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Free Shawl Knitting Cheat Sheet

5 basic shawl shapes

Shawls that you can knit until you run out of yarn are the bread-and-butter of knitting, to me. I know there are knitters who can’t stand the tedium of plain knitting, but I love the opportunity to think, listen to the radio, watch a film, or even read, while my hands are busy and productive.

This 1-page cheat sheet provides the shaping formulas, and row-by-row instructions for knitting 5 such shawls: square, circular, triangular, semi-circular, and heart-shaped. All you need is some yarn, a pair of needles, and some stitch markers. If you’re stuck on a desert island, you can improvise with plant filaments, some smooth sticks (sharpened to a point), and a few seashells with holes in them. You’ll need the instructions though, so click here & print them out now, and tuck them away safely in your pocket!

These shawls grow outwards from the neck, and are bound off around their circumference. This means that you can start knitting without any plan, and decide at the end whether or not you want to add a border in a different stitch pattern. Or you can just add a fringe. Once you get the basic idea, other modifications are very easy to make too: coloured stripes, textured stripes, different stitches, m1s instead of yos, etc. You can knit the shawls with any yarn from lace-weight to bulky. If you’re working in garter stitch, I recommend going up a needle size or two, to get a fabric that drapes nicely. The most important thing is that you like the way it feels.

I should note that the square, circle and semi-circle shawls will not be perfect in shape, but they can be blocked to be this way. For a (pretty much) perfect square or circle, it would be best to work in the round. And for a less semi-hexagonal semi-circle, distribute your increases across the row in a less linear fashion (like Citron, for example). Nevertheless, the former two shapes provide nice shawls that will stay on your shoulders, unlike the variations knit in the round, which need to be folded.

Need I mention that these make great summer knitting projects, when it’s too hot to think? Please knit them in the brightest, most brilliant & beautiful colours of yarn you can find. Thank you.

If you like this cheatsheet, you might also like the CRESCENT SHAWL SHAPING WORKSHEET & FILL-IN-THE-BLANKS SHAWL DESIGN.


  • Please DO NOT redistribute this PDF file.
  • Please DO NOT link directly to the PDF file. Link to this page, or use this short link:
  • You are welcome to use this PDF for educational purposes.


– Edna of Tricô Sem Costura has kindly translated the PDF into Portugese.


CARR. 9: 1M, laç ✽meia
até o marcador, laç,
passe o marcador, 1M,
laç, rep. a partir de ✽
mais duas vezes, meia até o último
ponto, laç, 1M.

– Ravelry user Nylwenn has very kindly translated the cheat sheet into French. Cliquez ici pour télécharger “5 formes de base pour châles”.

13th May, 2011  // Downloads, Knitwear Design // tags: , , , .


  1. Sarah says:

    Ooh how lovely of you to share this – I shall certainly stow this away for a desert island day :)

  2. Francesca says:

    This is awesome. I started a similar document for myself a long time ago and never got around finishing it. I think a lot of knitters will thank you.

  3. Clumsy Knitter says:

    Thanks for posting this. It’s so cool! :)

  4. Mags says:

    Thank you for sharing this! Looks like it’s going to be really useful.

  5. This is the coolest thing ever. I have shared it on Twitter, and now must find other places to evangelize.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  6. Laura says:

    Very cool – thanks for sharing!

    • laylock says:

      You’re most welcome!

      • Kathy says:


        I am confused about this chart, is it missing another sheet? I do see how it creates the beginning shapes, but where does it explain the decreases, short rows, and shaping for the openings. If you follow the chart for the heart shaped one, how do you get to the “wings”. You have to leave live stitches, and then shape one side.

  7. Emily says:

    Thank you! This is fab!

  8. PatV says:

    Thank you for this great guide – so simple, yet so important!

  9. Hannahbelle says:

    This is SO BRILLIANT. Thank you so much!

  10. Judith says:

    I came for the cheat sheet – thank you. I am staying as a regular reader of your blog. Happy to have found you.

  11. MrHugzzz says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s a great idea. Would it be okay if i shared it as well?

    Hugzzz 8-)

  12. […] few days ago, I came across this fantastic lace knitting "cheat sheet" for shawls over at It displays the five most recognizable kinds of knitted shawls and a basic "recipe" for […]

  13. French75 says:

    Thanks for the inspiration and the great cheat sheet. I’m reaching for the needles and yarn right nooowwww…

  14. […] for all the sweet comments, tweets, blogs, re-blogs & all the delightful enthusiasm for the 5 Shawls Cheat Sheet, dear Knitters. They really put a spring in my step & give me the inspiration to knit & […]

  15. Aurore says:

    Thank you so much for this document! It’s really precious :)

  16. Sandra says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful guide, and revealing one of the mysteries of the universe to me!!! I think I may now have the confidence to fulfill a long held ambition to design my own shawl.

  17. kathy says:

    thanks a lot for this great tool

  18. Bianca says:

    This is FANTASTIC. Thank you SO much for providing this!

  19. Linda says:

    Thank you so much for this!

  20. Angie says:

    Thank you for the download. Lovely presentation–it is quite inspiring me pick up yarn and needles. :D

  21. […] seems to have read my mind about my starteritis and shawl-knitting wanderlust and has created this Shawl Knitting Cheat Sheet. Infused with her classic eye for design, this simple print out is super handy if you’re […]

  22. Sandy Terp says:

    I would like to include your site as a link in my next newsletter so my customers can download this marvelous cheat sheet. Would that be all right? You can see my older newsletters on my site. I am fascinated with the possibilities in shaping shawls and have used some unusual constructions in some of my designs. Thank you for making it so easy to work five classic constructions.

