This is a question I get at least once a day. Ruffle yarns. I have to admit---I dislike them. A lot. I'm not a ruffle kind of gal. But that is not why I don't like them or carry them in the shop. The yarns themselves are gimmicky, they are not soft or made of natural fibers (I saw a cotton one this week, but it looked shop worn in the hank--would not last in a knitted garment). I have been looking for one that I could stand behind, looking very hard. So far, nothing has crossed my path that I want to carry. There is a rumor of one made of silk, and if I do see it and like it, I promise to get it in! Every space in the shop is eggshell precious, and I can't carry a yarn I can't recommend and stand behind. It is a hard balance, because I want to carry everything that everyone is interested in, but if I don't like something, I just can't carry it. It's not a taste thing--I have made ruffle scarves, out of handspun, and they look great (pictures to come when I find that scarf!). It really is only the fact that the yarns that I have seen so far are too scratchy, and some just plain ugly.
Some knitters like them because they feel they don't take any technical skill to make something like this. Wrong! You DO have to know how to knit to use them , and I am going to show you some alternatives to these gimmicky yarns. The knitting is not hard, and you will have something soft and wonderful that will last. If you ever need help, we are here for you! We can get you started, help you in the middle, and even get it off the needles. You are not alone! And, if I can't convince you that the alternatives below are worth doing, I will send you to a store that carries the 'yarns that make ruffles'.
The scarf patterns that ruffle are called many things--google "Potato chip scarf"', "Fusilli Scarf'", etc (all this food talk is making me hungry!). Here is a picture of a scarf that we have in the shop that was made from the basic increase pattern for a super ruffly look:
Here is the pattern--easy peasy! The only difficulty with this super twirly pattern is that the knitting gets a bit tight, as you are increasing stitches every other row. Make sure you are using a circular needle that has a good join--one I did with a Denise Interchangeable broke the join in the middle and I had to start over again--the horror! In the future, I would use my trusty Chiaogoo Lace needle--sharp and great join.
Yarn: anything you like, about 200 yds! (example uses a DK/sport weight with a size 8 needle). Use a circular needle, at least 29" long.
Cast on 90 stitches.
Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Knit into the front and back of every stitch across the row
Repeat these two rows for six rows.
Row 7: Knit all stitches.
Row 8: Bind off.
OK, this pattern took a little longer than the 15 minutes the 'scarf yarn' says it will, but really, if you have an hour or two, you can get this done. It will be beautiful, soft, and last a long time.
There is a less "ruffly" version, a nice gentle wave that was on the cover of the Jane Austen Knits Magazine:
This scarf is often referred to as the 'Fusilli Scarf', and it doesn't require the increase of stitches as the super twirly scarf. It contains the often dreaded short rows, which is just skipping knitting the whole row and causes a nice gentle wave shape.
Here is a pattern for a basic "gentle" twirly scarf, again using yarns you love: (NOT the same pattern as the Jane scarf above, but gives the same approximate look:)
Worsted weight yarn, about 300 yds
Needles: Size 7 or 8 Cast on 22 stitches. Row 1: Knit Row 2: K 8, turn and knit back. Row 3: K 6, turn and knit back. Row 4: K 4, turn and knit back. Repeat 4 rows to desired length, ending with Row 4. Bind Off.
This technique doesn't cause a super twirl, but a more gentle twist. And, it can be done on straight needles, with none of the fuss of increasing stitches. If you use a skinnier yarn, adjust needle size to that yarn.
OK, so these are two popular free patterns for achieving a ruffled scarf without using a gimmicky yarn. I have two more contributions, using handspun yarn from Homestead Wool and Gift Farm (working on a full post about Sandy Ryan, her family, and her sheeps, so you can understand what wonderful work these folks do). I do have a special sheep, one that I did fund a coat for. His name is Dan Merino, and he is so cute! His fleece is great to spin too. I love Dan!
This first scarf was made with Wensleydale Locks spun by Sandy, and some thick and thin Merino (not Dan's, but commercial Aslan Trends that I carry):
I cast on 30 stitches, and did basic stockinette stitch (knit a row, purl a row). I used the Merino thick and thin for the first row, then used the Wensleydale Locks for the second and fifth rows only. Economical! Feel free to use the locks for every row for super drama, or only one row for less drama. I wanted medium drama, so two rows with three regular merino rows in the middle was good. I use the purl side out to wear, as this fell naturally. Working on a smaller, collar version of this scarf. Experiment, it's fun! Plus, it's just yarn and needles--rip it out if at first you don't succeed.
The final scarf takes the skill of making a crochet chain to show off the natural beauty of Suri Alpaca Locks. Here is a picture from Sandy's site of a Llama and a baby Guanaco--relatives--just to show some cuties off:
Here is the necklace/scarf/boa that I just made from the tailspun locks, and did a simple crochet chain with a large hook to stabilize the yarn to wear:
I love this, and you can see it modeled on the front page of the website along with Ashley's yarn necklace. Here are the ingredients for this scarf (one hank of this yarn makes 3-4 yarn necklaces, and again, your purchase goes to support an amazing rescue farm):
I just grabbed the yarn, put it in a ball, and did a simple crochet chain until I achieved a length that I liked. What could be easier?
So, you are now armed with patterns to make your own Spiral Scarves. No ruffling required. Now grab some yarn and make some drama of your own, for yourself or for a gift. Or both.