The BBC Creates Step-by-Step Instructions for Knitting the Iconic Dr. Who Scarf: A Document from the Early 1980s


When Jon Per­twee rein­car­nat­ed into Tom Bak­er in 1974, the Fourth Doc­tor of pop­u­lar sci-fi show Doc­tor Who ditched the fop­pish look of vel­vet jack­ets and frilly shirts, and went for the “Roman­tic adven­tur­er” style, with flop­py felt hat, long over­coats and, most icon­i­cal­ly, his mul­ti­col­ored scarf.

Fan leg­end has it that cos­tume design­er James Ache­son picked up a load of mul­ti-col­or wool and asked knit­ter Bego­nia Pope to cre­ate a scarf, and Pope, per­haps mis­hear­ing, used *all* the wool, result­ing in a scarf that ran 12 feet long. The mis­take was per­fect, and sud­den­ly many UK grand­moth­ers were being asked by their grand­chil­dren to recre­ate their hero’s look.

The above memo isn’t dat­ed, but comes from some­time in the ear­ly ‘80s when the BBC sent detailed instruc­tions to a fan’s moth­er on mak­ing the scarf. (Click here, then click again, to view the doc­u­ment in a larg­er for­mat.) The col­ors include camel, rust, bronze, mus­tard, grey, green and pur­ple and should be knit­ted with size four nee­dles (that’s #9 US size). The requests must have come reg­u­lar­ly, because a sim­i­lar memo is reprint­ed from many years lat­er to anoth­er fan’s fam­i­ly.

The orig­i­nal scarf only last­ed a few episodes, then was altered, replaced, and sub­tly changed as the show went on. There were stunt scarves for stand-ins.

Come Sea­son 18, cos­tume design­er June Hud­son rethought the entire cos­tume and stream­lined the col­ors to three: rust, wine, and pur­ple, to match the Doctor’s more swash­buck­ling look. It also became the longest scarf of the series, some 20 feet.

The fol­low­ing year, the Doc­tor rein­car­nat­ed again into a crick­et-jumper and striped trouser-wear­ing young blonde man. The Scarf Years were over.

For a very in-depth look at the scarves, includ­ing Pan­tone col­or ref­er­ences and wool brands, there is noth­ing bet­ter than So, get knit­ting, Who-vians!

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Meet Delia Der­byshire, the Dr. Who Com­pos­er Who Almost Turned The Bea­t­les’ “Yes­ter­day” Into Ear­ly Elec­tron­i­ca

See Pen­guins Wear­ing Tiny “Pen­guin Books” Sweaters, Knit­ted by the Old­est Man in Aus­tralia

Play The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Video Game Free Online, Designed by Dou­glas Adams in 1984

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (36)
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  • Josie Beaudoin says:

    It would nev­er occur to me that the Doc­tor’s scarf would need to be in ANY way spe­cif­ic. You take a bunch of earth-tone yarn of dif­fer­ent col­ors, and knit or cro­chet (whichev­er is your forte, you get rough­ly the same result) a scarf, alter­nat­ing the col­ors at ran­dom times until it’s uber-long. Add fringe. I think any exact repli­ca of the one the Doc­tor had would be… kind of an abom­i­na­tion. And I betcha the Doc­tor would agree. An exact repli­ca is gross. Unimag­i­na­tive. Base. Crass. Dull, even. And the 4th Doc­tor would nev­er approve. Make your own, rough­ly like it, sure, but an exact repli­ca? Why on Gal­lifrey would any­one ever want such a super­cil­ious­ly sil­ly thing? Hon­est­ly. No, I’m real­ly seri­ous. Why would you even? That’s dumb. Don’t be the dumb fan. You’re cool­er than that.

  • Regen­er­at­ed, not rein­car­nat­ed!

  • Bill Rudloff says:

    Con­trary to your view, Joise, a great many fans strive for accu­ra­cy. Those BBC plans and its vari­ants over the years are plagued with inac­cu­ra­cies to the scarves used on the show. The place with the most accu­rate infor­ma­tion com­pared to the orig­i­nal is along with the Face­book group Stitch­es in Time.

