How to Knit a Shawl Without a Pattern

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You can knit a shawl the way you want it, without having to use a pattern.

If you find yourself reaching for a sweater several times a day, a shawl might be just the thing to keep your shoulders and arms warm. Shawls are perfect for cool spring and fall mornings as well as cooler temperatures in the house during winter months.

There are patterns for shawls, of course, but why not knit your own without following someone else's pattern? If you have any experience at all, it's not hard to do. A knitted shawl is, in its most basic form, a triangle or a rectangle. To make a triangle, you simply start at the corner and increase every other row, usually two stitches per row, or increase one stitch for each row.

To make a rectangle, decide how wide you want it and make a swatch with your preferred yarn and needle size, then simply start at one end and work until it's long enough.

Okay, so there's a little more to it, but not much. If you'd like to try knitting a shawl without a pattern, you must first decide what you want it to look like. There are many, many pattern stitches and any of them can be used, but a pattern worked over only a few stitches will be easier to knit. Decide on the yarn you want to use and choose needles accordingly.

For a triangular shawl, you'll need 14 inch single point needles or a 30 or 36 inch circular needle on which you will work back and forth.

Shawls can be made of any kind of yarn, from fine silk to bulky wool. Which one you choose should depend on a number of variables: Do you want a fashion statement or do you want warmth, or both? Do you want to work it quickly or will you be happy to spend quite a bit of time on it?

If you've decided to make a rectangular shawl, you'll need to make a swatch to see how many stitches to cast on. Make up a four by four inch square then count how many stitches there are in one inch. Multiply that number of stitches by how wide you want the shawl in inches and there you have how many stitches you need. If there's a stitch pattern you want to use, it's okay to fudge a few stitches to make it come out even.

Work a few rows for a border before beginning the pattern and count the rows so that you can make the ending border the same width. You can use garter stitch or something a little more involved, but use a stitch that won't curl. Don't use a rib unless you want the shawl to draw in around the top and bottom. Don't use a rib unless you want the shawl to draw in around the top and bottom.

Simply work the rectangular shawl until it's as long as you want, finish with the border rows and bind off.

For a triangular shawl, first decide whether you want to increase in the center or on the edges. Each one will give a different look. When you increase in the center, you'll have a rib going up the center of the shawl and if you increase on the outside edges, you'll have a rib of sorts on both edges. You'll need to keep at least two stitches either in the center or on each edge for increasing stitches without having to make a lot of adjustments to the stitch pattern. The visual result will be pleasing and the process easier.

To increase in the center, cast on three stitches. On the first row, knit across. On the second row, knit one stitch, knit in front, in back and in front again of the next stitch, then knit one stitch. You will have five stitches. Put a marker on the center stitch. On the third row and every odd number row, knit (or purl, depending on the look you want). Fourth row: Knit to within one stitch of the marker, increase one stitch in the next stitch, knit one, increase one stitch in the next stitch, work to the end.

When you have enough stitches, start your stitch pattern, keeping the last stitch in plain knit and the center three stitches free for increases. Work until the shawl is big enough for you and bind off.

These methods can be used for other things, of course. A piano or dresser scarf, a dish cloth or a blanket - anything rectangular can be made like the rectangular shawl. A triangle can become a piece of a bedspread pattern or a head scarf for cold weather or whatever your imagination makes of it. Make rectangles, triangles and even circles, do what you want them to.

Go ahead, give yourself the freedom to knit without a pattern. Your own unique style is worth showing off!


Pat Veretto
Posted on Sep 2, 2011
Kathleen Murphy
Posted on Sep 2, 2011