    • laylock says:

      Hi Sandy! I’d be absolutely delighted. Please point the link to the blog post, rather than directly to the PDF though, so I can keep track of download stats. Thank you! :)

  23. AndreaW says:

    LOVE info that is packaged in it’s most basic form!!! I do it myself a lot…but very happy to print out other’s work who has saved me the effort. A tiny suggestion….if you could include the “address” for this on the printout itself, may help someone in future. I’ve gotten into the habit of writing it on myself for future reference when I print things off. But have older printouts that I can’t find the orig site to share w/ another. I’ve noticed some sites do include it already. Also establishes that this is YOUR work whenever someone looks @ the printout. Thanks for the great page!!!

    • laylock says:

      Yes, that would have been a good idea! I usually include the URL, but this time I forgot, probably because space was so limited. Ah well, hopefully the logo will help people locate the source, if they need to. :)

  24. LKMarshall says:

    Thanks. This is great! I’ll be passing it on too. Of course, I’ll give you the credit for it!

  25. Gwyndolyn O'Shaughnessy says:

    I found this template on Ravelry.

    Thank you so much! This is a design tool I’ve been trying to devise. I didn’t know enough to get very far … Thank you for doing such lovely work, and for publishing it free!

  26. Robin Myers says:

    Thank you!

  27. […] det her hos Laylock (hvor billedet også er fra). This entry is filed under Strik. You can follow any […]

  28. Anne says:

    What a great gift to knitters, thank you so much for sharing your time and knowledge in offering this and then doing it for free. You are amazing.

  29. monbouton says:

    Wow! I discovered you blog on the Electric Sheep podcast, I’m glad I did, you have done a wonderful job!
    Thank you so much

  30. Josefina says:

    Thank you, thank you! I so much appreciate this sheet!

  31. […] is offering a free shawl knitting cheat sheet, which is super duper handy. You can download it and it details the method and construction for […]

  32. Maria says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I love so many of the shawl patterns, but …… Triangular shawls do not sit right with me. Now I can get use the other styles and maybe a patterns
    Many thanks

  33. Sue says:

    I followed the link from Sandy Terp’s newsletter, and I’d like to add my thanks and praise to everyone else’s. I particularly appreciate the Square and Circular shapings, since I don’t like to wear shawls folded.

    I’m a handspinner, and often have a fixed amount of yarn that I’d really like to showcase – these shapings really make that possible.

  34. Dee Neff says:

    This is an excellent tool. I will be using this one in the future, for sure. Thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!!!

  35. […] I continue to receive the sweetest “thank you” notes for the Shawl Shaping Cheat Sheet (which has now been downloaded over 3000 times), I’ve been considering easy ways to add […]

  36. Chantal Boissinot says:

    I teach knitting in Québec city and was wondering if you would mind if I translated your cheat sheet for my lace class. Most of my students don’t speak english very well or even not at all. It would be easier for them to have it in french.
    You would get the credit and I can put a lien to your website, I least I think I can do that.
    Thank you

  37. lulu says:

    wow thanks..i love this..
    i looooove knitting simple shawls and i think this will be groovy for me..

  38. KnitPurlGurl says:

    For the heart shaped shawl – what would be the best way to insert a motif?

  39. Gio says:

    Thank you

  40. I need some nice, mindless knitting for the holidays and I’ve always wanted to try a nice lacy shawl – thanks!

  41. BettyBJ says:

    Very helpful chart!
    Wonderful to have all of this information on one sheet :)
    Thank you so much for doing the work of putting it together in one chart, and especially for sharing with us.

  42. Patty says:

    Thank you for sharing this brilliant cheat sheet. I love mindless, simple knitting and I especially love shawls. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  43. Ceri Black says:

    Hi there,

    this is fantastic and is about to form the basis of the 2 ply lace baby blanket I’m about to design.

    Is there any chance of stitch counts for the square and circular shawls? I’m converting to the round and am having difficulties.



  44. Jen says:

    Woo hoo! I was going to sit down and write out something similar for my own use but you’ve done it all for me! Also, you chart is far more comprehensive than mine would have been.

    Thanks a million!

    Jen (

  45. […] subscribe so you don't miss a thing!I wanted to throw out a few more ideas on how you can use the Shawl Knitting Cheat Sheet, in addition to making tiny teddy bear shawls, and adding easy borders. These are some […]

  46. Becca says:

    This is such a wonderful, handy little thing! Thanks so much!

  47. […] people have. The first thing that I had to get a better grasp on is shaping. I found this fantastic post regarding shawl shaping and I cannot recommend it enough. It helped me understand that with standard, top down, shaping how […]

  48. Pretorius says:

    Thank you so much for the shawl patterns download. I found your site in a link through Ravelry. I’m not the worlds greatest knitter and have been really wanting to do a shawl for ages, but have chickened out up until now. Now I’ve no excuse whatsoever!!!!! Cheers!

  49. Grace Karen says:

    Dear Laylook,
    I loved your file about shawl shapes, it is really helpful for those interested in shawl knitting.
    And that is my case….
    Right now I am trying to figure out how to knit a heart shaped shawl, but I did not understand with how many stitches I start my project.
    Would you mind to give me a help?
    Thank you so much and kind regards from Brazil,

    • laylock says:

      Hi Grace,
      All the shawls start by casting on 3 sts. Then in the case of the heart-shaped shawl, you increase 6 sts every 2 rows. Hope that helps. :)

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