Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My First Charted Knitting Project

I used a charted pattern for the first time this past summer. It’s named The Alberta Seamen’s Scarf, and it’s from Stahman's Shawls & Scarves, by Myrna A. I. Stahman.
I used some alpaca yarn that I purchased at a local fiber festival (ahem) some time ago.

This scarf required two skills that were new to me: 1) a provisional cast on and 2) working with a charted pattern. Both took a few tries, but I am persistent – and I really really really wanted to have those skills. I was tempted to write out the pattern but decided against it. I’ve done that before, which is exactly the reason I still didn’t know how to read a chart.

Tutorials for a provisional cast on are plentiful. But for me, sometimes it's easier to quickly glance at a web page and think, "That's too complicated for me" and click away. This time, I followed the instructions in the book. By the way, a provisional cast on is one in which stitches are cast on with "waste yarn" (preferably a smooth yarn about the same weight/thickness as the one used for the project); it's used for many reasons (to write about another day, perhaps), one of which is when you are using a one-way pattern and want both ends or "tails" of a scarf to match. 

There is a very nice history to the seamen’s scarf.

Since 1898, during the Spanish American War, volunteers of the Seamen’s Church Institute have knitted, collected, packed, and distributed gifts to mariners who are miles away from home during the holidays. The gift consists of a handknit garment, a personal letter, and information on SCI’s services for mariners. In addition to this, SCI also includes several useful items like hand lotion, lip balm, and toothbrushes—things difficult to come by when working long stretches on the water.

Knitting groups around the country connect with SCI in weekly knitting meetings at churches and at knitting-sponsored events. Through online sites like Ravelry and the CAS blog, the Institute works with hundreds to make the program effective.

The historic name of this volunteer program, Christmas at Sea, only partially describes the work of the people who make holidays a little warmer for mariners. While gift distribution happens during winter months, collection and creation of items happens year round, and while many gifts go to international mariners working "at sea," thousands of gifts also go to mariners working on inland waterways here in the United States.

The Christmas-at-Sea Program of the Seamen's Church Institute of New York and New Jersey provides volunteer knitters with patterns for knitting scarves, watch caps, sweaters, and socks. -- Seamen’s Church Institute

Christmas at Sea that’s a Seamen’s scarf he is wearing
Christmas at Sea patterns free knitting patterns available

The traditional Seamen’s scarf is knit from end to end by knitting 14 inches of garter stitch [knit every row], followed by 18 inches of knit four, purl four ribbing, followed by another 14 inches of garter stitch. The garter stitch tails provide warmth to the chest of the wearer, and the knit four, purl four ribbing provides both a wonderful fit and warmth as it hugs the neck of the wearer. – Myrna Stahman, Stahman's Shawls & Scarves, page 4.

I have made many of these scarves for our local City Mission. We love gifts of warmth here in western New York! I have also used the pattern to make a few for my favorite guys. My husband lets me borrow his all the time. That is, until now. Because now I have my very own hand-knit Seamen’s scarf!

Here it is, drying after blocking.
Here's a close up of the left "tail" drying.
This is the center ribbed section.
On my lovely styrofoam head and box
See how it cozies up around the neck?

I've already started my next charted knitting project. Someday it will look like this (but in a different colorway):
It's called From Dawn Till Dusk and is designed by Tetiana Otruta. This pattern is a free download for Ravelry members. Ravelry is free to join, and is a treasure of resources, help, and fun. I think that there are now more than one million members, so if you're a knitter, head on over. On Ravelry, I'm DearKnitter.

Blessings and peace...


  1. Wow, Sandra, your knitting is amazing. It's a far cry from my simple garter stitch used for my scarves. I see many warm and pretty wearings with your seaman's scarf.


    1. Aw, Karen, thanks; you are always so kind. The truth is 1) I LOVE garter stitch, truly I do, and I will never outgrow it, and 2) This project took me a really long time and a huge amount of concentration. Oh, and I wore it all day the other day and it was so warm and cozy and not itchy at all. I think I am going to get a lot of use out of this. Thanks again.

  2. Such beautiful knitting! Nearly the middle of summer for me so I have popped my needles away for a few months. Off to have a little peek around your blog...J

    1. Thanks for visiting, Judith, and for leaving such a nice comment. In the summertime I tend to knit mostly small cotton things, in other words, dish cloths. However, sometimes it is just too humid to knit anything, so I understand about putting your needles away for a while. Stay cool!