Learn How to Knit a Shawl for Beginners

Learn How to Knit a Shawl for Beginners

Knitting is a wonderful craft that allows you to create beautiful and functional items with just a few simple tools. If you’re a beginner knitter looking for a project to practice your skills, knitting a shawl is a great choice. Shawls are versatile accessories that can be worn year-round and come in a variety of styles and patterns.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through the process of knitting a shawl from start to finish. Whether you’re brand new to knitting or just looking to brush up on your skills, we’ve got you covered. We’ll cover everything from choosing the right yarn and needles to understanding and following a pattern.

One of the first steps in knitting a shawl is selecting the right yarn. It’s important to choose a yarn that matches the style and purpose of the shawl you want to create. Consider factors like fiber content, weight, and color. You’ll also need to pick the right needles for your project.

Once you have your materials ready, we’ll guide you through casting on, knitting stitches, and working with a pattern. Don’t worry if you’ve never done any of these before – we’ll explain everything in detail and provide helpful tips along the way. By following our step-by-step instructions, you’ll be well on your way to knitting a beautiful shawl that you can be proud of.

So grab your knitting needles and join us as we embark on this knitting adventure. By the end, you’ll have a gorgeous shawl that you can wear or gift to someone special. Let’s get started!

What is a shawl?

A shawl is a versatile accessory that can be worn over the shoulders or draped around the body. It is typically a large piece of fabric, often rectangular in shape, that can be made from various materials such as wool, silk, or cotton. Shawls can be knitted, crocheted, or woven, and they come in a wide range of styles, patterns, and colors.

Shawls are popular for their functionality and style. They provide warmth and comfort, making them ideal for chilly weather or air-conditioned environments. They can be worn casually or as an elegant accessory to enhance an outfit.

Shawls can be knitted in different stitches and patterns, allowing for endless design possibilities. They can be simple and basic, or they can feature intricate lacework or textured stitches.

Additionally, shawls can be customizable in terms of size and shape. They can be long and narrow, wide and rectangular, or even asymmetrical. The possibilities are endless, giving you the freedom to create a shawl that suits your personal style and preferences.

Whether you are a beginner knitter or an experienced crafter, knitting a shawl can be a rewarding and enjoyable project. It allows you to experiment with different techniques, yarns, and designs, and it results in a beautiful and practical accessory that you can proudly wear or gift to someone special.

Why knit a shawl?

Knitting a shawl can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, whether you are a beginner or an experienced knitter. There are several reasons why knitting a shawl is a popular choice for many people:

  • Style and versatility: Shawls are not only practical but also stylish accessories. They can be worn in various ways, such as draped over the shoulders, wrapped around the neck, or even used as a head covering. With a wide range of patterns, colors, and yarn choices available, you can knit a shawl that matches your personal style.
  • Portability: Knitting a shawl is a portable project that can be easily carried in a bag or purse. This makes it a great choice for knitting on the go, whether you are traveling, waiting in line, or simply relaxing outdoors.
  • Relaxation and stress relief: Knitting has been found to have a calming effect on the mind and body. It can help reduce stress, increase mindfulness, and promote relaxation. Knitting a shawl can be a meditative process, allowing you to focus on the repetitive motions and rhythm of the stitches.
  • Gift-giving: Knitted shawls make thoughtful and personal gifts for your loved ones. Handmade items have a special touch that shows the recipient how much you care. Whether you knit a shawl for a special occasion, such as a birthday or holiday, or simply to surprise someone, it is sure to be appreciated.
  • Learning and skill-building: Knitting a shawl can be a great way for beginners to learn and practice new knitting techniques. Shawl patterns often incorporate various stitches, such as lace, cables, or colorwork, allowing you to expand your skills and knowledge. As you gain experience, you can challenge yourself with more complex patterns and designs.

In conclusion, knitting a shawl offers a combination of creativity, relaxation, and practicality. Whether you knit for yourself or others, it can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby that brings warmth and beauty into your life.

