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I need a shrug!

Aug 16, 2010
Fiery Bolero by Debbie Bliss  
The Fiery Bolero by Debbie Bliss (from Interweave Knits summer 2005)

My sister got married this summer, and we hosted the reception in our back yard. It was a ton of work, but so worth it—what a wonderful evening.

Any of you who've done it know that there are a million details when planning a wedding reception (or any big party), not the least of which is what to wear!

My sister and I found the perfect dress for her, and I found a dress I loved for me, but I really wanted a pretty shrug. I couldn't find one that I liked, though, so I ended up with a tee-shirt-fabric jacket-type-thing with longer sleeves than I wanted. But it was fine and I got lots of compliments on the bright colors that I don't usually wear.

The searching process made me get shrug-on-the-brain, and I've been keeping my eyes open all summer looking for the perfect one.

In preparation for this newsletter I got to have fun looking through back issues of Interweave Knits on CD. I came upon this shrug in the summer 2005 Knits, and oh, how I wish I'd found it three months ago!

It's called the Fiery Bolero, and it's by Debbie Bliss. Inspired by her love of flamenco, Debbie created this short, fitted bolero that's reminiscent of the cropped jackets worn by Spanish dancers. The bolero is knitted in a single piece: Cast on at the lower back edge, worked up to the shoulder, and then each front is worked separately from the neck down. This shrug is going on my list!

This design calls for a DK yarn but I need to make it bigger than the largest size (38"), so I'll use a worsted-weight yarn, or maybe even a heavy worsted.

Or will I? Maybe I want a looser, more airy looking shrug.

Or, should I make the shrug in even smaller yarn, like a sport-weight, and use larger needles to get that open look? I think I'm leaning that way.

So what I'll need to do is make a gauge swatch and rework the pattern a little bit.

A gauge swatch is the most important thing to do if you're going to change a pattern even a little bit, or change yarn. You have to see how the yarn will work with the gauge that the pattern calls for, and you need to base any changes you make to the pattern on your gauge with your yarn and needles.

     Gauge swatch   
  My Maggi's Linen swatch; 4 sts to the inch    

For example, I just swatched a cotton/linen yarn (photo at right) that's one of those yarns that you can knit with many sizes of needles and have it come out looking great (it's Maggiknits Maggi's Linen). I got  4.5 stitches to the inch on size 7 needles, and I wanted to get 4 stitches or or fewer to the inch, so I went up to 8s and voila: 4 stitches to the inch. I think I can live with that!

I also have to decide what to do with the border. I might want to do something a bit softer than a 2/2 rib. Maybe a small ruffle? Or maybe I'll increase at that point and make a 2/2 rib ruffle! We'll see when I get that far.

Tips for Making a Gauge Swatch

Since I've talked so much about swatching in this newsletter, I thought I'd give you some tips for making a good, reliable swatch. These tips are from Sandi Wiseheart, swatcher extraordinaire!

  • Always work the gauge swatch with the needles you intend to use for the final project. Even needles in the same size, if made from different materials or by different companies, can yield different gauges.
  • The gauge in most published patterns is measured after blocking, so be sure to block your swatch (using the same method you will use to block the finished garment) before measuring.
  • Use the exact same techniques in a swatch as you will use in the project. For example, if you are working a Fair Isle pattern, and always float the yarns across the back of your work, be sure to float the yarns in the swatch.
  • For lace, cable, and color work patterns, try to work a gauge swatch that is at least two full repeats of the pattern both in width and in length. Doing so results in a more accurate measurement of the overall gauge: You will see beforehand how the pattern repeats fit together and whether one part of the pattern draws in (or spreads out) more than the rest.
  • To measure gauge in the round: Cast on 30 to 40 stitches and divide them evenly between 3 or 4 needles. Join and proceed as for a flat gauge swatch, but work in rounds rather than rows.

Even the most carefully worked swatch can differ in gauge from a large piece of knitting. The cardinal rule is: The larger the swatch, the more accurate it is. Always check the measurements of a project after you've worked the first few inches to make sure the gauge of the project is consistent with the gauge of the swatch.

I was so happy to find this shrug pattern; I highly recommend Interweave Knits on CD. It's so fun to look through back issues and see the evolution of knitting design through the years, and how so many of the patterns are just as fashionable now as they were when they were brand new.


