Shells & Stairways: a Reversible Scarf with scalloped Edging

Photo by Rich Hill

Contributed by Donna W. Hill

On receiving a Braille copy of Barbara G. Walker’s A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns (Schoolhouse Press, 1998) from National Library Services for the Blind (NLS) this winter, I headed straight to the last chapter — “Edgings.” These patterns, often under fifteen stitches wide, are generally made in long narrow strips and sown onto the bottoms of everything from fancy skirts and blouses to curtains and pillow cases.

OK, I hate to sew, but I love these little edging patterns. Nonetheless, unless you want them for headbands or belts, you’ve got to do more than just knit them as is. I started by incorporating several edgings into round table scarves using the short-row method, but I was looking for something else.

Walker came to my rescue. She suggests that some edgings can be seamlessly incorporated up the sides of things like afghans. The best edgings for this purpose are those that are reversible.

I wanted to make fancy scarves for the girls in our neighborhood, and I wanted them to be unique. I like scarves, but I’m not fond of fringes. They get caught on things and fray. What about using edgings as fancy vertical borders instead?

Knitting the Stairways

Photo by Rich Hill

The main pattern for this scarf is Rib and Welt Diagonals (2nd TKP, p. 9). I first encountered this pattern as Reversible Diagonal from Amy Carroll’s out-of-print Pattern Library Knitting (Ballantine Books 1981). I didn’t alter anything about it except the name, which (in both instances) makes it sound much plainer than it is. It’s not just diagonal stripes. It looks like a series of staircases with a bit of ribbing between them, which could be handrails. It is reversible, though the staircases slant in the opposite direction.

The stairways are made from two-row blocks of 5 stitches which are alternated between reverse stockinette (purlground) and stockinette stitch. They are flanked by 3 stitches of k1, p1 ribbing. The purlground blocks stick up to form the steps, and the stockinette blocks are recessed, forming the risers between them. The steps role a bit simulating the way real steps hang over their risers. The ribbing follows the steps and accents the diagonal line.

The 8 stitch figure shifts one stitch to the right every right-side row. Thus, the pattern requires 16 rows. Walker starts with “k1, p1, k1, p5.” Remember that although we read left to right; we knit right to left.

Rows 1, 3 and 5 shift from having all three ribbing stitches at the beginning of the right-side row, to having just two and then only one. Thus, the pattern shows stitches before the asterisk and the last repeat is incomplete. On row 7, the full five-stitch block (as stockinette) is at the beginning. The right-side rows throughout the rest of the 16-row pattern find the first block reduced from five stitches to four, three, two and one.

For a more thorough explanation of how purlground and stockinette patterns interact vertically and horizontally in this pattern, visit The Knitter’s Gazebo: Lessons from Shells & Stairways Scarf.

Knitting the Shell Edging

The Shell Edging, which runs the length of both sides of the scarf, is essentially identical on both right and wrong sides. It is a combination of two stitches from Walker’s Plain Scalloped Edging (2nd TKP, pp. 255-6) with 9 stitches of fagoting and a 3-stitch garter strip, which serves as the inner border.

Several things are happening. After the 3-stitch garter section, little bundles of stitches (made from yarn over ssk, k1 on one side and k2 p1 on the other) separate the stairway design from the scallops. Each side needs 11 stitches for this vertical border. My husband originally called the scallops “clam shells” and then said they resemble the beehive hairdos of the ’60s. I prefer thinking of them as shells.

The Plain Scallop pattern requires 16 rows — a perfect match-up with the stairway pattern. Shells are made in garter stitch by increasing eight stitches, one stitch every row — yes, every row. Those two stitches grow into ten. Decreasing is then done on every row. For a shallower scallop, try it on every other row.

Although this scarf is reversible, be sure to plug in the right-side row when knitting it. I call the odd-numbered rows the right side, and it is from that perspective that I refer to the right-hand and left-hand shells on the edges of the scarf.

Variations on the Scarf

For a wider scarf, add a multiple of 8 to the center. Make it wider still, and call it a stole. Add more garter stitches to the inside of the edging, or add multiples of three stitches for extra fagoting.