  • Iris JaKay says:

    What, you mean that peo­ple don’t watch the same episode on VHS tape, paus­ing it and then doing an approx­i­mate count?

    Says the per­son who did JUST THAT in 1983.

  • Sandi C says:

    “Mrs. Nostradamus…a wit­ty lit­tle knit­ter.” — Tom Bak­er, Androids of Tara

  • Emma says:

    You’ve got a lot of brass to make those kinds of assump­tions about peo­ple you don’t even know.

    So what if it nev­er ‘occurred’ to YOU? That does­n’t make it ‘dumb’ ‘Crass’ or ‘gross.‘However I do find your choice of words to describe your thoughts to be quite…oh what are the words I’m look­ing for?? Oh I know! Ele­men­tary and juve­nile.
    And quite inac­cu­rate, to say the least.
    Did you real­ly bean “base” or did you intend to use the word “Blase?” Either way, still inac­cu­rate.

    Now, to me it does­n’t sound like the ones who accom­plish such the amaz­ing feat of get­ting a screen accu­rate 4th Doc­tor scarf off the nee­dles are the ‘dumb’ ones.

    Words I would chose to use to describe Who fans who fin­ish knit­ting or cro­chet­ing (‘…rough­ly the same result?’ Do you even knit or cro­chet?) a Who scarf are:
    Tal­ent­ed, deter­mined, tena­cious, accom­plished as well as IMAGINATIVE!

    Do you know how hard it is to find the cor­rect col­ors for the screen accu­rate scarf? We have to be very imag­i­na­tive in where we look, which can be any­where from garage sales to Ama­zon to dis­count ware­house whole­sale web­sites. And if we can’t find yarn all by the same man­u­fac­tur­er, we have to research (a lot of times by tri­al and error) which brands work with each oth­er.

    Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but to a true #4 fan, it’s worth it. Some­thing you obvi­ous­ly don’t under­stand.

    Some of those Who fans learn to knit just so they can knit a who scarf. I admire peo­ple who do that, as a mat­ter of fact.

    And what’s with that “You’re cool­er than that” state­ment? Is that sup­posed to be a back­hand­ed com­ple­ment?

    To me, the ‘dumb’ ones would be the peo­ple (espe­cial­ly oth­er Who fans)that crit­i­cize WHO fans for ANY rea­son at all.

    And there are ALL KINDS of vari­ants, col­or com­bi­na­tions, and tex­tures that have been used.
    There are even Har­ry Pot­ter house col­or vari­ants!
    Still think we’re UN-imag­i­na­tive?

    Like I said, You’ve got a lot of brass to make those assump­tions about peo­ple you don’t even know, and about some­thing you’ve nev­er accom­plished nor prob­a­bly will ever accom­plish in your life­time.

    How about this? ‘Take a bunch of earth-tone yarn of dif­fer­ent col­ors’ and stick it in your ‘forte’ ‘alter­nat­ing the col­ors at ran­dom times’ until it’s ‘uber’ clear to you that you don’t know what the Hell you’re talk­ing about.

  • Cherryl Walker says:

    In 1982, a New Orleans pub­lic TV sta­tion began show­ing Tom Bak­er’s “Doc­tor Who”. As New Orleans is a city not­ed for its Mar­di Gras and peo­ple cos­tum­ing “with wild aban­don”, fans of the show imme­di­ate­ly began to seek to repli­cate its most promi­nent cos­tum­ing fea­ture: THE Scarf.

    A local fan club pro­vid­ed copies of the BBC pat­tern. Numer­ous fans learned to knit in earnest, in order to have scarves ready for con­ven­tions that were only weeks away. It did not mat­ter if the pat­tern was screen accu­rate or not. The fans had their scarves, and wore their hand­i­work proud­ly.

