Lace Knitting & Circular Shawls

Most knitting charts come as rectangles but shawl shapes vary. Today I show you how lace knitting circular shawls works, and share my knowledge about how to master lace knitting and charts for circular shawls with you.

This post is part of my article series about adapting stitch patterns. You can browse the table of contents here:

Adapting Stitch Patterns for All Shawl Shapes: Table of Contents

Circular Shawl Construction: Disclaimer

There’s more than one way to do it for most tasks and knitting circular shawls is no exception. Everything mentioned below is based on using the Pi shawl method for our circular shawl construction, and it all applies to semicircular shawls, half-circles and circle segment shawls, too.

Disclaimer: It does not apply to alternative construction methods like the ones using short rows. For these, you need to alter your charts massively (and personally, I think it’s not worth the effort except you’re aiming for special effects).

Circular Shawls Are Built Using Rectangles

This might sound surprising, I know. But have a closer look at the construction method for circular shawls we’re talking about.

The picture below illustrates this construction method. We start with a few stitches (worked in the round) and alternate knitted sections (orange) with increase rows (white) at strategic points. The details are outlined in my post How to Knit Circular Shawls published earlier this year.

Shawl Design - How to Knit Circular Shawls
Illustration of the Pi Shawl construction method: the number of rounds doubles between each increase round.

The secret to understanding the rectangular nature of any charts fitting into this scheme is that there are no increases whatsoever between the (white) increase rows. The stitch count in the orange areas is constant (within each of the rings – it varies from one ring to another of course as there are increase rounds in between).

A constant stitch count means you can fit in any rectangular chart as long as the number of total stitches is a multiple of your chart stitches.

You might think yes, but what turns these rectangle parts into a circular shape now? The secret is within the increases.

What Makes Rectangles Circular?

Have a look at the picture above again. Do you notice the different radii of the two white increase circles forming the boundaries of one orange circle ring?

This is the secret of how these combinations of rectangles turn into a circle at the end.

Let’s have a closer look. The picture shown below breaks down one of these orange circle rings between two increase rows into the rectangles it consists of.

Circle Chart Elements
The rectangle segments building one circle ring block.

Yes, that’s all rectangles! But why do the look so distorted? The reason is simple: the circumferences of the inner and outer radii are not equal. The inner radius is smaller than the outer one – otherwise it wouls not be a circle ring at all.

Translation This All to Charts

Imagine a normal rectangle chart.

Now imagine this chart knitted within one of these circle rings, like the one shown above in the picture about rectangle segment building blocks.

Yes, it’s a rectangle! The shape is achieved by the increase rows inherent to the circular shawl construction.

Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself and you’ll see! And don’t forget to leave a comment if you tried … thank you!


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