shape of things to come
Good morning! Snow still on the ground (3 days before spring officially starts) and 32 degrees at 0600. It’s not going to be very pretty today but it’s perfect knitting weather … so enjoy!

I’d have to say the genre of designs of which I sell the most to my customers is shawls: circular, triangular, crescent. You name it, shawls are THE fashion accessory and allow for lots of individual changes and adaptations. Whether small (and therefore, a “shawlette”) or large (sometimes as a “throw” or lap blanket), shawls are fun knits that ANY skill-level can accomplish.

But what if you want to create your own? How do designers create the different shapes?

Unfortunately for those who are math-phobic, the way to create your own shawl is all about math — the number and placement of increases (for top down) or decreases (for bottom up) affect the ultimate shape of the shawl. In this post, I’ll explain how to design a simple top-down shawl and obtain the various shapes. The reason for a top-down is that you can just keep going until the shawl is the size you want or you run out of yarn — whichever occurs first.

Triangular: for a simple triangle starting at the top you want to begin with 3 stitches. Increase one stitch at the beginning, at the end and on either side of the middle stitch (mark this stitch with a lockable-stitch marker) — you now will have 7 stitches on your needle after increasing 4 stitches. Turn and work back on the wrong side. On every right side row, you’ll increase these 4 stitches (one on each end and one each side of the middle) and this will create a triangle. You can add stitch patterns or striping or keep it super-simple, doing it all in garter stitch and taking full advantage of the yarn’s texture or color. A great example of this type of shawl is my Hugs’n’Kisses shawl:

Hugs 'n' Kisses shawl

Hugs ‘n’ Kisses shawl

Circular: a circle shawl (starting at the center and working outward) is created by increasing 4 stitches every round … or 8 stitches every other round … or 12 stitches every third round … and so on, making sure that the number of rounds between increases keeps the four-stitches-per-round ratio. These are fun to make if you increase the distance between the increase rounds and use the “plain knitting rounds” as a blank palette to add stitch patterns. Circle shawls make great “throws” or baby blankets, too. I’ve done a few of these lately and really enjoy the variety of looks. Here is a fairly classic circle shawl (I wear this one alot as a shawl but it also makes a cozy lap blanket), Colleen’s Cover:

Colleen's Cover ... a circle throw or shawl

Colleen’s Cover … a circle throw or shawl

Now, for a more funky or eclectic look, I designed my Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary circle shawl (which again can be a shawl or a blanket):
Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Here’s one, a poncho, where you can really see the increase spokes (this is my The Yarn Has Spoken Shawl):
The Yarn Has Spoken

The Yarn Has Spoken

Semi-Circular or Crescent: a semi-circular shawl is similar to a full circle except that you only increase 4 stitches every OTHER round … or 8 every four rounds … or 12 every six rounds. Again, if you spread out the increases, you have space to work stitch patterns. I particularly like this style of shawl because if I wait to do the increases, I can use separate stitch patterns that are set-off with the increases. My Slice of Summer shawl is a particularly good example of this style shawl:

A Slice of Summer shawl

A Slice of Summer shawl

Sweetheart: this shape is a hybrid of a circular and a triangular shawl — the idea is to increase SIX stitches on every right side row (instead of the four for the plain triangle). If you increase 2 stitches at the beginning and end of every right-side row, and then the one on either side of the center, you’ll increase the ends quicker than the middle-back. This creates curved ends while the back stays with it’s triangular shape. Cool! In my Azalea Leaves shawl, instead of one center stitch, I worked a center-panel of stitches so the shawl is a smoother, less pointy look than if I had worked the increase either side of a single stitch.

Azalea Leaves shawl

Azalea Leaves shawl

There are a multitude of variations that can be created from the above “rules”. The only thing you want to remember is to always keep the increase-ratio the same over the entire shawl. For instance, if you start out with increases on either side of three panels and then finish with a few double-increases at each end (a sweetheart shape), you’ll end up with a modified semi-circular shawl similar to my Knittin’ Love:

Knittin' Love shawl

Knittin’ Love shawl

Isn’t knitting fun? The sheer multitude of variations from simple “rules” (and the breaking of those rules) could have you knitting a different shawl or throw for the rest of your life! If you’d like, send me pix of shawls you’ve created changing up the rules a bit … or a link to your Ravelry project pages so I can see what you’ve done. And never forget to enjoy the journey …sig block

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