Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How to embiggen your shawl

Do you like your shawls and wraps to be as big and cosy as possible? Many patterns are easy to enlarge, if you have extra yarn on hand. And if you'd like to make a smaller shawl, because it would suit you better or you're short of yarn, the principles are exactly the same. I like to include suggestions for customising the size in my patterns wherever possible, so your project will come out Just Right.

Budburst shawl by Amy van de Laar

The designs which are simplest to re-size have an all-over stitch pattern, and I'll be focusing on these since several of my shawl and wrap patterns are in this category. It gets a little more complicated if the edging contrasts with the main stitch pattern (e.g. my Silverwing shawl) - here you would need to consider how the proportions of the two sections will look if you enlarge one or both of them.

Let's take a look at a couple of common shapes and how to approach re-sizing them.


Triangular shawls are usually easy to enlarge, because the cast on number does not affect the shawl's final size - you can simply knit extra repeats if you decide at any point that you'd like it to be larger.

If you have a precise final wingspan size you're aiming for (if for example you find a 65" wingspan easy to wear), and the shawl has the same stitch pattern throughout, you can calculate how many repeats to knit by measuring the size of one repeat on the diagonal. I'll be using my Budburst shawl as an example, which is a triangular shawl knit sideways from tip to bind-off edge, with an all-over lace pattern. This formula will also work for traditional top-down triangles (like Amarilli), and other triangles where the wingspan is diagonal to the direction of knitting.

Measuring a diagonal pattern repeat on a swatch

One you know both the target wingspan and the size of one diagonal repeat, you can use this formula to find the total number of repeats to knit:

Desired wingspan size / diagonal size of one repeat = number of repeats.

If the answer is a fraction, round it up or down to a whole number.


Lengthening a rectangular wrap or scarf knit end-to-end is just as simple, because again you can simply knit extra repeats. Adjusting the width of a rectangle is a little trickier, because in this case the number of stitches you cast on does directly affect the final size. I'm using my Beeswax Scarf as an example here, which has an all-over stitch pattern and includes three width options from scarf to wrap.

If you want to widen a rectangle which is knit from end-to-end, you'll need to know two things before casting on:
  1. The width of one repeat (find this by swatching if you need precision, or take the info from the pattern if it's given), and 
  2. The number of stitches in each repeat (find this from the gauge info in the pattern, or from the chart).
The formula to find the number of repeats across a row is:

Desired finished width / width of one repeat = number of repeats.

If the answer is a fraction, round it up or down to a whole number.

Now you can calculate exactly how many stitches to cast on:

Number of repeats x number of stitches in one repeat = number of stitches to cast on.

Remember to add the edge stitches to this total, if any. They will add a little extra width.

Other shapes, like crescents, pi-shawls, and all the many weird and wonderful shapes knitters keep inventing, will need different approaches depending on their construction. I hope this partial guide has been helpful as an intro, and gives you an idea of which variables to look at when you want to change the size of a shawl.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Pooling on purpose

As promised, here is the tale of how I got the colours to pool so nicely in my smaller Rainbow Cake hat. The pastel rainbow colours of the yarn (Madelinetosh's Pure Merino Worsted in 'Pocket Rainbow') practically demanded that I have a go at controlled colour-pooling, and I couldn't be happier with the way it worked out. :)

The first step, of course, was swatching. I cast on about 40 stitches, knit in seed stitch until I reached the start of a pink section of yarn, and then counted my stitches until I reached the same point in the colour cycle. I repeated this a few times to make sure my count was consistent (to within a stitch or two).

I discovered I was getting 70 stitches per colour repeat, in seed stitch on 4mm needles. The smaller size in my Rainbow Cake pattern-in-progress had a 72-stitch cast on, which I decided was close enough for the pooling to work.

The first time I cast on for the hat, I used smaller needles to get a nice tight, tidy ribbing section. This change of needle size caused the colours to line up in little rainbows instead of pooling, which looked really cool! But unfortunately the stitch pattern was obscured a little too much, and I decided to start over.

The second time, I used the same needle size throughout in order to get consistent 'stacked' colour pooling right from the cast on through to the crown decreases. This time the stitch pattern was clear, and the yarn complemented the design rather than muddying it.

While knitting the hat, I found I often needed to tink/un-knit part of a round to get the colour repeats to line up nicely. My tension definitely changes depending on how fast I'm knitting and how much attention I'm paying to it, and I found myself zooming through the cream sections to get to the next 'rainbow', only to discover I had far too much cream yarn leftover. At least I'm pretty good at tinking these days!

I was happy to see the colours begin to swirl when I started the crown decreases, making a little whirlpool around the pompom. :)

If you'd like to try deliberate colour pooling, my advice is to swatch carefully, stick to one needle size, and be prepared to do a lot of tinking/un-knitting if your tension is a little wonky like mine.

This Twist Collective article by Karla Stuebing goes really in-depth into how pooling works: The Art and Science of Planned Pooling.

And here are a couple of shawl designs that make great use of planned pooling: Pool & Conquer by Martina Behm, and Pool Party by Ursa Major Knits.

You can read all about my Rainbow Cake design in my previous post, and the pattern is available on Ravelry.