  • Vampak says:

    I had the same scarf pat­tern, back in 1981. Copied it on a piece of paper. I start­ed my scarf in 1981, did 3 feet, gave it to my sis­ter-in-law, she did 4 feet, gave it back to me, and it sat in a bag for 32 years. That was 3 years ago, 2012, that I found my scarf and decid­ed to fin­ish it. Most of the yarn was bought at the time at stores that no longer exist. But I did find yarn, very close to the orig­i­nal. I start­ed on Thanks­giv­ing and fin­ished just before Xmas 2012. The scarf mea­sures: 22 feet, 3 inch­es long, this does not include 10 inch fringe on both ends. would I make anoth­er: NO!

  • Gillis says:

    Hey, guess what? I start­ed a scarf “in the style of” Dr Who and as I don’t knit I am using a loom to make it…
    I now have 6–7 feet done and will fin­ish it when I decide I like it enough to stop.
    BUT… I could start a new one using the col­ors of the Who scarf lat­er, just for fun. Nobody cares about the col­ors where I live (Cana­da), but I do.
    The first one will be my pat­tern, and while I wear it I will have plen­ty of time to make one clos­er to the orig­i­nal.
    Why? For the same rea­son peo­ple col­lect things of buy repli­ca gui­tars of their favorite gui­tarist…
    Just have fun…

  • Jill Krahling says:

    Cool wow , awe­some!

  • Mrs. Z says:

    Josie, you’re a bitch.

  • David G says:

    My wife got the pat­tern a cou­ple of years ago & made it for my Christ­mas present…said some yarns were hard­er to find…also said she would­n’t do it again for less than $300!

  • Betty says:

    I was asked a few years ago to knit a Doc­tor Who scarf for my daugh­ter’s friend. (She thought I could prob­a­bly do one cheap­er than buy­ing it online.) I Google searched until I came across the BBC pat­tern from a PBS sta­tion. Not tak­ing the time to real­ly think about what I was doing, I went out and bought ALL the yarn the pat­tern called for. For­tu­nate­ly all but one ball was bought at a sale price. I have since knit two scarves with the yarn the pat­tern calls for and still have enough left over for at least two more. it works up so easy except for the numer­ous col­or changes and all the ends that have to be woven in. They are 12 feet long includ­ing fringe and real­ly do look cool. I have two dif­fer­ent pat­terns using the same col­ors of yarn. I can under­stand avid Doc­tor Who fans want­i­ng a repli­ca scarf (just as I’m sure Har­ry Pot­ter fans have repli­ca scarves, too) and the added ben­e­fit of the long scarf is warmth for peo­ple who have harsh, cold win­ters. An inter­est­ing tid­bit I found in my search­ing was one per­son who went to a paint store with the Who col­ors, found match­ing paint chips, went to a craft store and matched the chips to Lion Brand Wool-Ease and made her scarf with that yarn. How­ev­er, through the years yarns have changed so that you could prob­a­bly use Red Heart or Van­na’s Choice (which will be con­sid­er­ably cheap­er) to make the scarf.

  • Roberta says:

    My son in Law would like me to knit him a Dr who scarf, are you able to tell me where I can get the pat­tern and the colours that I need?
    Regards Rober­ta

  • J Houston says:

    I got the instruc­tions from Louisiana pub­lic broad­cast­ing 34 years ago. That was the first time I quit smok­ing. Scarf is still in per­fect con­di­tion!

  • Daniel says:

    Hey Rober­ta!
    Look up wit­ty lit­tle knit­ter on google, or tara wheel­er. She used to have a site up that is now archived, where she had very well detailed, very faith­ful and easy to read pat­terns for all ver­sions of the scarf, with a sim­ple col­or guide and sources for her yarns. To add authen­tic­i­ty to it all, she includ­ed her encoun­ters with each scarf and how she got per­mis­sion to study them! Hope it helps!

  • Faith B. says:

    Hey Rober­ta,
    I found the pat­tern for mine at

  • cheesy says:

    This says “plain knit­ting.” Do they mean stock­inette stitch, or knit every row (garter stitch)? My eyes aren’t so good and I can’t tell what it is.

