The Shawl Design Trinity: Yarn, Shape, Pattern

Welcome to the second day of Shawl Design for Beginners! Today we’re going to talk about the shawl design trinity: Yarn, shape, and pattern.

The second day of this online course on shawl design is going to be devoted on getting started with the process of choosing yarn based on stitch patterns, and patterns based on shawl shape. It leads us straight to the concept of gauge and knitting swatches, and to one of the most anticipated topic of this course: Calculations. But let’s start at the beginning.

Yarn, Shape, Pattern: Basic Shawl Design Setup

You can start with either one of the three basic choices when designing a new shawl pattern, but as soon as you pick one, you need to match the other two to your choice – and to each other.

Let’s have a closer look by assuming we start with one of these three at a time.

Starting With Yarn

When starting with the yarn you need to consider which stitch pattern(s) to use baed on this choice. Busy and colourful yarns don’t play well with complicated lace stitch patterns, for instance. You get the idea? The busier the yarn, the simpler the stitch pattern should be.

If in doubt, knit a swatch.

Starting With Shape

There are so many shawl shapes out there I virtually stopped counting a while ago. The most prominent ones are stoles, triangles, crescents and circular shawls. Each shape has its construction method (or more than one to choose from), so when you start with the shawl shape you first need to select a construction method for the shape chosen. As soon as you know how your shawl is going to be constructed you know which kind of stitch pattern you need for it: A triangular, or a rectangular stitch pattern, for example.

If unsure, triangles and stoles are the best choice for a beginner! Our example uses a triangle shawl worked sideways, and we’re going to talk about stitch patterns for this shawl shape next week (also during this course!).

Starting With a Stitch Pattern

The same principles as stated in the starting with yarn section apply here, too. If you choose a fancy lace stitch pattern don’t use bulky or busy or very colourful yarn. Choose yarn based on stitch pattern which matches well and looks good when knitted up in a swatch. You have to like the resulting texture, that’s key!

Same as above: If in doubt, knit a swatch.

Honestly, the process of how to adjust a stitch pattern found on books or online – most come as rectangles – is too much information for this course. I wrote a whole book on this topic, Shaping Lace, if you want to dive deeper into the subject.

Shawl Design Trinity: An Example

Let’s say we have two skeins of yarn in our stash we’d like to use for our example shawl pattern, the triangle worked sideways. One is a multi-colour sock weight yarn from Malabrigo yarns in the color Archangel, the other one a solid color sock weight from Madelinetosh.

Using the same stitch pattern for both would result in drastically different results! The more complicated the stitch pattern, especially when it comes to lace stitch patterns, the better we’re off with the solid colour. Don’t believe me? Knit a swatch using a multi-color and a solid or semisolid yarn and try for yourself. You’ll see what I mean in an instant!

My choice: 

  • Das Mondschaf Andromeda, colour: Childlike Empress
  • Stitch Pattern: yarn is busy, so I’ll go for garter and maybe some eyelets and brioche stitch!
  • Shape: triangle worked sideways (our example shawl)

This is the yarn. (Yes, yum.)

Shawl Design Trinity: Yarn, Shape, Pattern

Your Assignment for Today

Today’s assignment is to choose yarn from your stash and a stitch pattern to go with our example shawl shape, the triangle worked sideways. Let me know your choice (and why you chose this combination) in the comments below!

See you in day three of this course! – Julia <3

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19 thoughts on “The Shawl Design Trinity: Yarn, Shape, Pattern

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  • November 18, 2017 at 5:43 am

    1. I will use Nina Mirador puple 1028 and Lila (don’t have the tag for the color same brand)
    2. As are solids I would like to use Ivy lace pattern with the purple and maybe some panels of stockinette or garter stitch with the lila. I like to use i-cord edge.
    3. Shape: triangle worked sideways.

    Note: I didn’t receive the email with day two. I found I by chance after checking multiple times schedule. I clicked on Trinity on day one and it got me here.

  • November 18, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    I’m using a mystery yarn which I believe is a blend of natural fiber and synthetic (based on my burn test) in graduated shades of dark purple, med. rose and lite pink. I’m also incorporating 2 blends of wool and nylon , one in hot pink and one in purple. lastly, I’m interspersing a wool and alpaca blend in amethyst. all yarns are of fingering wt and have similar gauges.

    I picked these yarns because I wanted to see how each one performed in a triangle-shaped shawl. plus I think the different textures will be interesting.

  • November 18, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Also, I’ll be using a simple garter stitch with some type of eyelet pattern.

  • November 18, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Your website comes up on my screen with the Share icons on the left. They cover a goodly part of what you have written. Is there any way they can be moved to the bottom?

    I’ll be using acrylic yarns because that’s what I have in my stash and because I’m too old (83) to be hauling full size soaking wet shawls out of water to be blocked.

    • November 22, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      Yes, you can remove them by hovering over the bar with the icons, then you will see two blue arrows appear at the bottom of the share icon bar, click on the double blue arrows and it hides that bar.

  • November 19, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    I will be using Plymouth yarn, Encore chunky acrylic and wool. It is a two tone dark blues so will just use garter stitch with some type of decorative edge pattern

  • November 19, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Hi, I’m using Lion Brand Shawl in a Ball – Cleansing Quartz. It states medium/4, but it feels more finger weight! I’m “unknitting” a crescent shape I tried and didn’t like. Also it’s a gift for my plus- size sister, so I’m hoping to learn how to adjust patterns.

  • November 19, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    1. My yarn is Katia Verso in pale grey and pale blue.
    2. As they are both solids I’m thinking of alternating lace panels with garter stitch panels.
    3. Sideways knit triangle shape.

  • November 20, 2017 at 1:18 am

    Ella Rae and seersucker, stockinette and some undecided lace..

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  • February 11, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    I will use:
    1. Juniper Moon Findley Dappled, Rost Turkey 129
    2. Garter stitch with lace panels alternating.

  • March 18, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    My yarn is Lion Brand Mandela Baby, an acrylic yarn. Color Magic . Moon. Shades of purples with shades of gray.
    Weight light 3. Suggests size 5 needles.
    Pattern I want something light and airy in triangular shape possibly with fringe.

  • May 10, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    I will be using Plymouth Yarn Zino (wool and nylon blend)
    I think I will do an elongated eyelet on the edges but since this is a variegated yarn, I’ll keep a large part of it in stockinette.

  • May 27, 2018 at 7:28 am

    I’m going to try a Shetland lace design , from the corner using “Juniper Moon” Lace weight yarn. I’s Really fun. Your trinity suggestions help a lot . I have OCD and Add and for once you make it really understandable for me. Thank You So Much

  • November 24, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    I have always found it more convenient to throw a shawl on my shoulders than to put on a coat when I go out into the yard, so my shawl will be a working shawl, not a decorative one. I have some dark blue Berroco Vintage Chunky in my stash that should make a warm shawl. The color reminds me of fisherman’s ganseys, so I thought it would be interesting to knit bands of traditional gansey patterns.

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