Getting Started

Knitting a shawl can be a delightful and rewarding project for beginners. Whether you’re new to knitting or have some experience, this step-by-step guide will help you create a beautiful shawl.

Gather Your Materials

Before you begin, make sure you have all the necessary materials. Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  • Knitting needles: Choose a pair of needles that are appropriate for the yarn you’re using. The label on the yarn will usually recommend a needle size.
  • Yarn: Select a yarn that’s suitable for shawl knitting. You can choose any color or texture you like.
  • Scissors: You’ll need a pair of scissors to cut the yarn.
  • Yarn needle: This needle will be used for weaving in the loose ends of yarn.
  • Stitch markers: Stitch markers will help you keep track of your stitches and pattern repeats.
  • Measuring tape: A measuring tape will come in handy for checking your gauge and measuring the length of your shawl.

Choose a Pattern

Next, select a shawl knitting pattern that you’d like to make. There are countless patterns available online and in knitting books. For beginners, it’s best to choose a simple pattern with straightforward instructions.

Learn the Basic Techniques

If you’re new to knitting, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the basic knitting techniques before starting your project. These include casting on, knitting, purling, and binding off. There are many tutorials and videos available online that can guide you through these techniques.

Check Your Gauge

Checking your gauge is an important step to ensure that your shawl turns out the right size. The pattern you choose will specify a recommended gauge. To check your gauge, knit a swatch using the recommended needle size and yarn weight, and measure the number of stitches and rows per inch. Adjust your needle size if necessary.

Choosing the Right Yarn

When it comes to knitting a shawl, choosing the right yarn is essential to achieve the desired results. Here are some factors to consider when selecting yarn for your project:

  • Fiber: Yarn comes in different fibers, such as wool, acrylic, cotton, and blends. Consider the properties of each fiber to determine which one will work best for your shawl. Wool is warm and has good stitch definition, while acrylic is affordable and easy to care for. Cotton is lightweight and breathable, making it suitable for warmer weather.
  • Weight: Yarn weight refers to the thickness of the yarn. The most common weights for shawls are fingering, sport, and worsted. Fingering weight yarn is thin and creates delicate, lightweight shawls. Sport weight is slightly thicker, making it ideal for medium-sized shawls. Worsted weight yarn is thicker and works well for cozy, warm shawls.
  • Texture: Consider the texture of the yarn and how it will affect the appearance of your shawl. Smooth yarn will showcase stitch patterns and lacework, while textured yarns like boucle or tweed can add interest to the finished piece.
  • Color: The color of your yarn will determine the overall look of your shawl. Solid or semi-solid colors will showcase stitch patterns and lacework, while variegated or self-striping yarns can add visual interest. Consider the color palette you want to achieve and how it will complement your wardrobe.

It’s important to read the yarn labels and follow the recommended needle size to ensure your shawl turns out as expected. Remember to make a gauge swatch before starting your project to check if the yarn and needle combination gives you the desired tension.

Selecting the right needles

When it comes to knitting a shawl, selecting the right needles is crucial. The type and size of needles you choose will determine the drape, tension, and overall look of your shawl. Here are some tips to help you select the perfect needles for your project:

  • Material: Needles can be made from various materials such as wood, metal, or plastic. Each material has its own characteristics, so it’s important to consider what feels comfortable in your hands and works best with the yarn you’re using.
  • Size: The size of the needles is denoted by a number or letter and determines the thickness of the needles. The pattern you’re following should specify the recommended needle size, but you can always adjust based on your personal preference and the desired drape of your shawl.
  • Length: The length of the needles can affect your knitting experience and the size of your shawl. Circular needles are commonly used for shawls as they allow you to knit a large number of stitches and accommodate the growing size of your shawl. However, if you prefer straight needles, make sure they are long enough to hold all the stitches.
  • Tips: Consider the tips of the needles as well. Sharp tips are great for intricate lace patterns, while blunt tips are easier to use for beginners or when working with chunky yarn.

