Why do knitters like creating shawls so much? Speaking for myself, knitting a flat shawl provides opportunity…I can explore color, drape, pattern, gauge and different fiber types without fear of creating a garment that won’t fit! If it is too small to fully cover my shoulders and torso, I can use it as a beautiful scarf. If I am less than fond of the end product, I can “gift” it so someone who will appreciate its handmade goodness, and perhaps the color would look better on someone other than myself!
I am also intrigued by the history of the shawl, particularly those worn by working women, and the basic wooly warmth that they provided. Shawls and wraps come in various shapes, however the one that I keep returning to is the triangular shawl. This shawl is wrapped around the body and the ends tied in back, leaving the arms free for work and no loose fabric in the front to get in one’s way.
For some reason, these have become known in the knitting world as “Danish Tie Shawls” although from my reading and explorations, these shawls appear in many different cultures in Northern Europe and elsewhere.
In Copenhagen, there is a famous statue (in addition to the Little Mermaid!), that is of the Fishwife from Skovshoved, a fishing village north of Copenhagen. The fish market used to be located on a windy cold harbor and sellers would really bundle up. The Fishwife would be outside all day selling, after walking or taking a cart to the market, and then get home, all out of doors. You can see her tie shawl keeping her warm in this photo. I do wonder whether the origin of the shawl’s name comes from this statue!
A basic triangular shawl is very easy to create, and great for beginner knitters. It should be noted that it is not a triangle per se, due to the increases the hypotenuse of the triangle curves up. Here is one that I knit for a doll.
These shawls can be knit small or large. You may wish to knit a small one to use as a scarf or neck warmer, or a full sized one to wear in the traditional way. You may use any yarn in any fiber and gauge that gives you the drape that you want. Stripes are easily incorporated into the pattern. Yardage depends on the size and your gauge.
If you are doing a full sized Tie Shawl in a dk weight you will probably need 700 yards at 5 stitches per inch. You will want to have a generous amount of yarn on hand. OR be spontaneous….if you wish, you can just start knitting with the yarn that you like and see how far you get!
The pattern is easy; this is a “top down” shawl, traditionally done in garter stitch. You may wish to knit a small one to use as a scarf or neck warmer, or a full sized one to wear in the traditional way. The only special technique that you need is to “increase one” which I do with a yarn over, although if you are a beginning knitter the tab cast on is a bit fussy.
I usually start a shawl with a tab although you don’t need to:
Cast on 3 stitches, Knit 8 rows. Keeping work on your needle, turn it and pickup 4 stitches between the ridges. Turn the work again, and pick up 3 stitches from the beginning of the tab. You have 10 stitches on your needle.
Here is an excellent video from youtube showing how
Alternatively, you can cast on 9 stitches, although it makes the top back of the shawl a bit tight.
Now, knit one row. Turn the work and you are on the right side. You may want to mark the right side with a marker. So, for the first pattern row:
Row 1: Knit 3, yarn over (yo), *k2, yo* three times, k 3.
Row 2: Knit.
Row 3: K3, yo, K3, yo, k2 (these 2 are the “spine” stitches, the center of the shawl back)
Row 4: Knit.
Repeat rows 3 and 4. This “recipe” gives you three stitches on the edge for a border and 2 for the spine, although you can alter that. Keep going until the shawl is as small or large as you wish. If you wish to, a good “rule of thumb” from a Danish shawl knitter is to make one of the “arms” (the equal sides opposite the hypotenuse) of the triangle almost as long as your “wingspan” from fingertip to fingertip, including any border. (I.e., stretch your arms out and measure tip to tip). Yes, it’s a big project!
Once you have knit as long as you wish, you will bind off. Here is one option for a sort of picot lace treatment that is done with the bind off. It makes a loose picot edge that won’t be tight as you wrap it around yourself.
Binding off: starting on the right side, *knit two stitches. Slip the 1st stitch over the 2nd. Place the stitch on the right hand needle back onto the left. Repeat from * until you come to the last stitch, cut the yarn, pull the end through and weave the end in.
For shawl finishing, I usually soak it for an hour in wool wash, rinse and lay it out flat. To get it perfectly even you can use blocking wires but this is optional.
Here is a shawl that I completed using naturally dyed yarns purchased in Denmark; the gauge is 4 stitches per inch
If you would like to read more about this shawl, check out my blog post on it! http://spinsjal.blogspot.com/2016/10/danish-tie-shawl-number-one-and-return.html
I was lucky to travel to Denmark several years ago; if you would like some inspiration for Danish Tie Shawls derived from Danish artists, check out this post. http://spinsjal.blogspot.com/2014/10/skagen-part-one-art-and-knitting-in-art.html
Enjoy your shawl!
Wendy Avery is a knitter, spinner, triloom weaver, dyer, and fiber traveller. She lives in Bluffton SC and is a devoted member of the Fiber Guild of the Savannahs. She blogs at spinsjal.blogspot.com.