Let’s Get It Straight: A Guide to Round Scarves

Definitions, descriptions and details of different round scarf crochet patterns

Round scarves: What’s in a name?

Round scarves are the “must have” accessory this season.  Wide and chunky, slim and smooth you see them on TV, in magazines, at the market, and on college campuses — everyone is wearing them.  You set out to find the perfect crochet (or knit) pattern.  But with names like infinity, tube, Möbius, eternity, circular and snood you’re not sure if you’re looking at scarf patterns, mathematical equations or an ad for perfume!

To help set things straight here’s a look at some of the different terms you’re likely to come across when searching for the ultimate round scarf pattern.

Definitions, descriptions & details — a closer look

Infinity Graphic - crochet pattern for Celsia Infinity ScarfCelsia Infinity Scarf via Craftsy member hoppingStill

Infinity is an abstract concept describing endlessness or having no limits in terms of time and space. It is commonly used in math and physics, by Buzz Lightyear (“to infinity – and beyond!”), and to describe any neckware that is round or circular. That’s it! Infinity = Round.  Whether it’s made flat and the ends are joined later or worked in the round, any finished object that is a continuous loop fits the infinity definition.

One of the most frequently searched crochet patterns is the infinity scarf.  Being easy to wear and extremely versatile makes it tremendously popular. There is no standard length or width.  Yarn choices, combined with size options make it perfect for keeping the winter winds at bay or adding a pop or color to your outfit.

Mobius definition Graphic - Sunset Mobius crochet patternSunset Möbius via Craftsy member knotsewcute

The Möbius strip (band or loop) is a mathematical principal that was discovered near simultaneously by German scholars August Ferdinand Möbius and Johann Benedict Listing in 1858. Möbius lucked out and the non-orientable, continuous, one-sided surface was given his name. The loop is considered to be one-sided because if you draw a line through the center of the strip without lifting the pencil off the paper, you end up back at the starting point but on the “opposite” side of the paper. Logically, this is only possible if the surface has only one side.  Cool isn’t it?

In crochet (and knitting) a Möbius pattern is worked flat then one end is twisted and attached to the other end. I’m not sure if the first person who added a twist to their circular scarf realized there was a name for it, but along the way someone did and today the Möbius design is prevalent in neckware patterns. The length of the garment determines if it is a scarf (long) or cowl (short). A wider Möbius may be considered a shawl. Of course once the strip is joined into a twisted loop it also fits the definition of infinity!

Cowl definition Graphic - Chicago Cowl crochet pattern Chicago Cowl via Craftsy member Danyel Pimk Designs

Those of us of a certain age remember when cowl neck sweaters were at the height of popularity! Those large, floppy turtlenecks are the descendants the long hooded robes worn by Benedictine monks. Originally the cowl was worn to give greater warmth to the men who spent long hours in unheated churches.  Cowl is from the Latin cuculla meaning “a hood”.  It’s easy to see how it evolved.

Today we think of the cowl as the “neck only” part of the once popular sweater. It is a loop, ring or circle of  fabric crocheted (or knit) in various widths. Sometimes it is worn in a single loop, or a longer scarf can be wrapped two or three times around the neck for a full, heavy cowl. It can be worked in the round or flat with the ends joined (with or without a twist!). Sometimes buttons are used to bring the ends together. Infinity and Möbius are often used to further describe cowl patterns. Just as they were for the monks, cowls remain a convenient way to keep warm, but that is where the similarities stop.  With today’s beautiful yarns and the ever growing selection of patterns our cowls add style and flair to any outfit!

Snood definition Graphic - Bear Snood crochet pattern Bear Snood via Craftsy member Thomasina Cummings Design

Snood (it rhymes with food) is a  funny word for a tubular / round scarf that is worn about the neck and pulled up over the head when extra warmth is needed.  It is more similar to an extra wide cowl than a scarf.  Again, because of it’s shape it fits the definition for infinity which may (along with circular, round or eternity) appear in the pattern title.

I’m not sure exactly how the traditional meaning of snood found it’s way to the garment we know today. Perhaps a connection can be made. The snood has a number of meanings that directly (and indirectly) relate to the head. There is the hair net snood, the neck/head warmer snood, the turkey snood (a fleshy nodule on it’s beak) and the video game Snood – a puzzle game which is probably more fun when you use your head!

No matter the name evolved it is a fun and fashionable addition to the round neckware collection. A snood can be crocheted (or knit) for anyone, and it’s size makes it great for trying new techniques and stitch patterns.

What does it all mean?

While there are definitions for the words that we use to name the neckware accessories, there are no rules dictating exactly what they must look like.  That leaves it open to the creative interpretation of the designer. The name that they choose is as unique as the pattern itself.

Remember – all round scarves are infinity scarves and any round item can have infinity in it’s name (ie: infinity cowl, infinity snood etc.). The words: infinity, eternity, endless, tube (tubular), circle (circular) and loop all refer to an item that is round and may be used interchangeably.

You are likely to encounter variations of these names in your search. Use these definitions and descriptions as guidelines to help you find the perfect crochet (or knit) pattern, and join the round scarf movement!

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