Remember, selecting the right needles is a personal preference and can vary depending on the project. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you. Happy knitting!

Knitting Techniques

When knitting a shawl, there are several basic techniques that you should be familiar with. These techniques will help you create the desired stitch patterns and shape your shawl.

Casting On

The first step in knitting any project is casting on. This is the process of creating the initial row of stitches on your knitting needle. There are different methods of casting on, such as the long-tail cast-on or the knit cast-on. Choose the method that you find most comfortable and suitable for your project.

Knit Stitch

The knit stitch is the most basic and commonly used stitch in knitting. It creates a smooth and flat fabric. To knit a stitch, insert the right-hand needle into the front of the stitch on the left-hand needle, wrap the yarn around the right-hand needle, and pull it through the stitch, slipping the old stitch off the left-hand needle. Repeat this process for each stitch.

Purl Stitch

The purl stitch is another fundamental stitch in knitting. It creates a textured fabric with raised bumps. To purl a stitch, insert the right-hand needle into the front of the stitch on the left-hand needle from right to left, wrap the yarn around the right-hand needle, and pull it through the stitch, slipping the old stitch off the left-hand needle. Repeat this process for each stitch.


Increases are used to add stitches to your knitting and create shaping. There are different types of increases, such as the knit front and back (KFB) increase or the yarn over (YO) increase. These techniques allow you to gradually widen your shawl and create decorative effects.


Decreases are used to eliminate stitches and shape your knitting. The most common decrease is the knit two stitches together (K2tog), where you knit two stitches together as if they were one. This creates a decrease that slants to the right. Other common decreases include the purl two stitches together (P2tog) and the slip slip knit (SSK).

Binding Off

At the end of your knitting project, you will need to bind off or cast off. This is the process of finishing the last row and securing the stitches so they don’t unravel. To bind off, knit the first two stitches, then use the left-hand needle to lift the first stitch over the second stitch and off the right-hand needle. Continue this process until you have one stitch left, cut the yarn, and pull it through the last stitch.


Blocking is an essential step in knitting a shawl. It helps to even out the stitches, relax the fabric, and enhance the drape of the shawl. To block your shawl, soak it in cool water with a gentle detergent, squeeze out the excess water without wringing, and lay it flat on a clean towel, gently shaping it to the desired dimensions. Allow it to dry completely before wearing or storing.


After blocking, your shawl is almost complete. You may choose to add any finishing touches, such as adding fringe, attaching buttons, or weaving in loose ends. These final details can enhance the overall look of your shawl and make it unique.

By mastering these essential knitting techniques, you will be well-equipped to knit a beautiful shawl from start to finish. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced knitter, these techniques form the foundation of knitting and will aid you in creating stunning shawls for yourself or as gifts.

Casting on Stitches

Before you can start knitting your shawl, you need to cast on stitches onto your knitting needles. This is the foundation of your project and sets the number of stitches you will work with throughout.

There are several methods for casting on stitches, but the most commonly used method for beginners is the long-tail cast on. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Hold the needle in your dominant hand with the tip pointing to the right. Leave a long tail of yarn (about three times the width of your finished shawl) hanging down from your needle.
  2. Make a slipknot by crossing the yarn over itself and pulling the end through the loop. Place the slipknot on your needle, leaving the tail hanging down.
  3. Hold the needle with the slipknot in your left hand. With your right hand, insert the tip of the needle under the yarn coming from the skein to create a loop. This loop will be one of your cast on stitches.
  4. With your left thumb and index finger, bring the yarn from the skein up and over the needle from back to front.
  5. Using your right hand, pull the needle back out of the loop, bringing the yarn through the loop to create another stitch on your needle. Repeat steps 3-5 until you have cast on the desired number of stitches.
  6. Once you have cast on all your stitches, you can continue knitting your shawl following the pattern instructions.

