Stoles in Shawl Design (Rectangular Shawls)

How to knit rectangle shawls? This article is going to show you how!

Feeling lost? This article is part of Shawl Design for Everybody, your free online course on shawl design. Find the course schedule here or have a look at the overview of all shapes covered in the course.

Rectangle Shawl Construction

Rectangular shawls can be worked

  • from hem to hem,
  • from center outwards from a provisional cast on, or
  • from tip to tip (diagonally) and then blocked either into rhombus or rectangle shapes.

This article covers the construction of rectangles worked from hem to hem and center outwards. Diamond and rhombus shapes as well as triangle-ended rectangles are dealt with in later posts in this series.

Choosing a Construction Method

Working shawls hem to hem is a good choice when you don’t need to achieve symmetry lengthwise.  If your central design element is placed in the middle, choose working from center out. If you want a pattern flow with diagonal lines working a rhombus shape (see the article on rhombus shapes later in this series) might be better.

Knitting Rectangle Shawls Hem to Hem

The easiest method to create a rectangle shawl is to cast on a certain amount of stitches and knit until you reach the desired length. In this case you work from hem to hem as outlined in the schematic below (arrows indicate knitting direction).

Rectangle shawl construction
The most simple version of knitting a stole: from hem to hem without any borders or edging.

You can include any stitch pattern as long as its number of stitches fits into your total stitch count. You can work borders on left and right sides at the same time as the shawl body or knit it after you finished the main body. The same holds for the edgings.

If you include borders and edgings, the schematic looks more like the picture below.

Rectangle shawl construction
Working a stole hem to hem including borders and edging.

In this case the borders are worked at the same time as the body, the edgings are worked last and in the same direction as the main body and borders.

You could also work the edging sideways as shown in the picture below.

Rectangle shawl construction
Working a stole hem to hem including borders and edging. The edging is worked sideways.

Pattern Template for Rectangle Shawls (Hem to Hem)

The pattern template below is for a rectangle shawl (stole) worked hem to hem with borders and edging.

Step #1: Choose stitch patterns for the main panel and the border

If in doubt, use stockinette for the shawl body and seed stitch for the border. Write down their stitch count per repeat.

Step #2: Work swatches

Work swatches for each pattern and block them gently, then measure their width and height.

Step #3: Calculate stitches to cast on

  • Divide the desired width of the shawl by the width of one pattern repeat of the main panel. Round to whole numbers. This will give you N, the number of repeats of the main panel.
  • Divide the desired length of the shawl by the length of one pattern repeat of the main panel. Round to whole numbers. This will give you M, the number of row repeats of the main panel.
  • Cast on two times the number of border stitches plus the number of repeats of the main panel chart times the number of stitches in your main panel chart:
CO sts = 2*(border stitch count) + N*(center panel stitch count)

Step #4: Knit the stole

  • Work edging (optional) on the bottom hem of the stole.
  • Work a total of M repeats of your main panel pattern, including the border pattern on both sides.
  • If the rows in the main panel pattern are no multiple of the number of rows in the border pattern, consider adding “filler” rows at the beginning and end of the shawl.
  • Work edging (optional) on the upper hem of the stole.

Working Stoles from Center Out

The construction principle for stoles worked center out is shown in the picture below: You start with a provisional cast on at the stole’s future center and work two symmetrical halves from there.

Rectangle shawl construction
The construction principle of rectangle shawls worked center out.

Pattern Template for Rectangle Shawls (Center Out)

The pattern template below is for a rectangle shawl (stole) worked from center out with borders and edging.

Steps #1-#3 are identical to stoles worked hem to hem.

Step #4: Knit the stole

  • Provisionally cast on the calculated number of stitches.
  • Work first half of stole.
  • Undo provisional cast on and work the second half identical to the first one.

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