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 that’s where the The Shawl Design Trinity  kicks in helping us to choose the right combination of yarn, shape, and pattern.

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.

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 my recent article about Knitting Swatches.

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!

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

  • May 8, 2019 at 5:17 pm
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    As this is my first, i am going to let my yarn and how much i have guide me, even if it turns out a childs size… i have 209 grams and gauge on size 4mm needles is 22 sts over 28 rows. The wool is made in Turkey and its Carnival and colour is k905 red orange black mix I think doing it topdown would be awesome too

    Reply
  • April 14, 2019 at 5:13 pm
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    Shawlette size is what I’m going for. About 50″ by 18″ deep

    Reply
  • April 13, 2019 at 12:26 am
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    I’d like my shawl to be 60″ wide with a depth of about 30 “

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  • March 14, 2019 at 2:19 pm
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    My shawl will be 66 inches by 20

    Reply
  • March 12, 2019 at 9:01 pm
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    I don’t know, as this will be my first design. I was going to just keep going until it was big enough?

    Reply
  • March 11, 2019 at 8:41 pm
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    I have decided that I am going to do an Asymmetrical triangle with a Candle Flame motif. I love the Candle Flame Shawl and would love to try this variation.

    🙂

    Reply
  • March 6, 2019 at 8:08 pm
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    I love big shawls and I love wrapping up warm and cozy during the winter. I like my shawls from finger tip to finger tip, so my shawl long side should be aboout 5 1/2′ or 66″ long.

    Reply
  • February 16, 2019 at 3:55 am
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    the long edge will be 150 to 180cm, the height will be shallow so it becomes a shawlette that can be worn around the neck

    Reply
  • November 22, 2018 at 5:01 pm
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    My favourite old shawl is 182 cm on its long side (wing tip to wing tip) and falls 90 cm in the back. I would like to duplicate this size to replace the old shawl which is too shabby to wear for anything but feeding the chickens.

    Reply
  • September 13, 2018 at 10:48 pm
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    Mine will be 64″ as the yarn is a worsted weight and I don’t want it to be heavy.

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  • August 6, 2018 at 7:16 pm
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    72″x25″ (182cmx63cm) because I’m tall and I want it to cover my back and arms to about elbows when worn in the usual way, and be long enough to tie around my waist to keep my lower back warm when I’m working at my computer.

    Reply
  • May 10, 2018 at 10:54 am
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    I have a triangle shawl that I made years ago and I love the length-it’s a bit larger – the long edge is 76″
    so I’ll just stick with that

    Reply
  • April 18, 2018 at 5:54 pm
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    I like my shawls on the large size; but, I realize that the design needs to be able to accommodate a smaller size as well.

    Reply
  • March 15, 2018 at 4:59 pm
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    I would like it to be 64″ on the long side.

    Reply
  • January 18, 2018 at 6:08 pm
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    minimum 72″ long and 28″ deep; I like to be able to wrap several times

    Reply
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  • January 1, 2018 at 4:26 am
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    I’ve started with a different shawl (asymmetrical) and since it starts at one corner with right side increases on one corner, the long edge still needs to be calculated.

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

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
  • 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.

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

    Reply
  • 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

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

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

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

    Reply
  • 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

    Reply
  • 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.

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

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
  • 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.

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

    Reply
  • 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.

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

    Reply
  • 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

    Reply
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