For many of us the passing of Halloween, followed by the election marks the iminent arrival of the holidays. And most of us who enjoy handcrafts also enjoy producing gifts with our own two hands. All too often, however, that means making mind-numbingly boring projects over and over again, or embarking on a series of projects that are entirely too amibitious for the time available in which to make them.

Chances are some of your handmade gifts will be scarves, but how to escape the boring without making something too complicated or garish? Invest in a stitch dictionary. A scarf is nothing more than a long rectangle. So find a stitch you like that goes well with the yarn you have in mind, and make a REALLY long swatch of it with a garter or seed stitch border around the edges.

In selecting a stitch, decide whether you want it to be reversible. If the instructions say purl every other row, chances are it is not reversible. I'd also suggest not using a cable pattern: they're bulky for a scarf and look odd on the back because of how the cables twist the fabric. Lace patterns can be a good idea, especially the more open ones, because the holes distract the eye from the differences between sides.

When the scarf is done, it might need a little something more. One of my favorite ideas, especially for women's scarves, is to fringe the scarf in contrasting yarn. For a really chic look, use a chenille, ribbon, or other smooth novelty yarn in the same color as the scarf for the fringe. For a less formal look, choose a plain yarn in a contrasting color for the fringe. Black works pretty well for most colors. In either case, the fringe continues the fluid look of the scarf while the contrast of texture or color frames and sets of the pattern stitch or texture of the rest of the scarf.