Shells & Stairways Scarf

This pattern incorporates Rib and Welt Diagonals with a shell edging based on Walker’s Plain Scalloped Edging (2nd TKP, p. 255) and a bit of fagoting. The stairways can be widened by multiples of eight stitches to form a stole or rectangular shawl.

Materials: 8 oz. Bernat Baby Sport yarn (Baby Denim), size 5 needles and 4 place markers. Substitute your favorite yarn and needles.

Cast on 46 stitches

Note: place markers after the first 11 stitches and before the last 11 stitches to separate the stairway pattern from the two edges. The other two go after the first 2 stitches and before the last 2; these define the increase/decrease sections for the shells along the edge, which go from 2 to 10 stitches.

Inc: increase 1 stitch — knit into front and back of next stitch.

Preparation Row (wrong side): k 35, (to last 11 sts), PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, inc, k1 (3 sts, begins first right-hand shell).

Row 1 (right side): k1, inc, k1, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, *k1, p1, k1, p5; repeat to PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, inc, k1 (3 sts, begins first left-hand shell).
Row 2: k1, inc, k1, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, *k5, p1, k1, p1; repeat to PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k2, inc, k1.
Row 3: k1, inc, k3, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM k1, p1, *k5, p1, k1, p1; last repeat, k5, p1, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k2, inc, k1.
Row 4: k1, inc, k3, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k1, *p5, k1, p1, k1; end p5, k1, p1, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k4, inc, k1.
Row 5: k1, inc, k5, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k1, *p5, k1, p1, k1; end p5, k1, p1, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k4, inc, k1.
Row 6: k1, inc, k5, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k1, p1, *k5, p1, k1, p1; end k5, p1, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k6, inc, k1.
Row 7: k1, inc, k7 (10 sts, ends increase for right-hand shell), PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, *k5, p1, k1, p1; repeat to PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k6, inc, k1.
Row 8: k1, inc, k7 (10 sts, ends increase for left-hand shell), PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, *k1, p1, k1, p5; repeat to PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k7, k2 tog, k1 (9 sts, begins decrease for right-hand shell).
Row 9: k1, k2 tog, k6, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, p4, *k1, p1, k1, p5; end (k1, p1) twice, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k7, k2 tog, k1 (9 sts, begins decrease for the left-hand shell).
Ro 10: k1, k2 tog, k6, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k1, *p1, k1, p1, k5; end p1, k1, p1, k4, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k5, k2 tog, k1.
Row 11, k1, k2 tog, k4, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k3, *p1, k1, p1, k5; end p1, k1, p1, k2, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k5, k2 tog, k1.
Row 12: k1, k2 tog, k4, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, p2, *k1, p1, k1, p5; end k1, p1, k1, p3, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k3, k2 tog, k1.
Row 13: k1, k2 tog, k2, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, p2, *k1, p1, k1, p5; end k1, p1, k1, p3, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k3, k2 tog, k1.
Row 14: k1, k2 tog, k2, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k3, *p1, k1, p1, k5; end p1, k1, p1, k2, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k1, k2 tog, k1.
Row 15: k1, k2 tog (ends decrease for right-hand shell), PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k1, *p1, k1, p1, k5; end p1, k1, p1, k4, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k1, k2 tog, k1.
Row 16: k1, k2 tog, (2 sts, ends decrease for left-hand shell), PM, p4, *k1, p1, k1, p5; end (k1, p1) twice, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, inc, k1 (3 sts, begins increase for next right-hand shell).

Repeat Rows 1-16 to desired length. On final Row 16, knit the last 11 stitches. Bind off.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. crystal
    Mar 13, 2011 @ 10:51:58

    Very nice post, Donna. This looks like a neat pattern,

    Reply

  2. Donna W. Hill
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 12:34:28

    Thanks, Crystal.

    Reply

  3. tracey
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 07:59:37

    I don’t understand row 16. Why is there only 3 pm when you have been working with 4 the whole time?

    Reply

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