Shawl design for beginners: Part 2

Ready to take the plunge and create your very own shawl design? In the second part of our workshop, Rosee Woodland shows you how to choose a stitch pattern and cast off that fit…

Shawl design for beginners part 2

In part one of our shawl design workshop, we helped you find inspiration for your design, choose the perfect yarn, and master the basic construction methods that can be used to create a triangle, half circle, circle and square.

Now we’ll show you the next step: figuring out how to make your stitch pattern fit into your stitch count, and adjusting the repeats as you increase the number of stitches. Plus we have tips on choosing the perfect cast-off to finish your shawl.

I’ll use my ‘Cornice’ shawl design from The Knitter issue 56 to explain the techniques.

Rosee Woodland Cornice shawl blocking
Rosee’s ‘Cornice’ shawl uses eyelet lace and lattic stitch sections, plus garter and stocking stitch.

Fitting in your stitch patterns

For our sample shawl I kept it relatively simple, using eyelet stitch patterning and garter stitch ridges, for all but one section.

Even though an eyelet stitch pattern is as straightforward as lace can get, always being a variation of (dec 1 st, yo), you still need to fit it into your stitch count.

For example, on Row 45 of ‘Cornice’ you are starting with 171 stitches and aiming to increase to 175 stitches.

At this point you are working a 4-stitch eyelet pattern as (SSK, K2, yo) on the first half of the row and (yo, K2, Ktog) on the second half of the row to mirror it.

In fitting in your stitch pattern you need to discount the central stitch and the starting and ending stitch of each row. So 171 – 3 = 168 stitches to work into pattern.

Then divide by 2 to give the number of stitches to work in pattern either side of the central spine = 84.

As the eyelet pattern repeat is over 4 stitches, you could fit 21 repeats into each side with no ‘spare’ stitches to work plain.

This would appear as:

Row 45 (RS): K1, yo, (SSK, K2, yo) 21 times, yo, slm, K1, slm, yo, (yo, K2, K2tog) to last st, yo, K1. 175 sts.

However, there is a problem, as you would now have 2 yarnovers next to each other either side of the central marker.

One could change the order of the stitch pattern to get round this.

This could appear as:

Row 45 (RS): K1, yo, (SSK, yo, K2) 21 times, yo, slm, K1, slm, yo, (K2, yo K2tog) to last st, yo, K1. 175 sts.

However, I don’t want to change the stitch pattern around if I can help it. This is not just for the sake of keeping the pattern the same. It’s also about allowing the knitter who’s making the shawl to find a rhythm with the stitch pattern they’re using.

So, I ‘took back’ a 4-stitch repeat on each side and split it between the edge of the shawl and the centre. As the pattern repeat ends with a yarnover on the first half of the shawl and begins with a yarnover on the second half of the shawl, I placed 3 of the 4 ‘spare’ stitches on each side around the central spine, to keep the pattern balanced.

This leaves the final instruction (with the extra stitches shown in bold) as:

Row 45 (RS): K1, yo, K1, (SSK, K2, yo) to 3 sts before marker, K3, yo, slm, K1, slm, yo, K3, (yo, K2, K2tog) to last 2 sts, K1, yo, K1. 175 sts. (4 sts increased.)

Of course, you may wish to add in something more complex. As with the simple eyelet pattern, you will need to make sure you can fit your pattern repeats into the number of stitches available on each half of the shawl.

Remember that stitch patterns with a ‘central’ stitch will be worked as a multiple of the repeated stitches ‘plus one’ (eg, multiple of 6 sts + 1) to balance out the pattern at the start and end of the patterned section.

This means that for each patterned section, you will need to allow an extra stitch in addition to the main pattern repeat, in order to create a perfectly balanced stitch pattern.

Shawl design lattice stitch
Adding in more complex lace like this lattice stitch requires a little maths!

Adjusting pattern repeats for increases

As you are increasing frequently when making any kind of top-down shawl, you will probably have to take these new stitches ‘into pattern’ at some point or you will end up with large expanses of stocking or garter stitch at the edges of your patterned sections.

When doing this, aim to keep the original alignment of the lace or cable patterning, and don’t add a new repeat before or after these stitches until you have enough to make a complete repeat.

For example, a shawl with a stitch pattern multiple of 6 + 1 might look like this:

Row 1 (RS): K1, yo, (36 stitches in pattern = 6 repeats) work 1 stitch to balance pattern, yo, K1, yo, work 1 stitch to balance pattern (36 stitches in pattern = 6 repeats), yo, K1. 4 stitches added.

Row 2 and all WS rows: Purl.

Row 3: K1, yo, K1 (inc from Row 1), (36 stitches in pattern = 6 repeats) work 1 stitch to balance pattern, K1 (inc from Row 1), yo, K1, yo, K1 (inc from Row 1), work 1 stitch to balance pattern (36 stitches in pattern = 6 repeats) K1, yo, K1. 4 stitches added.

Row 5: K1, yo, K2 (incs from Row 1 & 3), (36 stitches in pattern = 6 repeats) work 1 stitch to balance pattern, K2 (incs from Row 1 & 3), yo, K1, yo, K2 (incs from Row 1 & 3), work 1 stitch to balance pattern (36 stitches in pattern = 6 repeats) K2 (incs from Row 1 & 3), yo, K1. 4 stitches added.

Row 7: K1, yo, K3 (incs from Row 1, 3 & 5), (36 stitches in pattern = 6 repeats) work 1 stitch to balance pattern, K3 (incs from Row 1, 3 & 5), yo, K1, yo, K3 (incs from Row 1, 3 & 5), work 1 stitch to balance pattern (36 stitches in pattern = 6 repeats) K3 (incs from Row 1, 3 & 5), yo, K1. 4 stitches added.

At this point you have now added 12 stitches: 4 stitches each for Rows 1, 3 and 7, which means you can add 2 repeats to your patterning – 1 for each side, as follows:

Row 9: K1, yo, (42 stitches in pattern = 7 repeats), work 1 stitch to balance pattern, yo, K1, yo, work 1 stitch to balance pattern (42 stitches in pattern = 7 repeats), yo, K1. 4 stitches added.

However, this will shift everything across half a repeat, so you could instead add half a pattern repeat or wait until you’ve increased enough stitches to add a full repeat without going out of alignment. Whatever you do, check your stitch counts carefully before winging it!

Cast-off methods

After you’ve worked your way through your shawl, you will need to cast off using a stretchy method to allow for blocking. The Russian (or K2tog) cast-off is great for this, but also consider Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.

Shawl design k2tog cast off
Using a K2tog cast-off gives an attractive, stretchy edge.

The sewn cast-off is not usually advisable because you risk running out of yarn, and it isn’t quite as stretchy as either of these two methods.

Want to discover how to choose a great yarn and shape for your shawl? You need the first part of our shawl design workshop! Find it here.

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