GREENWOOD, Rino (13810 Sutton Park Drive, NJacksonville, Florida, 32224, US)
|What is claimed:
1. A scarf, comprising:
a flat piece of fabric, and a substantially straight slit opening placed between a middle and a rear edge of the scarf, the slit being sized to admit a woman's head, a portion of the scarf between the middle and a front edge being sufficient in surface area to cover the woman's shoulders and at least a portion of the torso area between shoulders and breasts.
2. A scarf according to claim 1 wherein the slit is generally aligned with a longitudinal axis of the scarf.
3. A scarf according to claim 1 wherein the slit is generally parallel to a longitudinal axis of the scarf.
4. A scarf according to claim 1 wherein the scarf has an oval shape when laid flat.
5. A scarf according to claim 1, wherein the fabric comprises a semi-sheer fabric, the semi-sheer nature of the fabric allowing a mother to view a baby at her breast under the scarf, yet sufficiently obscuring the outline of the baby at the mother's breast such that people other than the mother cannot clearly view the baby at her breast
6. A scarf according to claim 5 wherein the scarf has a non- sheer pattern over at least the exterior surface, the pattern leaving sufficient semi-sheer fabric unobscured so that a mother can view a baby at her breast under the scarf through the unobscured semi-sheer fabric.
7. A method of using the scarf of claim 1, comprising placing the scarf over the head of a woman via the slit opening, rotating the scarf around the neck of the woman to alternately cover one or the other of her breasts with a larger portion of scarf fabric, and then nursing a baby on the breast so covered.
8. A method of using the scarf of claim 1, comprising placing the scarf over the head of a woman via the slit opening, and then configuring and wearing the scarf in one of a plurality of fashion configurations.
9. A method of using the scarf of claim 1, comprising placing the scarf around the neck of a woman without using the slit opening, and then configuring and wearing the scarf in one of a plurality of fashion configurations.
10. A scarf according to claim 1, wherein the portion of the scarf between the middle and front edge is sufficient to cover both breasts.
11. A scarf according to claim 1, wherein the portion of the scarf between the middle and front edge is sufficient to cover at least the head of a nursing baby if the woman is nursing a baby.
Related Applications/Priority Benefit Claim
 This application is a continuation-in-part of, and claims priority to, U.S.
provisional patent application 61/233,726 filed August 13, 2009, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference.
Field of the Inventive Subject Matter
 The subject matter of the present application is in the field of shoulder and upper back coverings used for fashion, such as scarves or shawls, and further in the field of coverings that give privacy to nursing mothers and their babies.
 Scarves and shawls (hereafter referred to as "scarves" for convenience) are known fashion accessories for a woman's shoulders and upper torso, but each particular style or kind seems to be limited to one or at most a few different fashion uses. Various nursing garments are also known. They generally comprise shirts or other top garments with hidden openings to allow a mother to conveniently nurse an infant. Nevertheless, mothers often use additional items at hand to cover themselves and the baby, whether for additional privacy, or so as not to draw attention, or to avoid offending people nearby who might not be comfortable with the sight of the mother feeding her infant in this manner.
 Using whatever items might be handy for privacy, however, has drawbacks. The items are often not large enough or shaped properly to give good privacy; or they might be hot and uncomfortable for mother and baby, and cover the baby to the point where the mother cannot observe him; or they might be awkward to use, since the mother will have at least one hand, and preferably both, supporting the nursing baby. Furthermore, mothers are often fashion-conscious, even while nursing, and might find it objectionable (albeit necessary) to wrap or cover up with baby blankets, newspapers, accessory bags and such around themselves while sitting in public places.
Brief Summary of the Inventive Subject Matter
 I have accordingly invented a scarf that fits securely, fashionably, and
comfortably over both mother and nursing baby, and that also gives good privacy, convenience, and portability. The scarf also has great fashion utility when not used for nursing, with multiple fashion configurations possible from the same scarf structure that makes it useful for nursing privacy.
 The scarf comprises a flat piece of fabric with a slit placed between the middle and "rear" of the scarf, the slit sized to permit a woman's head to go through, so that at least a "front" half and preferably more of the scarf fabric falls forward over the woman's shoulders and breasts in a basic wearing position, and, if used for nursing, also over the head of a nursing baby. The slit is generally aligned with or parallel to the longest axis of the scarf geometry. In the preferred form the scarf is an oval or diamond shape with a slit arranged along or generally parallel to the long axis of the scarf. The elongated shape of the scarf, along with the slit opening aligned with its long axis, allows the scarf to be uniquely configured in multiple ways for fashion use, as well as providing optimal coverage for a nursing baby if used for that purpose.