Remember to keep your cast on stitches loose but even to ensure an even tension throughout your shawl. Practice this method until you feel comfortable with casting on stitches, and soon you’ll be ready to tackle the rest of your knitting project.

Knitting the main body

Once you have completed the initial setup and cast on the required number of stitches, you are ready to start knitting the main body of your shawl. This is the part where you will be creating the majority of the fabric.

1. Begin by knitting every row in your chosen stitch pattern. This can be a simple stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row) or any other pattern you prefer. Repeat the pattern for the desired length of your shawl.

2. As you knit, make sure to keep your tension consistent to ensure even stitches throughout the fabric. This will help in achieving a polished and professional-looking shawl.

3. It can be helpful to use stitch markers to mark your progress and keep track of any stitch pattern changes or shaping techniques used in the pattern.

4. Remember to take breaks and stretch your hands and fingers periodically to prevent fatigue and strain.

5. After reaching the desired length, you will need to bind off your stitches. This is done by knitting two stitches, then passing the first stitch over the second stitch and off the needle. Repeat this process until only one stitch remains, then cut the yarn and pull it through the last stitch to secure it.

6. If your pattern calls for blocking, now is the time to block your shawl. Blocking helps to even out any uneven stitches, open up lace patterns, and give the shawl its final shape. Follow the blocking instructions provided in your pattern.

7. Once your shawl is blocked and dry, you can weave in any loose ends using a tapestry needle. Be sure to weave them in securely to prevent unraveling.

Congratulations! You have successfully knitted the main body of your shawl. Now, you can move on to adding any finishing touches or embellishments as desired.

Adding a decorative border

Adding a decorative border to your knitted shawl is a great way to enhance its overall appearance and make it truly unique. There are several options you can choose from to achieve this, including lace borders, ribbing, and cabled edges. Here are some steps to guide you through the process:

  1. Choose your border pattern: Take some time to browse through knitting pattern books or online resources to find a border pattern that complements your shawl. Consider the overall design and style you want to achieve, whether it’s a delicate lace or a bold cable.
  2. Measure your shawl: Take measurements of the edges of your shawl to determine the length of the border you’ll need. This will help you calculate the number of stitches to cast on and ensure that your border fits perfectly.
  3. Prepare your yarn: Select a yarn that matches or complements your shawl. You can use the same yarn as your main shawl or choose a contrasting color for a pop of color. Make sure you have enough yarn to complete the entire border.
  4. Cast on stitches: Using the same needles you used for your shawl, cast on the required number of stitches for your border. You can use any cast-on method you prefer.
  5. Work the border pattern: Follow the instructions of your chosen border pattern to knit the decorative edge. Be mindful of any stitch counts or repeat instructions provided in the pattern to ensure accuracy.
  6. Continue knitting the shawl: Once you have completed the border on one side, you will need to continue knitting the rest of the shawl. Follow the main shawl pattern as you normally would, keeping in mind any adjustments needed to accommodate the border.
  7. Repeat for remaining edges: After finishing one side of the border and continuing the shawl, repeat the same process for the remaining edges. Make sure to maintain consistency in your border pattern and stitch count.
  8. Bind off: When you have completed the last row of your border, bind off the stitches using a method that matches the elasticity of your shawl, such as a stretchy bind-off for lace or a standard bind-off for ribbing and cables.
  9. Weave in ends: Finally, weave in any loose ends left from adding the border, making sure to secure them well to avoid unraveling.

Adding a decorative border to your knitted shawl not only adds an aesthetic element but also showcases your creativity as a knitter. Experiment with different patterns and yarns to create a shawl that is truly one-of-a-kind.

