Written by Mark Francis
There are scarves and then there are iconic scarves. As a life long fan of a certain Time Lord, I have always coveted Tom Bakers famous neck wear since I was a kid. When I was a boy I nagged and nagged my Mum to knit me one, which she duly did. It wasn’t ‘screen accurate’ in any way but I didn’t care as I loved it. I still have it to this day. What made it extra special was that she made it using her wool stash from the 1970’s when she regularly used to knit for my brother and sister.
Recently though, I was fortunate enough for a friend to teach me to crochet. Yes I know, I can hear the dyed in the wool Doctor Who fans say ‘The original wasn’t crocheted’, but I didn’t care. A scarf seems a good place to start with crochet. It’s a simple shape and good to practice your technique. But it’s so easy to drop stitches and you then end up with a wibbly wobbly scarf, which is exactly what happened to my first attempt.
In the gap between filming and broadcast of The Great British Sewing Bee, I plucked up the courage to start the beast that is the Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf from 1980. This one isn’t the more famous multi coloured scarf first seen in 1974, designed by James Acheson and knitted by a lady called Begonia Pope. It may surprise you to know that the scarf wasn’t ever supposed to be at long as it was, Begonia Pope was only told to knit up all the wool which she duly did. The scarf ended up at the enormous length that we all came to love and which has become so memorable.
In 1980 Tom Bakers costume was completely updated and a new scarf was designed by June Hudson and knitted up using Lyon Suede Chenille wool in colours of red, plum and rust. The Chenille would be nice and light and the updated colours would coordinate with the new costume. It’s a beautiful colour and was a garment I have always loved.
The chenille wool is very difficult to find in the same colour way, plus I didn’t fancy working with Chenille as a new crocheter. Instead I found similar colours in the chunky monkey range and made from Acrylic which wont irritate my skin. I had no idea how to calculate how much wool I would need, so I plucked a guess out the air ahead bought 5 balls of each colour. I would later realise I’d need a little more, luckily I was able to get the same dye lots over a year later.
Just before the final episode of The Great British Sewing Bee went out, we were asked to provide an update as to what we’ve been up to and a nice picture. I decided to mention my crocheting and sent in a suitable picture. They where surprised how much I had done, which was lovely, but I knew it was just a fraction of the finished project. Over a year passed before I signed off on the scarf and finished the final tassel. It was a relief to finally have it finished and I knew how thrilling it was going to be to be able to put the finished garment around my neck for the first time.
The scarf has some lovely details. There is a single row boarder of rust wool added to the edge of the scarf which really finishes it off and smartened up the edges. Any slightly wobbly edges suddenly vanished, so thank you June Hudson for designing such a fab detail. Adding the tassels is always a fun part of finishing off and having just three colours to work with really makes them stand out. The finished scarf is around 18 feet long. Perfect! This does mean that I have to wrap it around my neck three times to avoid it dragging on the ground.
But is doesn’t end there. I still have a little wool left over and want to use it for something, so I have plans to make a mini version of the scarf to the same design. I’ll have to keep you posted on this as I have a bit of crochet fatigue right now, as well as lots of new sewing patterns to bring you!
Mark Francis is a dressmaker and designer. Since being a contestant on series 6 of the Great British Sewing Bee series 6 he works as a Guest Designer on Sewing Street, creates high quality cosplay commissions and is an ambassador for Vlieseline, Juki and Native lighting.
Mark has joined us at The Knitting & Stitching Shows as a workshop tutor and will also be teaching at workshops at our sister show, The Stitch Festival.