 The fabric choice can be varied for fashion use and for different seasons, including but not limited to georgette, chiffon, jersey, woven wool, silk, and cashmere, in prints and solid colors. The fabric may be semi-sheer if used for nursing, and a non-sheer pattern may be applied in a scattered or discontinuous manner to a portion of the surface area of the nursing scarf fabric, leaving a broken pattern of semi-sheer fabric that the nursing mother, whose eyes are only inches away from the infant covered by the scarf, can see through well enough to monitor the baby. To an observer at ordinary and greater distances, however, the pattern is sufficient to break up or camouflage the details of both baby and breast for a reasonable degree of privacy. Alternately, instead of a pattern, the degree of semi-sheer translucency may be selected to allow close-up observation of the baby by the mother during nursing, but still obscure enough detail of baby and breast to prevent observation by people nearby.
 The term "semi-sheer" is used herein to mean fabric that is semi-transparent, such that not only light but also some detail of what's underneath can be seen from the exterior. The term "pattern" is used herein to mean any decorative pattern or drawing applied to at least the outside surface of the fabric in a discontinuous manner, and includes both regular and irregular patterns. "Non-sheer" is used to mean less than semi- sheer - at most translucent, and optionally opaque, to an observer trying to see what's underneath the fabric, such that visual detail of the breast and nursing baby is obscured.
 These and other features and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the detailed description below, in light of the accompanying drawings.
Brief Description of the Drawings
 Fig. 1 is a top plan view of a first example of the inventive scarf, laid flat, with alternate slit locations in solid and phantom lines.  Fig. 2 is a perspective view of a mother nursing an infant while using the scarf of Fig. 1.
 Fig. 3 shows the scarf of Fig. 1 worn around the woman's neck as a decorative accessory.
 Fig. 4 shows the scarf of Fig. 1 tied around an accessory bag as a decorative accessory.
 Fig. 5 shows the scarf of Fig. 1 being worn by the woman on her head as a decorative accessory.
 Figs. 6 through 10 are top views of alternate scarf shapes and slit locations, with the scarves laid flat.
 Fig. 11 is a plan view of an oval scarf with an off-center slit, similar to that shown in Fig. 9, but schematically diagrammed into different areas with phantom lines.
 Fig. 12 illustrates the scarf of Fig. 11 applied over the shoulders of a nursing mother (solid lines) and projected flat (phantom lines) above the applied position.
 Fig. 13 illustrates the scarf of Fig. 11 applied to a baby stroller as a sun shade or privacy cover.
 Figs. 14A through 14L illustrate twelve inventive fashion configurations achievable with the inventive, elongated-axis scarf with the slit opening such as that of
Figs. 9 and 11.
 Figs. 15 through 17 are further top views of alternate scarf shapes and slit locations, with the scarves laid flat. Detailed Description of the Illustrated Embodiment
 Referring first to Figs. 1 and 2, a scarf 10 is shown in exemplary form in order to teach how to make and use the claimed invention. The illustrated example of scarf 10 is a flat oval of semi-sheer fabric, for example polyester chiffon, which may be of various gauges, deniers, and/or weights, or a similar type of "georgette" fabric, or silk, or various other semi-sheer (or non- sheer if used primarily for fashion) fabrics of suitable weight, drape, and comfort (and degree of translucency if used for nursing). Portion 12 of the scarf fabric is un-patterned and thus semi-transparent or "semi-sheer" due to the nature of the fabric, allowing both light and some detail from underneath the fabric to be viewed from the outer side of the fabric. A pattern 14 may be applied to the scarf, in the illustrated example a discontinuous floral pattern (although other patterns may be used) applied to at least the outer surface of the fabric of scarf 10, for example by printing or dyeing, although alternately it can be printed on both sides of the fabric or could be sewn or otherwise applied to or built into the fabric itself during or after the weaving or other fabric-forming process. The important thing is that pattern 14 be a non-continuous, non- sheer application of color and/or shape to the scarf fabric so that the regions covered by pattern 14 are no longer semi-transparent, but are between translucent (some light passes through, but essentially no visual detail) and opaque (no light and no visual detail) in terms of the ability of an observer to see through the fabric from the exterior. In Figs. 1 and 2 the exterior side of the scarf fabric is showing. The pattern 14 works as a camouflage effect on semi-sheer fabric. The pattern 14 may cover about fifty to ninety percent of the surface area of the scarf 10, although the percentage can vary depending on the degree of semi-transparency versus translucency of the semi-sheer fabric material and the nature of the pattern. Virtually any pattern can be used, including but not limited to geometric, artistic, abstract, and random patterns. In cases where privacy is of utmost concern (or where fashion use is the primary function), the scarf may be made from a fabric of an opaque or sheer solid color.
 It should be understood that not every semi-sheer portion 12 of scarf 10 in the drawings has been designated with a reference numeral, for convenience and to avoid unnecessarily cluttering the drawing. It should also be understood that not every portion of pattern 14 applied to scarf 10 in the drawings has been designated with a reference numeral, for the same reasons.
