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A Shrug of Your Own: The Basic Recipe

Mar 28, 2007

Drop-Stitch Shrug

So you have a cute little sundress, say, and you’re planning on wearing it out to dinner next week, but it gets chilly in the evening. You don’t want to completely cover up the neckline, because that’s one of the best parts of the dress, but you also don’t want to turn blue with cold before the dessert course. You’ve looked through all the free knitted accessories here, and nothing quite appeals to you. You do, however, have the perfect yarn: a lovely silk/cotton blend that exactly matches the shade of blue in your dress.

The catch: you are not a knitting design genius, and you don’t want to spend hours with calculator and graph paper because, well, because you have one of those Life things.

A shrug isn’t really anything fancy—it can be as complicated as a sweater, only shorter; it can be as simple as a poncho, only with sleeves. It all depends on what you want.

Make your knitting obey you, as Elizabeth Zimmerman was so fond of saying. It’s your shrug, and your yarn; let’s look at some ways to make your knitting obey your personal sense of style.

First, the basic pattern for a basic shrug:

Step 1: CO enough stitches to make a piece twice the depth of your armhole (measure from shoulder bone down to the top of the armhole on a top that fits comfortably and double that measurement).

Step 2: Knit enough rows to make a piece the length of your wingspan (wrist to wrist, arms outstretched).

Step 3: Bind off. (Loosely, loosely; you’ll want your blood to still circulate whilst you are wearing this cute little number.)

Step 4: Sew a seam lengthwise the distance from wrist to shoulder, beginning at one end (cuff) and sewing towards the middle. Repeat the seaming on the other side, leaving the middle part open for your head and body.

Step 5: Put it on and run into the next room to show your roommate/husband/cat.

There’s a bit more to making the perfect shrug, obviously. You can vary the stitch pattern, you can use two yarns held together, you can knit it lengthwise instead of widthwise, you can add belled cuffs or a ribbed edging or hang pom-poms off the back-- whatever your little heart desires.

Here’s a few hints on yarn choices to get you started:

  • Choose a yarn you will want to have next to your skin. The skin on the inside of my arms is particularly sensitive; I like to rub a ball of yarn along my inner arm before knitting with it to see if it feels OK there. Too scratchy? Back in the stash it goes, and I try another one.

  • If you are short on time, choose a novelty yarn—one of the furry, flashy yarns that can turn humble garter stitch into red-carpet wear. The yarn will do all the fancy work for you.

  • If you do choose a furry or fluffy yarn, don’t try to knit a lace pattern or anything with too much detail work going on; let the yarn speak for itself. Lace or texture stitches won’t show up well, anyway.

  • If you want to try a lace pattern, think big: try knitting the pattern in a bulky yarn, with larger needles and fewer repeats than usual. Live large, and your shrug will be a big hit.

See? It’s not so hard. Actually, the hardest part will be not making a zillion shrugs once you realize that you need one for every dress in your closet.

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sbergeron00 wrote
on Apr 22, 2012 9:33 AM

To SueMauer--

The top of the shoulder bone is the top of your shoulder where a shoulder seam on a tee shirt would be. The other spot to measure to is under the arm in the armpit where the side seams and sleeve of a tee shirt come together. ((measure from shoulder bone  (shoulder seam--  I added this) down to the top of the armhole on a top(tee shirt--I added this too)  that fits comfortably and double that measurement))

hope that helps!

I have made tons of shrugs and the way they wrote it I had to read the instructions twice. Have fun!

SueMauer wrote
on Apr 21, 2012 10:32 PM

Either I don't know where the shoulder bone is, or I don't know where the top of the armhole is. I'm visualizing them both in the same place. Can you explain? (basic shrug recipe)

on Apr 21, 2012 10:29 AM

BonniR (Bee) have you joined any of the Knit-A-longs (KAL) --there is a button at the top of the page--

Members chat and exchange ideas all the time. Choose one (or more) that is right for you.

JUDY@6 wrote
on Jul 13, 2008 7:46 AM

I have never made a sweater or a shrug.  I am looking for a VERY SIMPLE one since I am a basic knitter.  My mom is in a nursing home and a sweater is always to bulky.  So here I am searching.  OH BTW  I'd like to find one with pockets.

Judy G.  Springboro, OHio

AbbieD wrote
on Mar 13, 2008 3:50 PM
I love the dropped stitches shrug on the free dowload. The problem is that I don' tquite understand how to read the pattern. Is it saying that your first do the drop stitch pattern and then co42 stitches? Also, isn't the count after co 42 stitches with 3 margin stiches 48 not 46 stitches? Am I missing something?
SusanA wrote
on Feb 22, 2008 7:08 PM
Ironstone patterns had a ribbed and ruffled shrug pattern that I loved so well, I made...3 of them in...cashmere and silk Debbie Bliss and when I wear them...well, I am blissful. I love shrugs; this is the first time I have even posted on a site like this. Thanks to all for the great ideas.
BarbaraH@6 wrote
on Aug 31, 2007 11:01 AM
I have been looking for a simple shrug I can make, if it gets complicated, I give up and never finish it! Can anyone help me with that? I would certainly appreciate it so much!
BonniR wrote
on Aug 8, 2007 1:21 PM
Hi Beverly,
I have just the shrug for you!
It is a great bolero style, ribbed around the circular front and cuffs, lacy all over the rest of the body. A simple bit of lovelyness. I am working on the pattern for it as we type. Maybe there is a way for readers to trade patterns? I don't want to break any of the KittingDaily rules though. So maybe someone official from the KD staff can comment or E-mail me and let me know if there is an acceptable way to exchange patterns (that we have designed and are therefore not breaking copyright rules with) amongst ourselves.
BeverlyR wrote
on Aug 2, 2007 11:27 AM
I love the idea of shrugs. The reality of a shrug...not so much. I one [free pattern on ball band of (I think it was Caron's Simply Soft Shadow yarn). Loved the simplicity of it and the sproingy softness of the yarn, but the fit...Jeez, can't imagine it looking good on anyone who isn't anorexic. Guess what I really need is a nice, but simple Bolero pattern, ie., short in front, a bit longer and looser fit in the back.
AdcockJ wrote
on Jun 21, 2007 5:07 PM
I really enjoy shrugs and my favorite one that fits the best is one knit by my best friend,(besides my DH :~D ) in a silk blend yarn. I have made several shrugs and none fit as well as the one she made. Now I know why! The hints on helping along the fit I found very helpful, specifically how and where to measure correctly! Keep up the great work! Take care, Juli