When my best friend asked me to crochet a scarf for her, I found myself asking, how long and wide are scarves supposed to be? To find the answer, I did some research about the different factors that determine the length and width of a scarf.
On average, scarves are usually 6 to 8 inches wide, and anywhere from 3 to 10 feet long. This is a wide range, and more exact measurements are based on the style of the scarf, and on the size of the person.
How Wide Should a Scarf Be?
Although scarves are often 6 to 8 inches wide, the width can fall outside this range.
Men’s scarves are usually 6 inches wide.
Women’s scarves can be anywhere from 5 to 10 inches. Dress scarves are usually narrower, but scarves that can also be used as shawlettes may be as wide as 10 inches, or more.
Skinny scarves that are about 3 to 5 inches wide can be worn in warmer weather, often as a fashion accessory.
For colder weather, you’ll want to crochet a wider and possibly bulkier scarf for extra warmth.
Some other ways to determine the width of your scarf:
- Go by hand length (from wrist to fingertips.) This is about 6.5 inches for a woman and 7.5 inches for a man. You can use your hand, or your recipient’s hand to measure how wide to crochet.
- Another method is hand span. Spread your fingers out on one hand. Measure how far the tip of your pinky is to the tip of your thumb, cross the palm of your hand. That can be the width of your scarf.
Both of these methods fall into the average scarf length, but are a little more customized for the individual.
How Long Should a Scarf Be?
Generally, the length of a scarf will depend on the size of the person, their age, the style of the scarf, and how the scarf will be used.
As said before, scarves can be anywhere from 3 to 10 feet long.
A general rule of thumb is that a winter scarf should be as tall as the person. If the scarf is on the longer side, you’ll want to crochet it slightly wider than a scarf for a shorter person.
Another way to tailor your crocheted scarf to a person is to go by their “wingspan.” This is the length from their left fingertip to their right fingertip when they hold their arms out wide.
On average, this is about 60 inches.
It’ll be slightly shorter for many women, and slightly longer for many men.
This general guideline can further be adjusted based on a number of other factors.
Factors That Affect Scarf Size
Style and Use
How the scarf will be worn can give you a better idea of exactly how long to crochet the scarf.
People have a variety of preferences when it comes to how they wear the scarf, and where they’d like the scarf ends to hang down to.
On one end of the spectrum, you have people who like a very long scarf that wraps around their neck multiple times, but is still long enough to hang down to their knees. Doctor Who scarves come to mind. These will be on the longer end, and can average around 70 inches and longer.
Other people prefer a shorter scarf that they may not be long enough to wrap around the neck. There are many ways to wear a short scarf.
They can be wrapped around the back of the neck, with the ends freely hanging down. A popular way to wear neck warmer scarves is to drape the scarf around the back of their neck, and cross one end over the other, possibly keeping it in place with a pin.
Scarves like these can range from as short as 18 inches to as long as 50 inches.
Then there are medium length scarves, which people may only wrap once around their neck. They may prefer that the scarf ends reach down to their waist, or possibly be so short as to only reach their chest.
Medium scarves are often between 50 and 70 inches long.
You’ll want the scarf to be able to wrap around the person’s neck at least once, unless the recipient requested otherwise. This gives them numerous styling and tying options.
If the scarf will be worn using a knot, the longer you make the scarf, the lower the knot can be worn.
If you’re making the scarf as a gift, you can ask the recipient if they prefer a longer or shorter scarf. You can also ask them how they intend to wear it.
Generally, the longer the scarf, the wider it should be. You don’t want a very short, but wide scarf, because that won’t be as comfortable or as easy to tie.
Usually, the taller a person, the wider you should crochet their scarf.
Sizing Scarves for Kids
Scarves for children are generally 30 to 45 inches long.
Scarves are not recommended for children under 4 unless they’re supervised. For children this young, you can make them a stretchy cowl that’s shorter, but small children should be supervised when wearing scarves.
For children older than 4, consider when the scarf will be used.