 The scarf may be cut in a bias fashion to improve the fabric's flow and flattering appearance when worn over the woman's shoulders and breast.
 Scarf 10 has a "front" edge 16 and a "rear" edge 18, defined relative to a longitudinal slit 20 formed in the interior region of the scarf 10. The slit 20 is placed in the scarf 10 in general alignment with (solid lines), or generally parallel to (phantom lines), the longest axis A that can be drawn through the shape of the scarf 10. Slit 20 is additionally located somewhere between the middle of the scarf (along long axis A in the oval shape of Fig. 1) and the rear edge 18, so that the area of the scarf material between the slit opening 20 and the front edge 16 (the "front" of the scarf) has an equal or greater area that is placed over the front of the mother and thus over her breast area and a nursing baby. The slit 20 may be placed directly on or in the middle of the scarf, but will be spaced from the rear edge 18. Slit 20 is a substantially straight cut or opening in the fabric of scarf 10, as is clear from the drawings, which in combination with the soft, drapeable fabric of the scarf gives the scarf both the requisite privacy when used for nursing and the flexibility to be used for multiple fashion options when worn for fashion. It will be understood that the term "edge" when referring to the front and rear sides of the scarf 16 and 18 include both straight, curved, and pointed/multi-angled front and rear sides of the scarf, as shown in the various shapes of Figs. 6 through 10 and Figs. 15 through 17.
 Fig. 2 illustrates how the pattern 14 breaks up the outline of the feeding infant 26 under scarf 10, even though significant areas 12 (e.g, from about fifty percent to as low as ten percent of the surface area) of the scarf are semi-sheer. At the same time, the mother 24 can view the baby 26 since she is close enough to the baby at her breast to easily focus on and see through the semi-sheer area(s) 12. Baby 26 can likewise view the mother 24 through the same up-close semi-sheer area(s) 12. It will be understood that the portions of baby 26 illustrated in hidden lines underneath scarf 10 in Fig. 2 are actually exaggerated in terms of their visibility, for purpose of illustration. In real life testing it has been found that little or no detail of the nursing baby and the mother's body underneath scarf 10 can be seen, even from only a few feet away, without great effort that would be unseemly in public settings.
 Scarf 10 may be lightweight, in part due to the use of a light semi-sheer fabric, but also due to the minimal amount of fabric needed to provide adequate coverage of mother and baby using the unique combination of slit placement and scarf geometry described above. The oval shape in particular has been found extremely efficient for this purpose, and is preferred. However, other shapes are possible, including the examples shown in Figs. 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 and Figs. 15, 16, and 17. In Figs. 6-9, the long axis with which slit 22 is aligned is apparent, since the shapes are oblong; in the circle example of Fig. 10, the "long" axis is the diameter of the circle.
 The light weight and low volume of fabric used for scarf 10 also allow scarf 10 to be used easily as a lightweight decorative accessory, as shown for example in Figs. 3-5, by knotting or tying or wrapping it in different configurations, limited only by the imagination and ability of the user, around various portions of the body or of accessories like handbags.
 The scarf 10 may also be used for normal use as a scarf for the everyday woman, for example to cover bare shoulders or to complement a blouse or shirt or dress worn underneath. The shape which works so well to cover a nursing baby also works to help it stay put on a woman's shoulders and breast, taking the chill off in a restaurant, for example. In this respect the size and function of the scarf is more like that of a shawl, but better because it does not require the use of separate fasteners to keep it from slipping off the shoulder(s) when worn by a woman. When not nursing a baby, or depending on the position of a nursing baby, the woman may also rotate the scarf so that the majority of material defining the "front" of the scarf is moved around to cover more of an upper part of her back. Figs. 14A through 14L illustrate twelve preferred ways to wear the scarf of Fig. 11. These configurations and the method for achieving them will be described below. The coverage for a woman, depending on the fashion statement being made, will depend on the size of the scarf, which can vary from small scarf size to larger shawl-type sizes. For example, a small scarf might be an accent piece that covers a woman's shoulder, back, and chest area, while a large size might cover the entire upper torso. Description of Operation
 In operation, the scarf 10 is used by removing the scarf from its storage location, whether in a pocket or bag or purse, or from an accessorizing location such as the neck, bag-handle, and head decorating options shown in Figs. 3-5. The scarf may also be used to decorate a stroller and be removed from the stroller when needed. The woman 24 unfolds the scarf 10, spreads it out flat, and places the slit 20 over her head until the scarf 10 rests on her shoulders with the front edge 16 (and thus a majority of the scarf surface area) over her chest/breasts and preferably her arms as well, as best shown in Fig. 2. If used f
 If used for nursing, baby 26 is then placed under the scarf in a comfortable nursing position, with at least the baby's head and the mother's breast covered by the scarf 10.
