Sunday, July 3, 2011

Knitted Shawl Construction, Recipes, and Formulas

If you're new to design, shawl construction may be a little intimidating.  I know for me, I've always been a pattern-hugger.  That is, I rarely deviate from a written pattern when I knit and I kind of knit on autopilot, without much thought to the construction, just to the row I'm knitting.  Now, I know many of you out there will say, how can you NOT notice shawl construction formulas when knitting shawls from others' patterns?  Really, basic shawl shapes are not unique.  Most designers work off a basic design, which has been repeated and repeated throughout knitting history.  Where the design comes in is primarily in what they do with that shape and how they do it.  Of course there are always innovative designers out there who strive to strike up something completely new in knitted shawl construction, but for the most part, we're all working from the same basic shapes.  I guess I don't notice the construction the same way I don't notice our route when riding in the car as a passenger.  I enjoy the scenery and the drive, but rarely pay attention to how I got there unless I'm driving myself.  This is exactly what I found to be true of myself when recently designing a shawl.

So what does a knitter do when she/he wants a basic shawl "formula" or "recipe"?  She Googles it, searches on Ravelry, or reads countless blogs.  And you know what I found?  Unlike the bazillion sock recipes I found, shawl recipes are not as easy to find.  Sure, I found several triangular shawl recipes.  But what about semi-circle recipes?  What about asymmetrical triangular shawl recipes?  What about short row shawl recipes?  Faroese shawl recipes?  Side to side shawl recipes?  Trapezoid shawl recipes? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  Well, this is what I found: you have to tirelessly search and search for certain shapes and even then, there aren't many "recipes" out there.  I've see many blogs explain how the shawl is constructed and which way you are knitting to create that shape.  But recipes?  Not many.

So what do you do to gather this info?  You have to collect information.  There may be a blog with some information on 1 thing here and another blog there.. But you have to do the work and do the math.  While admittedly, there are many examples of knitted shawl shapes out there for us to gather basic construction information (no one is re-inventing the wheel here), you have to pay attention and take notes.

The best advice I can give those of you out there who are considering shawl design is to get yourself a notebook and make notes about the different shawls you knit.  DO NOT REPLICATE a designer's shawl.  But take notations about the construction.  Divide your notebook into shawl shapes and you will start to notice some common threads in the construction of all shawls of that shape.

On my podcast (Episode 7), I spoke about a few stitch dictionary resources.  But here on my blog, I'm going to list just a few resources I've come across online for construction and design.
Have fun!  If you have a design, construction, recipe/formula resource you'd like to share - PLEASE leave a comment for everyone to see!  :)



  1. Thank you for these websites! I have been searching for a shawl how-to myself, and finally just gave up and started knitting to see what I would come up with! Thank you again!

  2. Thanks for posting these fabulous resources.


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