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MaryD@28 wrote
on Sep 8, 2010 8:28 AM

Re: Knits summer 2005 issue shrug. I am on my second shrug. Although this is in number 4 worsted yarn it is knitting smaller on the same size 8 needles that I used for my first shrug. The yarn is Patons Decor 3.5 oz. 190 yards and is 75% acrylic and 25% wool. Another yarn outside of this nice pattern is on  It looks too busy for me.

I like this (summer 2005 shrug) pattern and have yarn to make it the third time.

I plan to try the easier method of short row given for this pattern.

MaryD@28 wrote
on Sep 1, 2010 12:56 PM

Re: The shrug in Knits summer 2005 issue. I just finished the shrug and I am very pleased with the results. It is just a little larger than I expected (1/2 inch), maybe a 1X and it used 5 skeins or 750 yards (there was about 20 yards left over) of the Caron Simply Soft Tweed (White) Yarn. I am going to make another one but maybe in a denim color so that it can be a house sweater. If you go to the Interweave Knits eras on the website and look the summer 2005 shrug up they will give you an easier way to do the short row counting on the neck. Mind you I did not find any errors in the pattern and just followed it along with trust.  It knits up nice. I also used Addi needles to do this pattern. This pattern would be on the 2005 Knits CD too I believe.

on Aug 28, 2010 8:08 PM

Hi Kathleen,

I need that shrug for a plus size...any clue where I can find one? Would appreciate it.



MaryD@28 wrote
on Aug 23, 2010 12:54 PM

Kathleen, I am doing the shrug in Knits summer 2005 issue. I am using size 8 needle and worsted yarn. I am using Caron Simply Soft Tweed (White) Yarn I think it will be fine. I am a 40B bra.  The shrug is not supposed to go over the front to meet like a sweater. It is supposed to cover the sholder area and be open in front. It many times improves the looks of a sleeveless dress also.


LuanneR@2 wrote
on Aug 23, 2010 12:43 PM

But what's up with this photo?  It appears to be too small for the model, as skinny as she is (look at the way her dress hangs).  Put simply, her dress is too large and the shrug is too small.  You have to have imagination to see that this piece could look very nice in a size that fits the model and over a good-fitting underlayer.  IK missed on this one.  

HelenaW@2 wrote
on Aug 18, 2010 10:55 AM

I really like the Fiery Bolero shrug!!!  Can any one give me the pattern?  I don't have that issue in 2005.


GerdaP wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 7:55 PM


I love this shrug, I have knitted several of them, you will definitely want to lengthen it because it does run short.

As you know my daughter's wedding is this Friday and I have knitted numerous things for it...I promise to post pics of all the knitted goodness!



snglmom73 wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 3:15 PM

I do love the idea of this shrug, especially in a looser knit. While it's true those of us on the more curvy side can look downright wrong in a shrug, it depends on where the bottom of the shrug hits. Your t-shirt-knit shrug probably hit around the smallest part of your waist. That's a much better look than when it hits closer to your bustline! (You probably already know this, as a veteran curvy girl knitter!)

For the ribbing, I'll bet it would look really cute if you went with a one-by-one ribbing and inserted eyelets for every knit stitch just a couple of rows from the edge.  It would give the ribbing just a little bit extra pizazz without competing with your natural assets.

Btw, I love the newsletter/blog. This is the first time I've thought to comment about it. Keep up the great work!

Pamela D. wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 2:24 PM

I just love Kathleen's Shrug discussion because it takes me right into her knitterly mind. I love to read about her thought processes and the way she solves her knitting problems. This is such a valuable kind of article.

Pamela D. wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 2:22 PM

I just love Kathleen's Shrug discussion because it takes me right into her knitterly mind. I love to read about her thought processes and the way she solves her knitting problems. This is such a valuable kind of article.

lg324 wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 12:38 PM

. . .  Sorry, there are photos, but no individual purchase on earlier link to Ravelry.

But while we're on the subject, sometimes even I occasionally need an evening wrap: But I HATE shawls and I look TERRIBLE in shrugs. Does anyone know of a pattern for some type of light top layer that is dressy, sheer and flattering? And/or maybe even unique or interesting enough so it's worth knitting by hand?

