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Free Circular Shawl Knitting Cheat Sheet

Favourite & Queue on Ravelry

The only thing more mindless to knit than plain top-down shawls are plain centre-out shawls. Following on the popularity of my first Shawl Shaping Cheat Sheet (to date it’s been downloaded by over 12,000 knitters), here is a second cheat sheet, this time for medallion-style shawls knit in the round.

The hardest part of creating this cheat sheet was deciding which shapes to include. In the end I went for the swirl (or spiral) because it’s ever-popular, even though it stands out a bit from the others because it uses single increase units instead of double, and the hexagon because, although it might not be an obvious shape for a shawl, it has several advantages: 1) it tiles (tesselates) nicely, so it can be used in a modular fashion, 2) it can be blocked reasonably round, and 3) it can be folded in half for a very wearable shawl shape.

If you’re new to knitting in the round, you may want to read my page All About Circular Knitting. Barring the cast on, which can be a bit fiddly even for experienced knitters, these shawls make great beginner projects. As with the first cheat sheet, they can be knit in any weight yarn, and you just keep knitting until you:

  1. Get bored,
  2. Expire,
  3. Suspect you might be knitting a ranch house,
  4. Need the needles for another project,
  5. Realise it’s been a year since you started the round,
  6. Become convinced your stitch count has more figures than your income,
  7. or, you know, decide your shawl is large enough.

“I call this the Rosetta Stone of shawls.” – PurlOnions
I received this comment on my 5 Basic Shawl Shapes Cheatsheet just today and it made me chuckle in delight, not just because it’s an amazing compliment to my work (thank you, dear PurlOnions!) but also because I’ve been a bit obsessed with Egyptology recently!

And speaking of languages, I want to thank lovely Jennifer (Nylwenn on Ravelry) not just for translating the Cheat Sheet and the Bow Pouch patterns beautifully into French, but also for putting up with my slow communication. Merci beaucoup!

Other Excellent Uses

  • You can use the circular or swirl instructions to knit top-down hats! Knit until the circumference of your “shawl” is the same as the circumference of your head (where the hat brim will sit), then continue knitting around without increasing until the brim is long enough for you. Bind off and you’re done!
  • Knit each shape until it’s large enough to use as a coaster. You’ll learn about shaping, and have a set of useful accessories at the end. Solid increases will work better for this, and DK or aran-weight yarn.
  • Swap yarn colours every few rounds for an easy-peasy way to create a very attractive shawl. Colour-blocking is still in, no?

A Few Pointers

  • As always when knitting garter stitch, I recommend you use needles 1-2 sizes larger than your yarn calls for.
  • The abbreviations “pm” & “sm” sometimes cause confusion; these stand for “place marker” and “slip marker” respectively.
  • You may want to use a different-coloured marker for the “pm” so that you can distinguish the beginning of the round.

More Shawl Resources


  • Please DO NOT redistribute this PDF file.
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  • You are welcome to use this PDF for educational purposes.

Please note this cheat sheet has not been tech edited or test knit! If you do find any errors, despite my best efforts, please let me know and I will correct them as soon as possible. Enjoy! :)

25th September, 2012  // Downloads // tags: , , , , .

Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Seamless Pullovers

himalaya jumper

My initiation into the world of circular jumpers (and indeed jumpers in general) came with Stephanie Japel’s ‘Angelica‘. I fell in love with it the moment I saw the photo, and stalked Stephanie’s blog until she put the pattern up. It took me 3 days to knit (I was procrastinating an English essay), and I was utterly fascinated by the process. Angelica is knit top-down, in the round, with yo raglan increases and a beautiful, highly unusual neckline. I’ve knit quite a few top-down jumpers and cardigans since then, and it’s definitely become my method of choice, but this is the first time I’ve tried to knit a bottom-up jumper. The main reason I decided to try it was that I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with the neckline of this jumper. Boatneck? V-Neck? Cowl neck? I was leaning towards the cowl neck, but then I wasn’t sure how much yarn I’d have left to play with. It turned out I had plenty. The yarn is Himalaya Padişah (talk about an incongruous name) which is a Turkish yarn. It’s a 70/30 acrylic/wool blend that’s actually quite nice; fuzzy, but with a sheen, loosely spun and about aran weight. The colours cycle smoothly through blues, purples and bluey greens, creating subtle stripes. My Mum gave me this yarn (she’s more into cotton & linen), which makes it even more special.

2x2 hem

I ended up knitting the body three times. The first time there was too little ease, the second time, too much, and finally on the third go I got it right. It just goes to show that you can do the maths and estimations, but you still can’t be sure until you try it out. I decided not to bother with waist-shaping, but I did work a few decreases after the ribbing to prevent the stocking stitch from sagging outwards, as it tends to do, just in the right place to make you look like you’ve got a spare tyre.

the cowl neck

I was quite excited by the possibility of raglan decreases instead of increases, and I nicked a trick from Véronik Avery’s ‘Offset Raglan‘ in Simple Style (which I reviewed here): left and right-slanting double decreases divided by two purl stitches. The book doesn’t seem to specify which decreases to use, and I found that a k3tog wasn’t a very good match for the sl1 k2tog psso, so I substituted a double decrease that Mary Thomas mentions in her Knitting Book: sl1, k1, psso, return st to left needle, pass 2nd st on left needle over 1st st. This creates a more clearly-defined right slant, rather than the bunchy-looking k3tog.

himalaya jumper

I continued the four pairs of purl stitches up the cowl neck, which is almost as long as the body when unfolded. It can be worn unfolded, or folded in half with the right side facing, or rolled down to show the reverse. I think it works really well & it’s just loose enough to keep you warm without choking you.

this photo could interest only a knitter

One of the biggest drawbacks of bottom-up jumpers as opposed to top-down ones, is the need for underarms seams. Seams? On a seamless sweater? It’s a bit difficult to visualise why this is the case, but basically, when you go to join the sleeves, the long circular needles you’re using for the body can’t bend around to accomodate the narrower sleeves. The solution is to put aside (or bind off) a certain number of stitches from both the body and the sleeves, and join them up later on, by grafting, seaming or a three-needle bind-off. Definitely a bit of a drag. I opted to graft mine, which left two circular holes on either side. These I closed up by threading the yarn around the hole, like the top of a hat, and pulling tight.

2x2 cuffs

I love this jumper, and bottom-up construction definitely has its place, but top-down is still my favourite. Here’s a run-down of the pros & cons of each approach. Let me know in the comments if you can think of others!


Online Knitting Class

  • The chance to use some decorative decreases for the yoke.
  • The chance to defer the decision of what to do with the yoke/neckline until you have a better idea what the jumper will look like as a whole.


  • Underarm seams! On a “seamless” pullover. Tch tch!
  • The need for an extra set of circs to join the sleeves onto the body (though their size doesn’t really matter).
  • More difficult than top-down to adjust length.
  • Lots of balls of yarn/ends dangling about after you join the sleeves.



  • It’s easier to make adjustments depending on how much yarn you have left. Shorter sleeves, shorter body, etc. This is one of my favourite things about top-down jumpers.
  • It’s easier to try on as you go along, and get a good idea of fit.
  • The chance to use decorative increases (hello yo!).
  • Can be accomplished with one pair of circs. As long as you’re happy magic looping.


  • Ummm…

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