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February 07, 2007

Learning to Wear a Scarf

I was twenty years old the first time I wore a scarf. It was January 2000, the beginning of my semester abroad at Cambridge University, and my dad and stepmother had given me a scarf to keep me warm. Thinking back on it, it seems strange how worried they were about me freezing to death in England. After all, they had lived in Boston since I was seven, and Boston in the winter is certainly colder than England, but they never seemed to think I needed a scarf when I visited them. Perhaps they didn't realize that England, while it is certainly colder than Los Angeles, my main frame of reference, just doesn't get that cold because it is surrounded by water. In fact, it only snowed once that whole winter, and then only a light dusting that melted pretty quickly.

Nonetheless, I was glad to have that small black scarf when I was there. I wrapped it around my neck and tucked it into my wool pea coat to cover the spot on my chest that the coat left exposed. When I moved to Michigan a year and a half later, I brought that same scarf. David quickly realized that such a small scarf was totally inadequate for the Midwest and, afraid that I would get too cold and flee back to California, he gave me a much larger, warmer, and more colorful scarf from J. Crew. That scarf was big enough to wear in all kinds of interesting ways: if my neck was really cold, I could wrap it around about four times; for wearing under a coat, I could double it and pass the end through the loop (my friend Tamara referred to this as the "prep school" way to wear a scarf); I could also wrap it around twice and let the ends hang long.

Over the next few years, my mom took up knitting again, I went back to London a few times and got a pashmina (a fake one of course, purchased for 3 pounds on Oxford street), and now I have more scarves than I know what to do with. I have also learned more creative ways of wearing them. The pashmina can wrap around me like a shawl, or I can use it outside of my coat to close the gap between the coat and my hat. In the past few days of sub-zero weather, I have become very attached to a purple wool scarf that my mom made. It is about ten feet long (and I'm just over five feet tall), so it wraps around and around. This week I have been wrapping it from the base of my neck all the way up to my nose, covering my ears in the process. Wearing my scarf over my nose and mouth does make it a bit hard to breathe, and my breath condenses inside the scarf. The nice thing about wool, however, is that it is still warm when wet, so the condensation doesn't really bother me.

In fact, I'm starting to regard wool as a wonder fiber. For the past two days I wore wool pants, but wearing the same pants three days in a row felt a bit excessive, so today I'm back to my polyester trousers from H&M and I can feel the difference. Whoever first decided to shear a sheep and make clothes was just brilliant. It would be even better, however, if humans could just learn to grow their own fleece in the winter. Although then we wouldn't have any need to knit...

Posted by eklanche at February 7, 2007 07:29 AM


One thing I love about wool is the peaceful relationship we can have with sheep - shearing them doesn't hurt them, and they blithely grow more fleece, while their wool keeps us warm and safe. And when we're done with it, it biodegrades and feeds the soil.

Posted by: esik at February 7, 2007 09:39 AM

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