Finishing Touches

Once you have finished knitting the main section of your shawl, it’s time to add some finishing touches to make it even more special. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Blocking: Before you begin the finishing touches, it’s important to block your shawl. Blocking involves laying your shawl flat on a towel or blocking mat and gently stretching it to the desired shape. This helps even out the stitches and gives your shawl a more polished look.
  • Edging: One way to add a beautiful finish to your shawl is by adding an edging. You can choose from a variety of edging patterns, such as a lace or picot edge. Pick a pattern that complements the overall design of your shawl and carefully knit it along the edges.
  • Bind off: A neat and tidy bind off is essential to prevent your shawl from unraveling. There are different bind off methods to choose from, depending on the stretchiness you want. The standard bind off method works well for most shawls, but you can also try a stretchy bind off if you prefer a looser edge.
  • Blocking again: After adding the edging and binding off, it’s a good idea to block your shawl once more. This will help set the stitches and ensure that your shawl retains its shape.
  • Finishing touches: To make your shawl extra special, you can add decorative elements like tassels, beads, or fringe. These embellishments can be attached to the edges of your shawl, adding visual interest and a touch of elegance.

Remember to consult the pattern instructions for any specific finishing techniques recommended for your shawl. Taking the time to add these finishing touches will result in a beautiful and professional-looking shawl that you can be proud of!


How do I choose the right yarn for knitting a shawl?

When choosing yarn for knitting a shawl, consider the pattern you’ll be using, your personal preferences, and the season in which you’ll be wearing the shawl. Consider the weight of the yarn, the fiber content, and the color. If you’re a beginner, it’s recommended to use a medium-weight yarn, such as a DK or worsted weight, as they are easier to work with. Choose a yarn that feels soft and comfortable against your skin. Additionally, consider the color of the yarn and how it will coordinate with your wardrobe.

What size knitting needles should I use for a shawl?

The size of knitting needles you should use for a shawl will depend on the pattern you’re following and the weight of the yarn you’re using. Most shawl patterns will specify the recommended needle size. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start with a medium-sized needle, such as a US 8 or 9, as they are usually versatile and can be used with a variety of yarn weights. However, it’s always a good idea to make a gauge swatch before starting your shawl to ensure that you’re using the correct needle size to achieve the desired gauge.

What are some beginner-friendly stitch patterns for knitting a shawl?

There are several beginner-friendly stitch patterns that you can use for knitting a shawl. Some popular options include the garter stitch, which is simply knitting every row, the stockinette stitch, which involves knitting one row and purling the next, and the seed stitch, which alternates between knit and purl stitches in a pattern. These stitch patterns are easy to learn and create a textured fabric that looks great on a shawl. If you’re looking for something more challenging, you can also try a simple lace pattern, such as the eyelet stitch.

Should I block my knitted shawl?

Blocking is an important step in finishing your knitted shawl. It helps to even out the stitches, improve the drape of the fabric, and give the shawl its final shape. To block your shawl, you’ll need to wet it by soaking it in water or spraying it with water until it’s damp. Then, gently squeeze out the excess water, without wringing or twisting the fabric. Next, lay the shawl flat on a clean towel and shape it into the desired dimensions, pinning it down with T-pins or blocking wires if necessary. Allow the shawl to dry completely before unpinning it, and it will be ready to wear!

What are some tips for finishing a knitted shawl?

When finishing a knitted shawl, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Firstly, weave in any loose ends of yarn using a tapestry needle, taking care to secure them well so that they don’t unravel. Secondly, consider adding a decorative edging to your shawl, such as a picot bind-off or a scalloped edge, to give it a polished look. Finally, give your shawl a good steam blocking to further improve the overall appearance and drape of the fabric. These finishing touches can make a big difference in the final result of your knitted shawl.

Can I make a shawl with just one skein of yarn?

Yes, it is possible to make a shawl with just one skein of yarn, depending on the size and weight of the skein. There are many shawl patterns available that are designed specifically for one-skein projects. Look for patterns that are specifically labeled as suitable for one skein, or choose patterns that require a small amount of yardage, such as a shawlette or a triangle scarf. Just be sure to check the yardage specified in the pattern and compare it to the yardage of your skein of yarn to ensure that you’ll have enough to complete the project.


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