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How to Knit a Shawl for Beginners

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Knit shawls are a great project both for beginners and experienced knitters. There are several different ways to knit a shawl. Knitted shawls also come in different shapes too.

Here I will cover the basics of how to knit a simple shawl. The two most common shawl shapes are triangle and rectangle.

Striped knit shawl on mannequin.
The Umbria, a chunky triangle shawl knitting pattern.

Check out the Umbria for a free knit shawl pattern. This is a simple bottom up triangle shawl that’s an easy pattern. The Umbria is knit with chunky yarn so it works up quickly.

Triangle Shawls

Triangles shawls are a popular choice for knitters. There are top down triangle shawls, bottom up triangle shawls and side to side triangle shawls.

The triangle shape lends it self to a beautiful asymmetrical design.

Bottom up is a great way to knit a shawl. To knit a bottom up triangle shawl first you cast on 1 – 3 stitches. Then you increase in the first and last stitch to create the triangle shape.

You can use simple increases like knit front and back, KFB. You will increase on both ends, and knit all the stitches in between.

The simplest method is to alternate increases every other row.

Knitting a shawl bottom up is great if you don’t have much yarn then you just call it a scarf.

Triangle easy scarf knitting pattern for beginners in multi colored yarn of brown tied on mannequin.
The Tostata Scarf triangle scarf in one skein.

Stitches

The knit stitch is the easiest stitch. To knit a garter stitch shawl you will knit on both sides.

If you want to knit a stockinette stitch shawl then you will knit on the right side and purl on the wrong side.

Since stockinette edges curl, you will need to knit edge stitches. Garter stitch or seed stitch are great border stitches for stockinette fabrics.

How many stitches do you need to knit a shawl?

You can start knitting a shawl with as little as one stitch. If it’s a triangle shawl, you then increase until it’s as wide as needed.

You can knit a rectangle shawl by starting with the total number of stitches for your width. Think shoulder down to hip length.

The Giana Shawl is a narrow 16″ in width. You may prefer a shawl depth of 24″ or more.

The actual number of stitches you will need depends on the yarn weight you’re using and the pattern. I give some specific cast ons in the section below.

Garter stitch rows on knitting needle in honey colored yarn.
Chunky stitches cast on for beginner shawl pattern.

How to Knit a Rectangle Shawl

To knit a rectangle shawl you will cast on for either the width or the length. From there you just knit to size.

This free knitting pattern is knit by casting on the width. I cast on 40 stitches for a 16″ wide shawl. This simple garter stitch shawl pattern uses #5 bulky weight yarn.

The California Wrap is knit in #4 worsted weight yarn. For this one I cast on for the length of the shawl.

Then knit all the stitches for both sides. The garter stitch looks the same whether you are knitting a right or wrong side row.

Striped green and brown knit shawl draped on wood table with glasses.
Garter stitch shawl in striped yarn.

So for a 60″ long shawl in medium worsted weight yarn I cast on 180 stitches. This length will wrap around your body. This free shawl knitting pattern is a simple rectangle and includes four length options.

To make this shawl even simpler use a self striping yarn. These gorgeous color changes are all the work of Shawl in a Ball from Lion Brand Yarn.

Are shawls easy to knit?

Yes, shawls are easy to knit. The simplest shawl to knit is a rectangle shawl. There is no shaping. So you do not have to increase or decrease.

Triangle shawls can also be easy to knit.

Progress of easy scarf knitting pattern for beginners on knitting needles.

Triangle Scarf

The Tostata Knit Scarf is great for beginners and it’s a free pattern. In this triangle scarf you increase only on one side with yarn overs.

This sample is knit with one hank of hand dyed yarn. So if you have a special skein of yarn this is the perfect pattern. If you have two hanks of yarn then you can keep knitting for a full triangle scarf.

How do you make a simple shawl?

To knit a simple shawl, cast on to the width or length you want. Then knit both sides until your rectangle is as wide or long as needed.

This will give you a rectangle shawl that’s reversible.

Can you knit a shawl on straight needles?

Yes! You can knit a shawl on straight needles. Most shawls are knit flat, in back and forth rows.

I use circular needles, or cable needles to knit large projects like blankets, and shawls.

The circulars are useful for knitting shawls to accommodate all the stitches you need. The same applies for knit blankets.

Woman with hand in mustard color knit shawl pockets.
Giana Pocket Shawl

However, if you’re using a lighter weight yarn, or don’t have too many stitches you can knit a shawl on straight needles.

This would work especially well on a shawl like the Giana Shawl since you cast on for the width. The width is narrower than the length so there are less stitches.

