Knitting For Family: The Red Scarf Project

Connections: A Red Scarf

The Red Scarf Project, endorsed by Interweave, Lily Chin, and The National NeedleArts Association, was started in 2005 by the Orphan Foundation of America as a way of showing community support and encouragement to college-bound teens in foster care. This year, I was asked if I would design a Red Scarf pattern for Interweave to sponsor during the 2007 campaign, and of course, I said yes.

Designing a scarf, a scarf that hasn't been Done Before, especially a scarf for the Red Scarf Project, wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. It had to be narrow, long, look good on both sides, be wearable by both men and women, not too complicated to knit, and, oh yes: be red.

So, how does one go about designing something with such strict parameters?

As I always do when I am designing things, I started with a story idea. I know that sounds a bit odd, but I am a storyteller, and I tell stories with stitches as well as with words. Knitters have a rich tradition of telling stories through stitches–look at the wonderfully evocative names we give to cable and lace patterns: Hollow Oak, Wings of the Swan, Homes of Donegal, Dragon Skin. The language of textiles has become a metaphor for storytelling: a well-told tale is even called "a yarn."

I thought of those foster teens who will be wearing all the scarves we knit for them. I thought of how, someday, one of those teens might be my kids' teacher, or perhaps even marry into my family. Those teens are not really orphans: in a very real way, they are my future family.

Cabled version

Easier Twisted Rib version

Hence my cabled scarf, called Connections, where the stitches and patterns weave in and out, at times touching, and at times moving apart. Families are like that: we move in and out of each other's lives, but we stay connected, and our shared connections form a larger, stronger, whole.

Note that if you don't want to do cables, there's also a version that is cable-free–simply work the columns of twisted ribs the entire length of the scarf. However: The cables here are not hard, and if you have never tried cables, or think they are too difficult, then this scarf is a good place to start. How do I know that these cables aren't too hard? Because this is my first cable-knitting project. Ever. (Really.)

I figured that anything worth doing, is worth doing for family.

For more information about how to donate your scarf, and the foster kids who will receive the scarves, visit

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? I am working out customizations for the Husband Sweater so I will be ready to cast on when the yarn arrives. What is the Husband Sweater? It's my nickname for the pullover my husband requested I make him for Christmas.

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