Your First Shawl Design: Where to Start?

Welcome to the first day of Shawl Design for Beginners! Today we’re going to start your first shawl design together.

The first day of this online course on shawl design is going to be devoted on getting started with the process of designing a shawl: How to find inspiration, and how to start the shawl design process.

Inspiration comes from virtually everywhere: Plants, people, songs (especially songs!), yarn, a stitch pattern, or even geometry. I wrote a whole article about finding inspiration earlier: Finding Inspiration for Knitting Patterns.

Starting Your First Shawl Design

When you attempt to design a shawl for the first time, the design process might seem overwhelming or simply a complete mystery. But it is a process, and it can be described using a checklist (more on this below). But the very first question you should ask yourself is the following:

Are you designing just for yourself, or do you plan on publishing a pattern?

The process is not the same, and the latter needs a few more steps (and more decisions – and honestly, much more effort). But let’s start small – before we can write a pattern we need to create a design first anyway.

So let’s start with a checklist for the design process.

We need to decide…

  • which yarn to use,
  • the stitch pattern(s),
  • which shawl shape,
  • needle size, and
  • finished size.

Yarn, Shape, Pattern

When choosing yarn you need to consider the stitch pattern (or patterns) you want to use. When choosing a stitch pattern you need to consider the shape of the shawl you’re planning. These three always go together, and this is what I call the yarn, shape, pattern trinity. You cannot make an isolated decision on any of these, and I will talk about this process in tomorrow’s article The Shawl Design Trinity: Yarn, Shape, Pattern (link will be updated as soon as the article goes live – you can find the schedule here).

Stitch Patterns and Possible Shawl Shapes

Finding stitch patterns and shawl shapes are topics on their own and being covered in great detail later in this series, too. If you are interested in the variety of shawl shapes out there have a look at Shawl Design for Everybody which covers most of them (most – not all – because since I published the updated version earlier this year I invented two more construction methods, and I’m working on two more, so there will be an update on this article too later this year).

As example design project we are going to design a triangle shawl worked sideways together. Why this shape? Because it’s the most simple shawl shape out there, and as we’re just starting out this is probably the best choice.

The needle size depends on the yarn and stitch pattern you choose. The big connection between these two is gauge, and I wrote about this topic earlier already here on this blog. You can find it here: What is Knitting Gauge?

Gauge calculations involve knitting swatches. You can prepare yourself  by reading Knitting Swatches (day five) from the How to Create Knitting Patterns tutorials.

Your First Assignment: Finished Size

Your task for today is to decide how big you want your finished shawl.

Remember, we are knitting a triangle for our example shawl in this little course. A triangle has one long and two shorter sides. We want to decide on the length of the longest side of this triangle today.

Which factors need to be considered? Is it really as simple as it seems?

Your shawl should not be too small (or you won’t be able to wrap it around your neck at all, probably!) or too big (knitting might take too long, or the shawl might get too heavy to wear, or too bulky around your neck or shoulders).

What do you consider a good size for a triangle shawl and why? Please add your chosen size and your reasons in the comments below!

See you tomorrow!

Julia <3

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21 thoughts on “Your First Shawl Design: Where to Start?

  • Pingback: Shawl Design For Beginners Tutorial - knitting.today

  • November 15, 2017 at 6:31 pm
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    My shawl will be at least 180 cm…. because I love big shawls…. I will add in the middle 2 at each size and the 2 at each end of the shawl

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  • November 15, 2017 at 7:03 pm
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    52” long edge, 20” short edges

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  • November 16, 2017 at 12:07 am
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    my shawl is going to be 64″ long…maybe 72″… as I want one end to go over my shoulder at least several inches.

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  • November 16, 2017 at 12:09 am
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    the center back length will be 22″.

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  • November 16, 2017 at 4:59 pm
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    52” long edge, 20” short edges. I find this is a good size for wrapping and wearing under a coat.

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  • November 16, 2017 at 5:09 pm
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    I am in the process of knitting myself a shawl like Tasha Tudor made for herself.

    If I am correct, she made hers to be as long on the top side just as she was tall and/or just as wide as her arms could stretch from fingertip to fingertip.

    I am actually going to make two of these type of shawls and sew them together up top to make a poncho leaving about 80 to 100 stitches open for a turtle and/or cowl neck.

    This is to be used while walking my dog out in the cold winter weather.

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  • November 16, 2017 at 8:07 pm
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    60″ x 20″ Most of the shawls I have seen seem to be in this range. Probably because it is big enough to wrap around as well as enough length to cover the back.

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  • November 16, 2017 at 8:52 pm
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    Triangle, length 36-40 inches.

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  • November 16, 2017 at 9:04 pm
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    64″-72″ so I can either tie the ends or wrap one end over the shoulder with several extra inches.

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  • November 17, 2017 at 3:02 am
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    Just finished one but would have liked it bigger. Mine was 40X46. Nice to put over your shoulders. I would like to make a longer one, maybe long edge 60″. Gloria

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  • November 17, 2017 at 2:08 pm
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    I’d like to knit my shawl at least 72″ long

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  • November 17, 2017 at 3:12 pm
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    My shawl will be 140 by 50 cm.

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  • November 18, 2017 at 4:42 am
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    I like shalls I can wrap up in, so at least 60″+

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  • November 19, 2017 at 12:40 am
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    Being vertically challenged, I like mine about 64” long and about 20-22”. I like to wrap my shawls around me, but not drag on the floor

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  • November 19, 2017 at 5:34 pm
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    My shawl will be 120 cms

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  • November 21, 2017 at 12:54 am
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    My shawl will be 80-90″ on the long edge so I can wrap and tie behind my back. The center point will be 20-22″ deep/tall so that I don’t sit on the point. And the 2 short sides will end up what they end up. This is the blocked measurement so will have to back off a bit for the knitted measurement.

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  • November 22, 2017 at 11:38 pm
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    I am short but voluptuos ly portioned (hee hee) so I need to make one that is wider and not too long. I have a pretty multi coloured yarn acrylic that is a polished look for a summer shawl.

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  • November 28, 2017 at 7:35 pm
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    I really like Richard Herndon’s idea. I think I would like to make a poncho, thank you Richard.

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  • December 3, 2017 at 3:35 pm
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    I think 60 x 20 would be the best for me.

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  • December 9, 2017 at 9:21 am
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    60 to 66 inches length by 24/30 inches width approximately,long enough to cover the back completely and wrap around the average shoulders to close.

    Reply

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