 Because scarf 10 leaves a woman's hands free once she has placed her head through the slit opening, unlike prior scarves, it has utility as an article of clothing or a clothing accessory apart from its usefulness in covering a nursing baby. For this purpose rotating the scarf around the neck to put the front of the scarf (normally used for nursing) over the woman's back creates a new fashion or look. Even for a nursing mother this rotatable change in function or mode is useful: a mother can wear the scarf reversed, with the "front" over her back (Fig. 14A), until she needs it for nursing; then, she may simply rotate the scarf around her neck to put the "front" over baby and breast. When finished nursing, the scarf can be rotated back to non-nursing mode with the "front" draped over the woman's back. She accordingly never needs to take the scarf off, and it is safely "stored" around her neck while being worn as clothing. For symmetrical scarves with the slit opening substantially centered, the scarf may not need to be reversed at all for the nursing and non-nursing modes of use.
 Referring to Figs. 11 and 12, the currently most-preferred configuration for scarf 10 is the oval shape with off-center slit 20 as shown in Fig. 9, re-designated as scarf 100 in Fig. 11 with rear side A, front side B, left and right sides or ends C and D, and off-center longitudinal slit E placed closer to the rear edge A than to the front edge B. Scarf 100 is placed in a diagonal manner with the long side B facing forward (the front of woman 124). For the most coverage when nursing from the right breast, area 100b is used to cover the breast and the baby's head. For the most coverage when nursing from the left breast, scarf 100 is rotated around the neck so that area 100a is used to cover the breast and the baby's head. It may be helpful for the woman 124 to use her assisting hand to hold her baby's hand if he or she tries to lift scarf 100.
 Referring to Figs. 14A through 14L, twelve specific and preferred ways for wearing scarf 100 are illustrated. For the configurations shown in Figs. 14A through 14G, 141, and 14K, scarf 100 is initially placed over the head of wearer 124 via slit E. For the configurations shown in Figs. 14H, 14J, and 14L, wearer 124 begins as if she were putting on a decorative scarf around the neck, without placing slit E over her head.
 To achieve the configuration of Fig. 14A, side A is faced to the wearer's front, with slit opening E aligned with her shoulders.
 To achieve the configuration of Fig. 14B, side B is faced to the front, with slit opening E aligned with the shoulders. This configuration is the opposite of Fig. 14A.  To achieve the configuration of Fig. 14C, either side A or side B is placed toward the wearer's front. She then gently pulls end C or D until slit opening E comes off one shoulder and the other end touches her neck.
 To achieve the configuration of Fig. 14D, slit opening E is aligned perpendicular to the shoulders. Sides C and D should be front to back relative to the wearer 124. Slit opening E is pulled to create a V-shape in front and to reach the nape of the neck in back.
 To achieve the configuration of Fig. 14E, the wearer first creates the configuration of Fig. 14D, then loops end C through slit opening E.
 To achieve the configuration of Fig. 14F, the wearer first creates the configuration of Fig. 14C, then loops end C through slit opening E and places the the looped part at the end of her shoulder.
 To achieve the configuration of Fig. 14G, the wearer first creates the configuration of Fig. 14A, then takes end C or end D to make a knot at the neck. She then pulls scarf fabric through with a small bit of fabric 'tail' remaining. She then ruffles the fabric to create a rose shape. The knot can be undone by pulling the end of the fabric tail.
 To achieve the configuration of Fig. 14H, the wearer takes the ends C and
D and ties them together as tight as comfortably possible.
 To achieve the configuration of Fig. 141, the wearer first creates the configuration of Fig. 14A, then gathers scarf fabric at the front and throws it behind her shoulders.  To achieve the configuration of Fig. 14 J, the wearer loops end C or end D through slit opening E and tightens until comfortably snug around the neck. She then leaves one end in front and puts the other end to the back.
 To achieve the configuration of Fig. 14K, the wearer first creates the configuration of Fig. 14E, then opens and pulls the smaller side until as symmetrical as possible with the opposite side.
 To achieve the configuration of Fig. 14L, the wearer brings ends C and D together to tie a single knot.
 It will finally be understood that the disclosed embodiments are representative of presently preferred examples of how to make and use the claimed invention, but are intended to be explanatory rather than limiting of the scope of the invention as defined by the claims below. Reasonable variations and modifications of the illustrated examples in the foregoing written specification and drawings are possible without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the claims below. It should further be understood that to the extent the term "invention" is used in the written specification, it is not to be construed as a limiting term as to number of claimed or disclosed inventions or the scope of any such invention, but as a term which has long been conveniently and widely used to describe new and useful improvements in technology. The scope of the invention is accordingly defined by the following claims.
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