  • Janine says:

    I cro­cheted a scarf for my hus­band using the pat­tern on I swapped a cou­ple of sug­gest­ed colours for my own choic­es and was hap­py with all except the rust/red colour. I’ve since made 2 more through com­mis­sions. I loved mak­ing the scarf and for me the best part was fol­low­ing the ‘offi­cial’ pat­tern, which while not 100% accu­rate, is as close as you can get. I sus­pect I would not have the patience to knit one though, hav­ing read hor­ror sto­ries of ‘end­less garter stitch’!

  • Mark Farrell says:

    One has to won­der if the num­ber of rows of each col­or are not the mas­ter con­trol code for the TARDIS or his old school lock­er pad­lock. :p

    46 dig­its
    Our cur­rent UUID num­bers are 32 HEX dig­its (base 16 — 4 bits each)
    Gives you 0 ~ 15 with a sin­gle dig­it.
    E = 14
    Gives you 0 ~ 255 with two dig­its.
    10 = 16
    20 = 32
    FF = 255
    Gives you 0 ~ 65535 with 4 dig­its.
    1234 = 4,660
    F000 = 61,440
    FFFF = 65,535

    Giv­en Time Lord intel­lect, what if they used base 60 like they did in Baby­lon and much of the ancient world.
    (Except Baby­lo­ni­ans did­n’t have a “0”)

    Gives you 0 ~ 59 with a sin­gle dig­it.
    W = 58
    Gives you 0 ~ 3,599 with two dig­its.
    z4 = 2104
    XW = 3598
    Gives you 0 ~ 212,338 with three dig­its
    Gives you 0 ~ 12,740,338 with four dig­its
    and so on…

    Just for fun, I will sup­pose that the num­ber of rows is the “sig­nif­i­cand” and the col­or cod­ed base 60 num­ber is the “man­is­sa”.

    The first num­ber:
    8 Pur­ple would be:

    52 Camel would be:

    16 Bronze

    10 Mus­tard

    and so on.

    These could be encod­ed coor­di­nates to where the 9 copies of Gal­lifrey are hid­den.

    45 num­bers in 9 sets of 5
    Spa­cial X,Y,Z
    and two for time index
    the last is a con­fir­ma­tion code to enter into the TARDIS con­sole, like the 3 dig­it code on the back of your cred­it card.


  • Mark Farrell says:

    “SPATIAL” (sighs — grrrr)

  • Mark Farrell says:

    60 stitch­es * 822 rows = 49,320 repi­ti­tions.

  • Kelly L says:

    How much did you charge for the com­mis­sioned scarves please. I can­not decide what I should charge the peo­ple who want me to do them … They do take a good bit of time. Thank you in advance

  • Sallie G says:

    My son begged for a scarf for sev­er­al years (I had nev­er heard of Dr. Who) but I refused the project due to cost. A friend asked me to teach her to knit just to make a Dr. Who scarf for her much­ly loved hus­band. With that as inspi­ra­tion, I broke down (hav­ing final­ly obtained assess to Dr. Who broad­cast­ing & falling in love with the show) and man­aged to knit one for my son’s 40th birth­day. NOW, I’m about to knit anoth­er — L O N G E R — ver­sion as my son is 6′5″. (He’ll have to sur­ren­der the short­er one for me to wear, though) I can’t wait!

  • Teresa Jobes says:

    I’m in the process of knit­ting my own Dr. Who scarf. I’ve got­ten 3 feet (1 yard) done. I used Hob­by Lob­by “I love this yarn” as rec­om­mend­ed by one web­site. I changed a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent shades that I liked bet­ter and off I went. If I fin­ish this, I’m hop­ing for 10–14 feet as I am only 5′4″ tall, it will be my crown­ing craft achieve­ment! I usu­al­ly quit a project after I learn how to do it. It’s hap­pened with latch hook, cro­chet, knit­ting, macrame, plas­tic can­vas, cross stitch and embroi­dery, nev­er very good at that last one.Wish me luck and patience. I usu­al­ly fin­ish sewing projects. Fin­gers crossed.

