Shawls | Part 1

Posted on July 10, 2015 by Clare Devine | O Comments

Throughout July we will be chatting about shawls in preparation for our Summer Shawl Knit-along. If you have never knitted a shawl before this is the perfect opportunity to get to grips with shawl basics and create your own gorgeous shawl.


More details about the #coastsummerKAL can be found in last week's blog post, Summer Shawl KAL and there is already lots of chatter in the Ravelry group, please pop over and say hi.




This four part series will explore the wonderful world of shawls. From choosing yarn, shapes and stitches to mastering techniques and finishing your knitted item with style we will take you on a knitting journey to remember.


Whether you are a seasoned shawl knitter or wanting to embark on your first project, there will be plenty to inspire you through this series.


The world of knitted shawls can sometimes be slightly overwhelming. A quick search on Ravelry shows over 30,000 shawls – you could be forgiven for thinking “Where on earth do I start” and “Do I have the skills to create a knitted shawl”…


Shawls are often associated with endless metres of super fine yarn and rows and rows of complex lace. While this may be true for some of the most magnificent Shetland or Estonia lace shawls there are many options available to suit all styles and knitting abilities.


Lets start by looking at shapes …


Shawl Shapes


These days there are a wide variety of shawl shapes to choose from and designers are pushing the creative boundaries when it comes to construction. Before I get carried away though lets get back to basics.


Shawls are all shaped with a range of increases and decreases. The position of these increases or decreases changes the shape and proportions of the shawl.


Shawls can be worked in a variety of directions including:

  • Top down (starting with a few stitches and ending with many) 
  • Bottom up (starting with a many stitches and ending with a few) 
  • From the centre out 
  • Sideways 
  • Modular construction, working in multiple directions


The joy of the knitted shawl is the sheer variety of ways in which a designer can combine the stitches to create a stunning wearable accessory.


While shawls come in all sorts of shapes and size these are the more common shapes:

  • Triangle 
  • Circle and Half Circle (sometimes called Pi and Half Pi) 
  • Crescent 
  • Rectangle (often referred to as a stole)


Within these shapes there are also variables, so you might get a deep or shallow triangle or even an asymmetrical triangle.


Did you know you can search on Ravelry for a specific shawl shape and knitting direction? So, if you have you heart set on a top down crescent shawl you can refine your search options to help you find the perfect match for you.



Want to know more about the ins and outs of shawl construction. Take a look at these great worksheets created by Laylock


Basic Shawl Shapes

Circular Shawl Shapes


Ready to get going …


Hints and Tips to get you started


1) Choose a thicker yarn – progress will be faster and the knitting much easier than something very fine. Shawls can be knitted in anything from the finest cobweb to the thickest chunky yarn. Sport and DK make a great starting point they are thick enough to make the knitting easy breezy but not so thick that you are weighed down with a huge chunky shawl.


The Boneyard Shawl by Stephen West is a simple top down triangle with a slight texture.


Why not knit one in Shilasdair DK? Two skeins would make a super snuggly shawl for autumn.


Stephen has a fantastic class on Craftsy where he talks you through various shawl constructions and shows you all the techniques you need to knit this (and many other) shawls.



2) Choose a simple pattern that starts with very few stitches so you can find your rhythm. Something like Martina Behm’s Hitchhiker is a great easy shawl, her patterns are clear and the finished object is easy to wear.


This would be great in a skein of Malabrigo Mechita or SweetGeorgia Tough Love Sock.


3) If you want to try something a little more lacy without being too complex opt for eyelets. Pebble Beach by Helen Stewart is a lovely crescent shaped shawl, perfect for that special skein.



Looking for some inspiration …


Here are some of my favourite shawls from the Tangled Yarn shop to inspire you.



Spontaneous by Hanna Maciejewska



Semi Circle

Rioja by Hilary Smith Callis 




Turntable by Hilary Smith Callis




Hap for Harriet by Kate Davies


Coming up ….


Shawls | Part 2 | Casting on – getting your shawl started.

Shawls | Part 3 | Exploring shawl stitches

Shawls | Part 4 | Getting to grips with your shawl pattern and de-mystifying charts.



About the Author 

Clare Devine is a writer and designer. Originally from South Africa she has nomadic tendencies and is currently knitting her way around the UK. She is passionate about all things fibre related (especially if it’s grey), knitting, travel and sunshine in equal measures.

She regularly blogs at www.yarnandpointysticks.com. You can find her on Ravelry as Knitsforklipskaap, Twitter as @_ClareDevine and Instagram as @Clare.Devine.


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