Once you’ve been knitting a little bit you can work up to more complicated stitch patterns. Lace sections can make a stunning triangular shawl.

Free Shawl Knitting Patterns

These easy shawl patterns are the perfect project for any skill level.

Giana Pocket Shawl this rectangular shape shawl is the perfect piece for new knitters.

Tostata Knit Scarf use one hank of yarn for a scarf and two for a shawl.

California Wrap is a pretty shawl that features knits for the entire shawl.

Umbria Triangle Shawl is a knit triangle shawl pattern aimed at beginners.

Stitches and Abbreviations (US Terms)

BO – bind off

CO – cast on

K – knit

KFB – knit front back: knit through the front loop and knit through the back loop = increases 1 stitch

Close up on striped knit shawl secured with wood pin.

How to Knit a Shawl

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 1 minute
Active Time: 4 hours
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 11 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $20-$40

Learn how to knit a simple shawl in garter stitch with this easy tutorial.

Materials

  • Any weight yarn.

Tools

  • Needles to match your yarn.

Instructions

  1. To knit a triangle shawl with any weight yarn and needles.
  2. CO 1
  3. Row 1. KFB. (2 sts)
  4. Row 2. KFB, KFB. (4 sts)
  5. Row 3. KFB, K 2, KFB. (6 sts)
  6. Row 4. KFB, K 4, KFB. (8 sts)
  7. Row 5. KFB, K 6, KFB. (10 sts)
  8. Row 6. KFB, K to one st left, KFB. (12 sts)
  9. Continue to Rep Row 6, until your shawl is to desired length.
  10. BO.
  11. Cut yarn and weave in ends.
  12. To knit a rectangle shawl in #1 fingering weight yarn with Size 4 / 3.5 mm needles, width wise.
  13. Gauge 4”/10cm x 4”/10cm = 18 sts x 38 rows in garter st
  14. For a 24" deep shawl, CO 108
  15. K all until your shawl measures 60" in length, or to your desired size. BO.
  16. To knit this shawl length wise for a 60" long shawl, CO 270
  17. K all until your shawl measures 24" deep, or to your desired size. BO.
  18. To knit a rectangle shawl in #2 sport weight yarn with Size 4 / 3.5 mm needles, width wise.
  19. Gauge 4”/10cm x 4”/10cm = 20 sts x 48 rows in garter st
  20. For a 24" deep shawl, CO 120
  21. K all until your shawl measures 60" in length, or to your desired size. BO.
  22. To knit this shawl length wise for a 60" long shawl, CO 300
  23. K all until your shawl measures 24" deep, or to your desired size. BO.
  24. To knit a rectangle shawl in #3 light weight yarn with Size 5 / 3.75 mm needles, width wise.
  25. Gauge 4”/10cm x 4”/10cm = 22 sts x 44 rows in garter st
  26. For a 24" deep shawl, CO 132
  27. K all until your shawl measures 60" in length, or to your desired size. BO.
  28. To knit this shawl length wise for a 60" long shawl, CO 330
  29. K all until your shawl measures 24" deep, or to your desired size. BO.
  30. To knit a rectangle shawl in #4 medium worsted weight yarn with Size 9 / 5.5 mm needles, width wise.
  31. Gauge 4″ /10 cm x 4″ / 10 cm = 12 sts x 24 rows of garter stitch
  32. For a 24" deep shawl, CO 72
  33. K all until your shawl measures 60" in length, or to your desired size. BO.
  34. To knit this shawl length wise for a 60" long shawl
  35. CO 180
  36. K all until your shawl measures 24" deep, or to your desired size. BO.
  37. To knit a rectangle shawl in #5 bulky weight yarn with Size 11 / 8 mm needles, width wise.
  38. Gauge 4″ x 4″ = 10 sts x 22 rows of garter stitch
  39. For a 24" deep shawl, CO 60
  40. K all until your shawl measures 60" in length, or to your desired size. BO.
  41. To knit this shawl length wise for a 60" long shawl
  42. CO 150
  43. K all until your shawl measures 24" deep, or to your desired size. BO.
  44. To knit a rectangle shawl in #6 super bulky weight yarn with Size 13 / 9 mm needles, width wise.
  45. Gauge 4”/10cm x 4”/10cm = 9 sts x 12 rows
  46. For a 24" deep shawl, CO 54
  47. K all until your shawl measures 60" in length, or to your desired size. BO.
  48. To knit this shawl length wise for a 60" long shawl
  49. CO 135
  50. K all until your shawl measures 24" deep, or to your desired size. BO.

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