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Knitting Triangluar Shawls

Apr 22, 2013

Basilica, from Free-Spirit Shawls
Vogue Knitting Live was held in Seattle a couple of weeks ago and I was lucky enough to go. I got a triangular shawl kit, which is something I don't usually knit. There's no real reason I don't knit triangular shawls, it's just that I've always been more into scarf knitting and wide, rectangular shawls.

But after seeing Lisa Shroyer's new book Free-Spirit Shawls and learning her tips about wearing shawls, I think I'm a convert. I can't wait to cast on my shawl—I think it'll be the perfect summer knitting project.

Spaythe, from Free-Spirit Shawls
Bryusa, from Free-Spirit Shawls
Here's Lisa to tell you about a triangular shawl knitting technique: from the top down!

The Top-Down Triangle

One of the most popular ways to knit a triangular shawl is from the top down, with increases worked at four lines—one at each outer edge and two in the middle, each flanking the center spine. The standard top-down shawl begins with a garter tab, which is worked such that there is no visible cast-on; the shawl just grows from the top edge downward and outward.

How to Work a Garter Tab
Using the invisible provisional cast-on, cast on 3 stitches. Knit 7 rows. Turn your work and use the right needle to pick up and knit 3 stitches down the side edge of the work. Unzip the provisional cast-on and place 3 live stitches on the left needle, then knit them, for a total of 9 stitches.

You now have a short piece of garter stitch with live stitches emerging from it on three sides. These three sections (of 3 stitches each) represent the three shaping "lanes" to be worked in the shawl body. After the cast-on, a standard shawl would be worked as follows: 3 garter stitches for the edging, yarnover increase, knit 1, yarnover, knit 1 (center spine), yarnover, knit 1, yarnover, 3 garter stitches for the edging.

As the stitches increase, patterning can be worked over the knit stitches. Each right-side row increases the stitch count by four, with the result that two triangles grow outward from the garter tab, with the center-spine knit stitch separating them down the middle. Obviously, the final rows and bind-off will be worked over many stitches.

Top-down triangles can be small or large; just stop knitting when it suits you! Stitch patterns have to be worked in multiples that integrate with the rate of shaping and the stitch counts, but as you can see from Spathe (above), you can achieve beautiful allover patterns.

—Lisa Shroyer, from Free-Spirit Shawls

Intrigued? Me, too. Lisa's book is full of modern, fun shawl patterns. Order your copy of Free-Spirit Shawls today and cast-on a summertime project!


P.S. Are you a shawl knitter? Leave a comment and tell what your favorite shawl shape is!

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Indulge yourself in hand-painted and lace yarns. Many shawl projects take only one skein.


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on Mar 21, 2015 11:16 AM

I want the asymetrical triangular shale pattern that Vickie demonstrated in loose ends and I can't god it.

on Dec 15, 2013 9:35 PM

I have enjoyed making triangular shawls - made 3 so far using a very simple method. With a novelty fluffy type yarn, and extra large needles (20mm), start with 1 or 3 cast on stitches, and then using only garter stitch, increase 1 stitch at the start of each row. Continue until skein used up, or to size required. Makes a very lacy looking shawl. Looks great with soft,

variegated yarns.

on Dec 15, 2013 4:32 AM

I have made a few triangular shawls, mostly using extra large needles compared to the yarn. Starting with either 1 or 3 stitches, increasing 1 stitch at the start of every row, and continuing till size required or out of yarn. These look especially effective with unusual yarns. - So easy, but so beautiful.

Takeli wrote
on Dec 14, 2013 9:38 PM

Jane Thornley knits stories as her projects evolve...find her work on Ravelry or google

Takeli wrote
on Dec 14, 2013 9:36 PM

Loving Jane Thornley's Free Spirit on to my 3rd using her techniques, utterly fun and fabulous!

viwstitcher wrote
on Apr 27, 2013 10:46 AM

I actually love semicircle the best.  Their coverage is great and their patterns are usually nice and lacy.  I'm currently working a top down Faroese style.  It's the best of both worlds, the lovely Faroese center panel but with the ease of a top down triangle.

CindyR@8 wrote
on Apr 27, 2013 9:44 AM

Triangle shawls are nice, but I LOVE circular shawls! Right now I am working on a very lacey circle shawl and have nearly 900 stitches on the needle. The best part - no purling! I personally find purling very boring when having a LOT of stitches on the needle.

KayW@2 wrote
on Apr 27, 2013 8:56 AM

Triangle shawls are pretty, but there always comes a point when you have over 300 sts in a single row, which means that you have to count constantly and a mistake takes forever to frog.  Ever since I discovered sideways shawlettes, I have become an addict.  Especially as a travel project, these are so much less stressful.

MMMBaker wrote
on Apr 27, 2013 7:17 AM

I have fallen in love with triangle shawls, although have have made several stole type as well. Triangles are so versatile. Actually I have both a triangle and rectangle on needles now, and just was given some yarn that would be perfect as a shawl as well. Too many projects, not enough time!

Norma@2 wrote
on Apr 23, 2013 7:05 AM

Triangular lace is my preferred method of knitting shawls - currently have 3 different triangular and 3 different rectangular on the needles.  Being in charge of the Prayer Shawl Ministry at church I encourage my ladies to knit or crochet any shawl pattern they are comfortable with.

VirgadeanR wrote
on Apr 22, 2013 11:18 PM

l love making triangular shawls. I have made top down shawls, a stair step triangular shawl (3 more on needles) and I am also working on 5 bottom up triangular shawls.  Almost all are lace.

Janet@83 wrote
on Apr 22, 2013 10:59 AM

I love making shawls and have tried most shapes and sizes but it seems the ones I like best are triangles. I am currently knitting a beautiful lace triangle hope mine looks as good as the pattern.

PeggyCope wrote
on Apr 22, 2013 10:47 AM

I started making shawls in the easiest form: rectangular garter stitch. But I quickly graduated to rectangular basketweave, and from there launched into triangular shawls with eyelet borders and decoration. Next up: Lace!

panfila wrote
on Apr 22, 2013 9:35 AM

I like crescent-shaped shawls best now. But I have made a LOT of triangles. I'm not too fond of stoles.


on Apr 22, 2013 7:46 AM

A number of years ago I knitted the "Flower Basket Shawl"  pattern that starts in the same way described above.  I used  sock weight merino from "Fleece Artist" in Nova Scotia,  with a lovely palette of hand-painted colours.  I use it often for both the warmth and the colour it gives.  The shape is very easy to wear with the point at the front and the "tails" anchored around my neck.  I recommend this shape in the plain form for novice knitters.  Use beautiful colour(s) and fibre and you will have a beautiful practical shawl.

Wendy Leigh-Bell