This is the first post (out of 15) in a series about different shawl shapes and how to knit them. The introduction post, which lays out the game plan can be found… thisaway.
The easiest way to think about shawl shapes is to understand the basic geometric shapes: square, triangle, and circle, and then manipulate and decorate them to get all these other shawl shapes and styles.
But there are also multiple ways to create each basic shape: backwards, forwards, and sideways.
The Square Center Out
The most traditional way to create a square is in the round from the center out. To do this you increase 8 stitches in pairs every other round.
CO 8 sts. Join in the round, being careful not to twist.
R1: K around.
R2: [k1, yo, k1, yo, pm] 4x.
R3: K around.
R4: [k1, yo, k to marker, yo, sm] 4x.
R5: K around.
The Square Hem Out
You can also knit from the hem to the center by decreasing 8 stitches in pairs every other round.
Knitting any shawl from the hem inwards takes a little more preplanning than working one from the center out. With a shawl knit from the center out you can keep increasing until you reach your desired size, or until you run out of yarn. But knitting a shawl from the hem into the center requires that you know your size information before you begin, so you can cast on an accurate number of stitches.
To determine the number of stitches to cast on, first determine your final gauge (be sure to wash and block your swatch), and decide how wide* you want your square to be.
Divide your desired width in half (this is how wide your shawl will be from hem to center).
*the actual width of your square, not from corner to corner or center to corner, but from side to side.
1. [number of rounds per inch] x [number of inches from hem to center] = [number of rounds total]
2. [number of rounds total] / 2 = [number of decrease rounds] you divide by two because you decrease every other round
3. [number of decrease rounds] x [8 stitches decreased per decrease round] = [number of stitches to decrease]
4. [number of stitches to decrease] + [8 bind off stitches] = [number of stitches to cast on]
Make sure your cast on number is divisible by 8.
Cast on the number of stitches you determined as your cast on, and decrease 8 stitches, in four pairs of two, spaced evenly, every other round. Until you have 8 stitches left on your needles. Break yarn leaving a tail, and thread tail through live stitches, pull tight and weave in your end. (The same way you would finish off the crown of a hat.)
So if you CO 48 sts. Join in the round, being careful not to twist. (This step is a total PITA.)
R1: [K12, pm] 4x.
R2: [K2tog, k8, ssk, sm] 4x.
R3: K around.
R4: [K2tog, k to 2 sts before marker, ssk, sm] 4x.
The books this series spawned:
Shawl Geometry I: the math of shaping shawls for non mathy people
Shawl Geometry II: 16 more shawl shapes to design and play with
Shawl Geometry III: the relationships behind the numbers