Knitted Shawls and How to Wear Them

Basilica, draped in front
Euclid, side wrapped

I've worked lots of scarf knitting patterns and several large wraps, but I've only knit a couple of shawls. As much as I like them, I just haven't been able to incorporate them into my everyday wardrobe. I have a friend who knits amazingly intricate lace shawls. I asked her where she wore them and she said, "Oh, wherever. Albertson's, mostly." I love this attitude, though I don't have the chutzpah to pull it off.

In her new book, Free-Spirit Shawls, Lisa Shroyer shared some advice about actually wearing the knitted shawls, which really opened my eyes to the possibilities!

Wearing Your Shawl

Let's talk about style. Many knitters enjoy knitting shawls but aren't quite sure how best to show them off. There are so many possible ways to wear your shawl, and it can be fun to experiment.

Lindsay, side knotted
Mineral, front knotted

For smaller shawls: A shawl about 26" (66 cm) across the top edge makes a great kerchief. Simply hang the point in front and wrap the ends around the neck, knotting them in place—or bring the ends forward after wrapping them around the neck. Small and medium-sized shawls can also be wrapped around the shoulders off-center, so that the opening hits near the front of the shoulder. Knot the ends there or pin with a brooch.

For delicate lace or larger-sized shawls: Think about ensemble. A large "traditional" looking shawl doesn't have to look frumpy if you pair it with fresh styles and remember that it's an accessory. Use these shawls as part of your look—go Boho with torn denim, big jewelry, and flowy fabrics, or go dress-up with a slinky dress and dramatic earrings. A lace shawl can always be bundled and looped around the neck like a scarf. Though you won't see all the detail, the effect can still be striking.

Of course, almost all shawls can be worn traditionally, with the deepest part of the center straight down the back and the ends draped in front. You can wear sweet little semicircles and crescents this way and look very stylish today. Top a strapless dress with one and you have instant romance.

Some shawl designs lend themselves to a tougher, more urban aesthetic. Tuck a bold little shawl into the collar of a coat or leather jacket, bundle it like a cowl, grab your sunglasses, and you're ready for the city. Long, narrow shawls can be worn like scarves, slung around the neck, or wrapped and tied.

—Lisa Shroyer, Free-Spirit Shawls

Knitted shawls are so beautiful. And, as you can see, they come in all shapes, sizes, and patterns, and you can use any yarn you like. Pre-order Free-Spirit Shawls today so you can start knitting up some wonderful accessories as soon as the book comes out in April!


P.S. How do you wear your knit shawls? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

22 thoughts on “Knitted Shawls and How to Wear Them

  1. I’m with your friend. I wear a shawl almost every day in the winter! I usually pull them up around my neck (if my neck is warm, the rest of me is usually warm, too!). But if there’s a draft in the room, I can loosen it up so it hangs more on my back. I love shawl pins, too– in the winter, shawls and shawl pins are often the only neck jewelry I wear! I find triangle and crescent shapes seem to stay in place best, but rectangular stoles are versatile for dressing up or down.

  2. Thanks for these terrific ideas. I just had to write that I now wear scarves and wraps more often since I work with young women from Afghanistan! Their styles are beautiful and exotic and creative tho there are some ways that they wrap their headscarves that are similar due to the traditions in Afghanistan. By the way, our students win four-year college scholarships to colleges here, and I am the lucky person who prepares the first-year young women academically during the summer–before they launch themselves into this adventure in the United States. You can imagine how much attention their headscarves attract when we are exploring Washington or parts of New England, at times twenty-five beautiful young people visiting govenment buildings, museums or embassies!

  3. I have been using the three celluloid(?) hairpins from my grandmother to secure my smaller shawls as collars over sweaters or tops. If the sweater is loosely woven, I put one through the shawl and the sweater first and then arrange it and put another to secure the other end. The pins are smooth and the knitting accommodates them. They are easier to fasten than a brooch.

  4. I have made many V-shaped shawls and always have trouble wearing them and keeping them in place. I recently made a heart-shaped shawl and love it. It is wide enough that I can wrap the ends across my front and tie it behind my waist. It doesn’t move. It is great! I’m not a skinny mini – just a size 14-16, 69 year old.

  5. las felicito, los shawls son maravillosos, el motivo por el que me suscribi es mi interes en el patron, tutorial y es lo unico que no pude ver. diganme como hacer? grasias

  6. I have a closet full of shawls. I have a pretty shawl pin for some, but, like Hilda, I have started knitting heart-shaped shawls. You can tie them in the front, or just let them hang down. You don’t have to hold them on. I knit a lot shawls for a local nursing home and knit the heart-shaped ones exclusively. I knit small ones so that they don’t bunch up in the back, which can be a problem for the ladies in wheel chairs (the majority), and they can hang down the front, or tied, so they don’t fall off. The ladies like the extra warmth on their neck and upper arms – even in our hot Michigan summers. Shawls can really dress up an otherwise ordinary outfit. You gave me a few new ideas today that I’m anxious to try. Thank you!

