“Argh! The choices?! What yarn should I use?”
Over the years, I’ve helped many knitters answer this question when they wonder what yarn to use for my shawl patterns. I promise it’s normal to be completely overwhelmed by the vast choice of yarn available!
There are a few things to consider when learning how different yarn behaves and what you might look for when choosing yarn for a shawl.
Shawls made a splash in the knitting world a while ago. I love how they encompass such a wide range of styles, from super lacey and delicate to super architectural and textural and everything in between.
There truly is something for everyone.
It’s pretty common for knitters to see a shawl in a pattern photo, want “a shawl just like that”, and set out to find exactly the same yarn, in just the same colour.
However, what if the yarn used in the pattern is tough to get hold of or discontinued? Or prohibitively expensive? What do you do then?
I often find that knitters gravitate towards particular shades, instinctively picking up shawls from my collection in similar colours. I remember someone once holding a shawl of mine in each hand. She loved the design of one of them but the colour of the other and couldn’t decide between them. I reminded her that she could knit the design she loved in the colour she preferred?
But changes don’t just relate to colour. We can radically alter the look of a shawl by making it in a different yarn. I think that’s where the real fun is, and the opportunity to create something uniquely yours begins.
A blend of yarn will make all the difference to how a shawl drapes and falls, how formal or informal it looks and how the stitches appear.
Suppose you really love the cosiness of a shawl or the structural feel? In that case, choosing a yarn with a similar base to the one used in the pattern will give you a similar look.
I make an effort to help knitters notice what they like about my shawls when they try them on. I point out that my Settler shawl uses a merino single, making the garter look squishy and warm. A single has a round appearance, and the merino gets a woolly look with wear. It’s definitely more informal than some of the slinky, drapey silk/merino blends I used for Stardust or Mindful.
And sometimes, a shawl design works best precisely because of the yarn chosen by the designer, and that’s worth thinking about. Ripple Dancer features a textural border of triangles that work in the pattern because the yarn has a high silk content. The sheen of the silk causes the light to play on the border and bring that edge to life in a way that pure wool won’t.
It thrills me to see how your yarn choice can totally change the look of a shawl, and when you post project photos in your yarns, it’s exciting to see how you’ve created such individual pieces.
An excellent example is my Feathers shawl that I knitted in Brooklyn Tweed Loft, a woollen spun pure wool with a very rustic feel. The lace is well defined, but the shawl definitely feels like it’d be right at home snuggled around the shoulders of Poldark’s wife!
In stark contrast is Jane’s absolutely stunning wedding shawl. She held a merino strand with mulberry silk for a spectacular result. The lace has incredible stitch definition, and her shawl is a super soft, airy layer that looks fit for a princess.
So, if you’re keen on a shawl but feel like it could do with a bit of “something” to make it more you, try experimenting with the yarn base you use as well as colour? Small swatches in your left-overs to see how different bases change the look will tell you a lot.
Changing the weight of the yarn you use can also radically change the look of a shawl. My Darling Dotty and Big Dotty shawls are essentially the same pattern but knitted in a completely different yarn. Darling Dotty is a light, sportweight silk/merino yarn. In contrast, Big Dotty uses a heavier DK wool yarn, and I find that people prefer one or the other but rarely both. Interesting huh?
If you’re going to change the yarn’s weight, just remember that your shawl will be bigger in a heavier yarn, and it’ll use more. It’d also be wise to go up a needle size or two to create the drapey fabric that shawls need.
While I’m more than happy for you to stick to the colours and yarns I’ve chosen, I’d also love to see you experiment and create something that’s uniquely you. Take a chance, don’t be afraid to try something totally new and have fun!!
Find all the Truly Myrtle shawls here and have fun!