Longer scarves may be dangerous when the child is at the playground, or riding a bike. They can also pose a tripping hazard, or get tangled up in branches.
It may be safer to aim for a shorter scarf, or make sure the scarf ends are always tucked securely in other clothing.
Since children have smaller necks, scarves for them can generally be skinnier, ranging from 3 to 5.5 inches wide.
Bulky scarves can get heavy quickly. The longer a bulky scarf is, the heavier they become. Keep this in mind when crocheting a bulky scarf for a small child.
Here is a handy reference chart you can use to quickly get an idea of scarf lengths, based on the person’s age and preferred type of scarf.
Stitch Pattern Can Affect Scarf Size
The pattern you use can affect scarf size in a number of ways.
If you’re making a lacy scarf, you may need to make it wider in order for it to be as warm as a more solid scarf.
Lacy scarves just don’t sit as high on the shoulders and neck, and the holes in the fabric may let the chill through.
On the other hand, a puffier or denser stitch may work well for a skinny winter scarf because the dense fabric should trap more heat.
To a certain degree, the width of your scarf can be dictated by the stitch pattern you use.
For example, if you choose to use a stitch pattern that calls for a repeat of 5 stitches to create it’s look, then the starting row of your scarf will need to be made out of foundation stitches in a multiple of 5.
This may limit your choice of width to increments of those stitches.
So if you wanted your scarf to be exactly 6 inches wide, it may not be exactly 6 inches because of the pattern you must follow. It may end up being slightly over, or slightly under 6 inches.
There’s No Right or Wrong Answer
Remember, these are all just rules of thumb. Your scarf doesn’t have to adhere to these rules.
This means you can express your creativity when you crochet a scarf. You can adjust the width and length to as long or as short as you want.
Other Considerations When Crocheting A Scarf
Choosing the Right Yarn
Think of who will be using your scarf, and their lifestyle. Some scarves are easier to wash than others. A fine lace wool scarf may need to be lovingly hand washed and laid flat to dry. But an acrylic scarf can survive a beating in the machine.
Is your scarf recipient likely to hand wash their scarf? Or do you think they’d prefer to toss it in the washing machine?
Does the scarf need to be exquisitely warm but also washable? You may opt for superwash wool, which can survive machine washing without felting.
Is your recipient allergic to animal fibers? Better stick with man-made materials.
Making a textured scarf? Some yarns show texture better than others. If you’re making a scarf with a cute bobble stitch, the bobbles may “pop” more dramatically with a stiffer yarn than a drapier, softer yarn.
If you’re on a budget but looking to make a very long scarf for a tall person, keep in mind that a big scarf like that can take as much yarn as several other smaller scarves. So, if you use premium yarn, the cost of materials can add up pretty quickly.
Multi-colored yarn can create a beautiful effect depending on how you work it up. Planned pooling is technique that uses variegated yarn to create a very pleasing effect.
How Much Yarn Will You Need?
Once you’ve decided on the length and width of the scarf you’ll make, you can use a postal or kitchen scale to determine how much yarn you’ll need by creating a swatch in the stitch pattern and yarn you plan to use.
Find out the area of the swatch (length x width) then weigh the swatch.
This weight can be in ounces or grams. Whatever is easier. I usually pick the unit that matches the unit used on the yarn label, for convenience.
Calculate the area of the final size of the scarf (length and width you decided on). This will be the area of the final scarf.
Then divide the area of the final scarf by the area of the swatch.
This will basically give you a general idea of how many of those swatches you’d need to make in order to end up with a scarf as big as your desired size.
You then want to multiply this number by the weight of the swatch.
This will be your approximation of the total weight of yarn you’ll need to finish this scarf. From there, you can figure out how many skeins of yarn you’ll need to buy.
This is just an approximation, so if you don’t think you’ll be able to get that yarn in the exact color in the future, I’d recommend rounding up and buying 1 extra skein.
That way, you can avoid the pain of having to track down a specific yarn in a specific dye lot in case the store stops carrying it.