  • Lisa says:

    I recent­ly made a shawl based on it. At 5’3, I can actu­al­ly wear it.


    The time trav­el­ers shawl by Eliz­a­beth Abate

  • Kriss says:

    I’m about to start a Doc­tor Who scarf for a co-work­er. I’m new to knit­ting and thought this would be sim­ple enough. Keep­ing my fin­gers crossed!

  • Nancy says:

    I think The Doc­tor said that in The Ark in Space? The OMPSS machine zapped it when The Doc­tor and Har­ry were under the table?

  • pablo Fumero says:

    I did my Tom Bak­er Scarf about 18 years ago. I learned only one stitch and it took me 4–5 m0nth to com­plete. I still have it.

  • Stacey Glynn says:

    Absolute­ly 100% agree and thank you! I read that first com­ment and couldn’t believe the igno­rant response! To each their own but mak­ing this scarf (exact­ly the way it was intend­ed) has brought back a flood of mem­o­ries for my fam­i­ly. Cheers!

  • Nytowl223 says:

    I made one, with a pat­tern grid that I could check off when I got done with that stripe, and then prompt­ly lost the pat­tern grid I had made. I even had the names of col­ors of the new­er yarn vari­eties list­ed on it. Ugh…

    Well, now I’m learn­ing Tunisian cro­chet, and dis­cov­ered the Knit Stitch (TNS, it’s usu­al­ly labeled — though there are at least a dozen oth­er names it goes by, too), so now I’m try­ing to work up the same kind of thing I had then, to keep track of all the widths and change. I’m excit­ed to try my hand at anoth­er Who scarf with this new (to me) cro­chet stitch, main­ly because it looks so much like knit­ting, you would have to look very close­ly at it to tell the dif­fer­ence!

    So, here I go… as soon as I find more Mustard/Goldenrod yarn, that is. 😄

  • Christine A Guinn says:

    One thing I can tell you is that the hand­writ­ten notes on the sheet say­ing to use Amer­i­can size #9 nee­dles is COMPLETELY WRONG! Use a US size #9 nee­dle with DK weight yarn, and you will end up with some­thing more resem­bling lace than a prop­er scarf. They’re just too large. I sus­pect that the when the orig­i­nal plans say “Size 4 knit­ting nee­dles”, they actu­al­ly mean 4mm, which would be a US #6.

  • m. jean says:

    Immi­ta­tion is the sin­cer­est form of flat­tery.
    Tom bak­er loved being recog­nised and cel­e­brat­ed as the doc­tor. More than like­ly, he’s prob­a­bly thrilled to see fans lov­ing his char­ac­ter so much, he’s above such pet­ty things such as “not want­i­ng to share “his scarf” with any­body else”.

  • Jane says:

    I know it’s years on. Start­ed my Dr Who scarf for a friend. I have enjoyed research­ing the scarf, the colours, the his­to­ry. I would call my scarf Dr Who ‘inspired’. If some­one want to be true to the orig­i­nal frankly it’s ok in my books. If some­one does not for want ever rea­son that’s ok. It’s all part of the fun and keep­ing the icon alive.
    The Cre­ative process is an indi­vid­ual thing. Some­times I fol­low a pat­tern and some­times I don’t. It depends on my resources at the time…JOSIE you com­ments are unnec­es­sar­i­ly rude and judg­men­tal. Judge­ment on my part is I hope you have learn’t to be more open mined about oth­ers process­es.

  • C says:

    While you are cor­rect that a 4mm nee­dle would be much more appro­pri­ate for DK weight yarn, it’s unlike­ly that they were using the met­ric sys­tem, as that was quite uncom­mon in the 80’s. It’s only been quite recent­ly that the met­ric sys­tem has been com­mon­ly used for nee­dles.

  • Karen says:

    Knit every row.

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