How to Knit Circular Shawls (As Well As Annular Shawls & Rings)

Welcome to the next episode of my Shawl Design for Everybody series! Today’s topic in our shawl design course is how to knit circular shawls and creating patterns for annular shawls and rings.

How to Knit Circular Shawls

Circular shawls are best worked from the center outwards. Start with a provisional cast on of 6 sts and knit one row, working in the round.

Remember your school math? There has been a number called Pi: the geometry of the circle unveils when looking at the mysterious relationship of the circumference of a circle to its radius. This ratio (circumference to radius) equals to Pi.

Or, as Elizabeth Zimmermann tells us in her book The Knitter’s Almanac:

“[…] the geometry of the circle hing[es] on the mysterious relationship of the circumference of a circle to its radius. A circle will double its circumference in infinitely themselves-doubling distances, or, in knitters’ terms, the distance between the increase-rounds, in which you double the number of stitches, goes 3, 6, 12, 24 and so on.” 

Well said. An implementation of the template mentioned above, usually called the Pi Shawl, is shown in the figure below: the number of rounds doubles between each increase round.

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

Pattern Template for Circular Shawls

The most simple pattern template for knitting circular shawls is as follows.

  • CO 9 sts
  • Knit 1 round
  • (YO, k1) around
  • Knit 3 rounds
  • (YO, k1) around
  • Knit 6 rounds
  • (YO, k1) around
  • Knit 12 rounds
  • (YO, k1) around
  • Knit 12 (24, 48, …) rounds with increase rounds in between (or until shawl is of desired size)
  • Bind off loosely, block.

Annular Shawls (Rings)

Annular shawls are circular shawls with holes in the center.

Shawl Design - How to Knit Annular Shawls (Rings)
Annular shawls can be constructed by casting on more stitches, following the increase instructions of circular shawls.

The more sections of a circular shawl are omitted, the larger the center gap is going to be.

Shawl Design - How to Knit Annular Shawls (Rings)

Pattern Template: Annular Shawl Patterns (Rings)

  • CO N=36 (or N=72, …) sts.
  • Work N rows
  • Work increase row (double stitch count)
  • Work 2*N rows
  • Work increase round (double stitch count)
  • Work 4*N rounds
  • Work increase round (double stitch count) (24 sts)
  • Work 8*N rounds

Same here as for circular shawls: repeat working in this schema until your shawl is of desired size, then work an edging (garter stitch border or something more complicated, as you please) and bind off loosely. Block gently.

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14 thoughts on “How to Knit Circular Shawls (As Well As Annular Shawls & Rings)

  • January 18, 2021 at 12:29 am
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    Hi, first of all, I just wanted to say this is a great article, very well explained!

    I have a question, though. I’d like to make a 3/4 circle skirt. Can I adapt this technique? If so, would I increase my stitches in 3/4 instead of doubling them, once I knit as many rows as the number of stitches?

    For example, say I cast on 12 stitches. To make a 3/4 circle skirt, would I have to knit 12 rows, and then increase the number of stitches by 9 (3/4 of 12) and so on? In this case, the proportion of rows is still the same, but instead of multiplying the number of stitches by 2 to increase, I multiply it by 1,75.

    Or I should knit 9 rows and then increase 9 stitches, then knit 16 (rounding up) rows and increase the stitches from 21 to 37, etc? Here, the number of rows between increases would be different too, 0,75 or 3/4 (instead of 1).

    Not sure if I’m making my self clear. Thanks anyway!

    Reply
    • January 31, 2021 at 4:06 pm
      Permalink

      Helena,

      it should not matter if you’re knitting a skirt or a shawl if the shapes are identical. The only thing you need to consider is the inner circumference of the skirt. Hope this helps! -J.

      Reply
  • January 10, 2021 at 8:47 am
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    nOT SURE HOW TO START KNITTING A CIRCULAR SHAWL I FIND THE INSTRUCTIONS CONFUSING

    Reply
    • March 14, 2021 at 10:00 pm
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      When the pattern for a circular shawl says it measures 55inches is that across the shawl or the measurement around?

      Reply
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  • September 9, 2019 at 7:55 pm
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    I’m trying to get my tired brain to understand your annular ring instructions. Am I understanding correctly that if I cast on 225 stitches I would knit 225 rows before increasing? I am likely making this more complicated than I should but I appreciate your instruction and help!

    Reply
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  • February 3, 2019 at 5:54 pm
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    Thank you soo much for this!! I saw another tutorial with straight needles that had me wanting to rip every strand of hair out of my head.

    Reply
  • July 4, 2018 at 2:55 pm
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    I had a circular shawl with armholes in it many years ago. It folded over at the neck making a deep collar that covered the arms almost to the elbow. Do you have any patterns to make such a thing?

    Reply
    • July 14, 2018 at 3:11 pm
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      Unfortunately no, not at the moment. Sounds like an interesting idea, though!

      Reply
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