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May 23, 2021

We love knitting, and wearing shawls. With so many different types - triangular shawls, intricate lace shawls and even shawlettes, it can be hard to know how to wear and style them. Our guide gives advice on how to wear a shawl, something we're often asked about!

As knitters ourselves, the Ysolda studio team love helping other makers to find ways to enjoy their knitting. Sharing knowledge is what really keeps us creating as a business! We asked our friend Atia of Bright Blooms to write about how to wear a shawl, and some things to think about when planning to include shawls in your outfits. - Ysolda

A brown woman in a hijab wearing a floral blue dress holds a blue and grey triangular shawl in front of her.

Ever since I first learned to knit, I have always enjoyed knitting shawls. Shawl patterns are a great way to learn a new technique such as lace knitting or brioche, and I particularly enjoy making triangular shawls with their neat increases along the spine. I have knitted quite a few shawlettes in the past but didn’t find them very practical to wear as I prefer to wear larger warm shawls! However these smaller shawls came into their own when my daughter was a toddler, she wore (and lost!) several beautiful shawls knit in hand dyed yarn, including a pretty Ishbel shawl. Although I no longer have them any more, I have fond memories and photographs of them which I treasure.

I usually choose a shawl pattern without a particular outfit in mind, and just choose a design and yarn that I will enjoy using. The larger shawls I like to wear are a bigger commitment as I am a slow knitter! Knitting a shawl has become a mindful activity to occupy the evenings, so the process of making one should be a tactile and enjoyable experience.

A brown woman in a hijab stands in front of a dark blue background. She is wearing a blue dress with small white floral print and a dark blue shawl which is wrapped around her chest and shoulders.

I also like to sew clothes and although I don’t usually plan my knitting to match clothes I have made, I enjoy putting together outfits which coordinate well together. I tend to use a colour palette of jewel tones with some pastels, and I am happy to try unexpected colour combinations such as lilac and mustard. I also do like to use neutrals as well, such as grey, navy or dark green, as they are versatile and practical colours which go with lots of brighter shades.

A brown woman in a pink hijab stands in front of a blue background looking straight into the camera. She is wearing a pale pastel jumper in blues and pink, pale pink trousers and a grey blue shawl around her neck with the two points hanging down in front.

Choosing colours feels very straightforward and natural to me and I usually have a feel for which colours will work well together. However, there was a time when I wore a lot of black, so my wardrobe was not always as colourful as it is now! I would recommend adding small amounts of colour with accessories (shawls are ideal for this!) until you get more comfortable with colour, and then experiment with other items of clothing. You can start with a more muted shade of a colour you would like to incorporate into your wardrobe, and then choose a brighter colour when you are ready.

A brown woman in a hijab stands in front of a dark blue background. She is wearing a floaty cream dress with a large bright pink shawl wrapped around her shoulders and chest.

Another way to add colour is with prints. I use a lot of botanical and floral prints in my sewing. People often think prints are hard to coordinate, but I usually pick out a couple of colours from a design and use those to accessorise with. I avoid having everything in the same colour though, as this can give quite a flat and ‘matchy-matchy’ look. Again, this is probably worth experimenting with, Instagram can also be a great source of inspiration.

A brown woman in a hijab stands in front of a dark blue background. She is wearing a vivid floral print dress in black, pinks, orange and greens. She has a large bright pink shawl around her neck with the pointed ends hanging down at the front, and her right hand is raised and holding the straight edge of the shawl along her chest.

I usually wear shawls for the practical aspect of keeping warm, and like them to be casual and unfussy. As I also wear a hijab, a small shawl can lack impact, so I choose bigger ones which I can drape around my shoulders or wrap around the body easily. I recently received a shawl pin which has been very useful for keeping shawls in place. I find midi dresses really easy to style with shawls, prairie style ruffled dresses in floaty fabrics seem to work well. They can equally be styled with jeans and a top for a more casual look.

A brown woman in a hijab wears a ruffled white shirt and jeans, and stands in front of a dark blue background. She is wearing a blue wool shawl around her neck with the pointed ends hanging down in the front.

For these photos, I chose a range of styles from my wardrobe, some toning in with the colour of the shawl and others providing a bold contrast. These shawls perfectly illustrated how versatile shawls can be, as they are each completely different in size, weight and colour.

A brown woman in a hijab stands in front of a dark blue background. She is wearing a floral dress in shades of green, pink and yellow and a long green shawl is draped around her neck with the ends pointing down at the front.
A brown woman in a hijab stands in front of a dark blue background and looks to the side. She is wearing a blue dress with small white floral print, and has a grey blue shawl wrapped around her shoulders and chest.

Further reading

What's your favourite type of knitted shawl? They're the perfect knitted accessory for Spring. Our guide gives you suggestions for your next shawl project, whatever your best loved shawl type!

Read our guest post by Liam Hartle, about his experiences as a trans knitter figuring out what patterns will both suit his style and fit the way he hoped.

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