I once saw (for $899.00, no kidding) in a store in Malibu, a lovely item made of a black sheer mesh that I thought could be duplicated in a mesh or lacy knit. It was essentially a waist-length blouse with a stand-up collar and set-in sleeves, no buttons. But the right and left fronts each extended out about an extra 2-3 feet so they could hang down in front, used as a cowl neck, or be thrown over your shoulder(s) and fly out the back, or be wrapped and tied firmly in front or back. What created that versatility was that the fabric was so light and lacy and slinky -- filmy and stretchy.

I'm sure someone talented in knitting could design or modify a pattern like this, but not me. I don't like the look of fussy lace patterns and thus never tried knitting lace. But I think I could handle a simple mesh, and a fine yarn -- probably pure silk -- might do the trick.

Does anyone have a pattern to recommend or other ideas about this?

Otherwise I'll just be swimming in swatches of stitch patterns, trying out a million "sweater" or blouse patterns, and it will be decades before I make any progress. I'm a slow and not very sophisticated or experienced knitter.

Casey@13 wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 11:25 AM

disregard my previous question - a few minutes w/my trusty calculator and my question/problem was solved!!

lg324 wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 11:21 AM

I'm just not a shrug person -- I can't imagine ever wearing one, or an item of clothing less flattering to more people. Ugh!

HOWEVER, I can see that there are times when a light wrap might be necessary with a fancy dress at an outdoor party.

I am highly tempted to make the gorgeous, unique (and apparently very easy to make) Lily of the Valley shrug from  Michele Rose Orne's 2008 book "Inspired to Knit" by Interweave Press. (Just in case a wasp-waisted friend ever needs a shrug.)

I see now that it's also available as an individual download on Ravelry at

I do wonder whether those sleeves shouldn't be narrower at the wrist, though.

Kate@18 wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 11:11 AM

I have always had a question about this pattern.  Does the finished size (i.e. 32.5, 35, 38, etc) refer to the bust measurement of the person who will wear it or to the actual circumference of the finished item?  I ask because their appears to be a few inches of open space in the front, and I'm not sure which size I should choose.  So if my bust is 42", do I choose the size closest to 42", or do I choose a size more like 35" to account for the space in front?

Casey@13 wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 11:11 AM

Just looked pattern up in my back copy of Knits, and noticed what I believe is an error - says to CO 16sts for both the smallest and largest sizes given.  What should the correct cast on number be for the largest size, please??  Thanks, Carol

ncgran wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 11:02 AM

I don't know about shrugs. I find that very few people really look good in one - maybe thin little girls like the one in the pattern photo? I've never seen a medium-large that looks good - it just emphasizes what's below...  

Astorienne wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 10:54 AM

So glad to see this pattern! I've made it in sizes 32.5 & 35 as gifts & also the adorable L/S kids' version, called Molly, in a set of 5 for little flowergirls & junior bridesmaids, using a lovely, shiny rayon blend in the same weight. A nice hack, especially for little girls, is to add a pair of i-cord ties at bust level to form a bow, holding the fronts closed. Thanks for putting today's spotlight on a classic, straightforward, versatile project.

on Aug 16, 2010 10:00 AM

elizaduckie: I think you're right about the rib. I was thinking about it over the weekend and I wonder what it would look like to pick up stitches and just knit an inch or so in stockinette? I think the result would be a nice, subtle, rolled edge. I'd have to add more width to the fronts of the shrug, though, to make up for the loss of inches with the ribbed edge.

elizaduckie wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 9:46 AM

IMHO, I'd be avoiding the ruffle if I were knitting it...adding ruffles over the chest area tends to be problematic in a few ways.

They can pop out too far from the chest if one has a larger chest, even if the ruffle is small in width. It would be better done as unruffled as possible, otherwise sideways views of self might not be the best.

The other issue is they eat yarn, one has to add more yarn - a lot more yarn -  to accomplish them if they are not called for in the pattern.

When one plans to wear them over a summer dress, ruffles may take away from the overall look of the dress. Of course it depends on what one wants to emphasize, the dress or the shrug.

If one has a small chest then a ruffled shrug might be the perfect addition, otherwise I'd stick with the pattern and leave the shrugs edging as is or add to it a small crocheted (or knitted) picot edging for more interest.

trock wrote
on Aug 16, 2010 8:23 AM

Thank you for sharing these swatching tips. Please share photos of your finished shrug!