You can purchase this pattern as a PDF download through its Ravelry page or via this link: buy now.

This reversible scarf takes its name from a traditional English and American folk song called “The Water Is Wide”:
Oh, the water is wide, I can’t cross over
And neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I.

One side shows columns of cabled stockinette waves flowing down the length of the scarf, like currents in a river, and the knit columns of the ribbed surface on the other side are decorated with V-shaped quilted strands, like gulls’ wings, or, if you prefer, twin oars dipping into the water. Knitted-in i-cord selvages give clean side edges, and the cables and slipped stitches help break up pooling in variegated yarns.

The pattern includes three different reversible scarf patterns, all variations on the same theme. The “Wings to Fly” variation shows quilted “gull’s wings” rib on both sides, and the “Sailing the Sea” variation shows cabled waves on a faux-stockinette background on both sides. The pattern also includes a tutorial, with pictures, for the special quilting stitch required for the main pattern and the “Wings to Fly” variation.

Length: 60 inches, pre-blocking; 66 inches, post-blocking
Width: 3.75 inches, pre-blocking; 4 inches, post-blocking

Main scarf shown in Malabrigo Silky Merino [50% silk, 50% merino wool; 150 yd/137 m per 50 g skein]; color: Indiecita; 2 skeins

1 set US #7/4.5 mm straight needles (or circular needle; scarf is worked back and forth)
Cable needle or DPN
Tapestry needle

Approximately 20 sts/24 rows = 4″ in stockinette stitch knit flat, after blocking. (For best results, swatch in pattern and adjust needle size until the scarf is the width you would like.)

Wings to Fly variation shown in: Noro Kureyon [100% wool; 110 yd/101 m per
50 g skein]; colors: 166 and 182; 1 skein each, and Plymouth Boku [95% wool, 5% silk; 99 yd/91 m per 50 g skein]; color: 1; 1 skein. I completely used up all 3 skeins of yarn for this variation, and it
measures 71 inches (180 cm) long by 5 inches (12.7 cm) wide.

Sailing the Sea variation shown in: Malabrigo Merino Worsted [100% merino wool; 216 yd/198 m per 100 g skein]; color: Jewel Blue; 2 skeins. The keyhole scarf variation shown used approximately 1.5 skeins (150 g, or a total of 325 yd/297 m) and measures approximately 51 inches (129.5 cm) long and 4.5 inches (11.5 cm) wide. Knit plain, without the keyhole, 2 entire skeins of Malabrigo will yield a scarf approximately 72 inches (183 cm) long by 4.5 inches (11.5 cm) wide.


Twist Yarns (I got my Malabrigo Silky Merino here; they also have Malabrigo worsted)

WEBS (I got my Plymouth Boku here; they also have Noro Kureyon and Malabrigo worsted)

Sandra Singh (I got my Malabrigo worsted here; if you’re a new customer and you type my full name, Huan-Hua Chye, into the comments box at checkout, you’ll get $5 off a purchase of $25.)

The full lyrics can be found here. The first verse sounds all lovey and cooperative, but things go swiftly downhill from there, with lots of lamenting about how love grows old and waxes cold. It’s not a very happy song, as you might guess from one of its other names, “O Waly Waly.”

It’s related to Child Ballad 204, “Jamie Douglas,” and to a song called “Carrickfergus,” brought to my attention by Ravelry user Murdo.

While it has been recorded by such folk luminaries as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Joan Baez, and any number of classical vocalists, I personally learned it about 10 years ago when I saw it performed by Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, and the Indigo Girls at the Lilith Fair. You can hear their version here. I feel faintly embarrassed revealing this; I wish I could say I had I learned it from a scratchy old Dylan or Baez LP from my dad’s collection, or from an elderly woman with a quavering voice in a pub on the wild, rainy English moor, but sadly, that is not the case. I heard it for the first time in 1997, on a sunny afternoon in the nosebleed lawn seats of the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California… a very late-90s, commercial girl-power place to be, and they sold the CD sets at Starbucks afterwards. This really is a lovely version of the song, though, full of gorgeous harmonies.

Main scarf
This is the variation knit in Malabrigo Silky Merino in Indiecita, with cables on one side, quilting on the other.

These photos were taken on the picturesque Bloomington campus of Indiana University–the models are statues of Adam and Eve, and I thought they fit well with the theme of the song, with the scarf spanning the distance between them.

You can’t see it very well, but these next two were taken on a bridge just behind a very picturesque little chapel and cemetery behind the student union.

This last set was taken on the banks of a creek running through Dunn Meadow.

Wings to Fly

This is the variation with quilting on both sides, knit in Noro Kureyon and Plymouth Boku. The blue and purple end of the scarf was knit from two ends of the same skein of Boku, in alternating two-row stripes; the yellow end of the scarf was knit from two different skeins of Noro Kureyon. I loved seeing how the colors interacted with each other as I went along–blue and orange, yellow and gray, dark and bright blue–wild, bright, rainbow combinations.

Sailing the Sea
This is the variation with cables on both sides, knit from a skein and a half of Malabrigo Merino Worsted in Jewel Blue. This version was knit with a “keyhole” to secure the scarf; instructions for this are provided in the pattern, along with the instructions for knitting a normal scarf.

A detail of the keyhole:

All my photos came out kind of unflattering and blurry, but I wanted to make sure to show a few modeled pictures of the keyhole scarf:

I’ve folded the scarf up here, so you can see that the two sides are the same:

All photos and text copyright Huan-Hua Chye, April 2008.