  7. Wow, the color, design and contemporary look of the shawls is inspiring. But I also think these youthful models really show off the beauty of wearing a shawl. And, they would make wearing burlap fashionably beautiful too. Ok, I am far from my youth and love wearing shawls.

  8. Love to knit shawls but I never knew what to do with them. They just don’t go with my life style so generally give them as gifts. Liked some of the ideas that were offered.

  9. I make shawls alot and I wear them I love wearing my shawls. It makes the outfit more outspoken. Besides it keeps you warm in a cool place. People wear your shawls and show them offNOW.

  10. Shawls are part of my daily winter wear in a home without central heating. When I knit a sweater I also knit a complimentary shawl and these mix and match for wonderful warmth. Wouldn’t be with out a shawl

  11. I wear very plain clothing, usually black yoga togs and a jewel-toned t-shirt. I just don’t want to spend money on clothes that could go towards yarn. I rely upon scarves and shawls to complete my look. I collect vintage pins to hold the shawls in place, usually a side shoulder drape. I wear them everywhere….grocery, movies, walks. I can tie a shawl around my hips if my lower back is chilled, wrap it around my head if I’m having a curly-head-of hair-taking-over day or use it as an emergency wrap for cool breezes. My friends consider me well-dressed and don’t even notice that I actually only own about 20 pieces of real clothing.

  12. I love to knit lace shawls. One of my very first knitting projects was a shall from Women’s Day magazine (I later found a charted version). I wear my shawls, especially in the summer. Currently I am working on a Faroese style shawl. I especially like Faroese shawls because they stay on.

  13. I love shawls too. Great ideas. Long narrow ones I wear across my neck with the tails going over my shoulders and down my back. It can be quite elegant looking depending on the dress or outfit you’re wearing. It keeps my neck warm and my back too and stays I place pretty well. Sometime I use a pretty broach to hold the two sides together when wearing this way. Put I wear them every other way possible too. Basically one of my favorite garments.

  14. the destiny cowl is my choice for you to knit. it is just different enough from most patterns in the way that it drapes the shoulders and the texture of the yarn that it would be a lovely addition to a cowl collection.

  15. I usually wear my shawls scrunched around my neck or shoulders, depending on how big they are. I often use a shawl pin to secure it in place.
    I cannot remember a time when I have worn one of my own hand-knit shawls that I haven’t received a compliment from at least one person. I think people recognize and apprecite handmade and unique items. Don’t be afraid to wear what you knit!

  16. I’ve been collecting beautiful lace shawl patterns, but I’ve only made one so far, because I didn’t really know how to wear them, and I find them hard to keep in place. The ones on the models in the photos always look so nice, but those girls are just standing and not moving around in the course of a normal day. I find that as soon as I move or bend over, the whole look shifts and I’m constantly pulling at the thing to put it back in place. It seems like an exercise in frustration, which I wish it wasn’t because I’d like to make more of these beautiful patterns. Maybe I need to look for old brooches at yard sales and thrift shops. I do have one big thick shawl, crocheted in a pineapple pattern, that I wear around my neck and shoulders when I’m on my computer in my cool bedroom.

  17. WOW I just finished reading everyone’s comments on what to make, how to wear & what to use to keep them in place. I’ve been knitting over 40+ yrs & it is amazing how things have changed in that time. I have made a total of 2 shawls & 1 completed wrap, with 1 wrap still on needles. The Lace Shawl was for my Mother-In-Law & she just loves it. She is so little & the pattern fits her to a tee…The Large wrap was for my Mom & it also fits her to a tee. They are both cold blooded…I made me a quick lite weight eyelet pattern & once it was done I decided it just wasn’t me. So I gave it away to a lady who has passed away from cancer..Her husband told me that she just love that Shawl & they even put it on her. Boy that hit me like a brick…I’d love to made more & even one for me cause I also don’t have central heat in our house so I wear a fleece jacket. I love ALL the ideas….so I’ll have to try again soon.

  18. I”m not a shawl person by any stretch of the imagination when it comes to knitting. To be frank, I find them matronly (gasp!!) for the most part and I only wear RTW ones when I’m cold. But I don’t sew them. They don’t grab my aorta the way flirty sweaters, skirts and sometimes hats do. That said, I could make one for my mom, she’d like one. I think. I better check before I cast one for *any* shawl for mom. Don’t want to waste time or $$.

  19. I love making shawls! I have given all but one away. I put it around my husband when he was sick this winter and now he uses my “magic shawl” all the time. They are such a comfort when you get a tense neck, especially when knitting.