing, but in Ohio, 20 below zero is common.
So my Makeover Monday challenge is to find a way to use my beloved scarf more than 3 days out of the year. I thought (briefly) about unraveling it and using the yarn to make something else; the yarn is surprisingly lightweight, so maybe a cardigan would work. (This is a legitimate option to consider; a scarf of this size has more than enough yarn in it for a sweater; it’s 10 feet long! If you’re not sure how far yours will go, try wrapping the scarf around your body to get a ballpark estimate.)
The other option is to take this rectangle and try to turn it into something besides a scarf. Thinking about this possibility reminded me of a project I’d designed years ago: a simple jacket inspired by a Paul Poiret evening coat from the 1920s. I call it The Cocoon. It involves folding and seaming a single rectangle into a gracefully draping jacket, thus transforming what was a flat piece into a 3-dimensional garment. Like magic!
Here’s how to do it. I’ll show you how I did it with my scarf; you can also apply this concept to, say, a piece of fabric (or a fabric scarf), but since that could involve additional sewing steps (like seam and edge finishes, possibly a lining), I’m going to stick with the knitted version for this project.
Tip: A major key to the success of The Cocoon has to do with the length-to-width proportion of your rectangle. The shorter and narrower your scarf, the smaller the finished Cocoon will be. It’s very easy to check before you commit yourself, by simply pinning your rectangle into the cocoon shape (see Step 1, below) and trying it on before sewing. Here’s the important thing to remember: it’s the width of your scarf that determines how long your jacket will be at center back; the scarf length relates more to how far down your arms will be covered.
Step 1: Fold and pin your Cocoon into shape. Start with a rectangle. My scarf is 120″ long x 18″ wide. (Hmm, just realized when I typed that that the length in this case is more than 10 times the width! You’ll see in the following photos that this makes my Cocoon bigger in the width than in the length. But virtually any rectangular scarf should work. Experiment!)
Bring the short ends together and pin.
Fold your scarf in half to find the midpoint; mark this point, and align it with where you pinned the short ends together in the center.
Now pin edges together in the center, leaving an opening at each end for your arms. I’ve left about 9″ open, but you can vary this as desired.
Tip: At this point, it’s a good idea to try on your Cocoon; make sure it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall off your shoulders, and that the sleeve openings are large enough. Here’s what mine looks like from the back, all pinned up and ready to sew:
Step 2: Sew your Cocoon together. You can decide what seaming technique to use; it will depend on the style of scarf you’re using. In my case, I’m using my favorite seaming style, mattress stitch, which is worked from the right side (important here since I want to match up the diamonds) and produces an invisible seam. (Click here for a mattress-stitch tutorial.)
Tip: For seaming, try to use a yarn or thread that matches the fiber content of your scarf as closely as possible; this will reduce the chances of the seaming yarn shrinking at a different rate than the rest of your Cocoon when you launder it. I’m using a dark brown brushed wool, the only yarn in my stash that was reasonably similar to the original yarn.
Start by sewing the seam where the two ends of the scarf come together. You don’t have to unpin everything to do this; I just took out the pin joining the midpoint of the scarf to where the ends meet.
Now realign the center of the scarf with the seam you just finished; pin. Attaching your yarn at one end of the remaining pinned center seam (by a sleeve opening), sew this seam.
That’s it! Well, okay, you may want to give your new seams a little steam bath to smooth them out a bit. (Click here for a basic blocking tutorial.) Here’s what mine looks like laid flat— looks a little like origami, now that I think about it.
Now, instead of a scarf that gets little use in this milder climate, I have a unique and versatile sweater-wrap hybrid that can be thrown on any time I’d reach for a cardigan.
Here’s what it looks like on me:
To me, any multi-functional wardrobe item translates to pure fashion poetry.
Another Makeover Monday is complete! And remember, I’m always eager to see what you will come up with when you make over your own clothes, so keep me posted! (Ooh, pardon that expression.) See you next Monday!
P.S. Just in case you feel no tutorial is complete without a Step 3, slip your new Cocoon over a dancing dress and channel a fabulous flapper girl!