How To...

Published on August 21st, 2014 | by Amy Kaspar


Setting up a triangle shawl

Amy Kaspar takes us through the dynamics of setting up a triangular shawl – just in time for an Autumnal nip in the air! 

Triangle shawls typically start at the base of the neck, and then they are knitted by increasing four stitches on every right-side row and knitting along the two diagonal edges. The long side is actually the first and last stitches of each row, and the centre “spine” is the middle stitch of every row.

There is a special set-up that needs to be done when casting on for a triangle shawl. If you just start knitting and increasing in the middle without reinforcing that neck base, you end up with a chevron- or boomerang-shaped shawl instead of a triangle. The directions for setting up a triangle shawl are a bit confusing, but you will be a pro at it in no time if we just break it down step-by-step.

Setting up a triangle shawl - FREE LoveKnitting tutorial


First, cast on three stitches. The cast-on method does not matter, but avoid using the backward-loop cast-on because you will want the stitches to have a more stable base. The knitted, cable, or long-tail cast-on are all fine.

Setting up a triangle shawl - LoveKnitting blog

Then, knit six rows in garter stitch. In other words, knit every row for six rows. Leave your work without turning it, and then turn your teeny weeny knitted piece on its side, like in the photo below. See where the working yarn is staged? Garter stitch can be measured by ridges, and each ridge represents two rows. After six rows, you should have three garter ridges.

Setting up a triangle shawl - LoveKnitting blog

While leaving the three stitches on the needle, pick up and knit three more stitches by using the garter ridges as your guide. One garter ridge, one picked up stitch. Put your left needle into that ridge edge, draw up a loop from your working yarn from back to front, and just knit it. Poof. Do this three times, so you should now have six stitches on the right needle.

Setting up a triangle shawl - LoveKnitting blog

Again, without turning your work, turn the right needle upright so that the original cast-on edge is ready to have the last three stitches picked up. Pick up and knit three more stitches, one per cast-on stitch. This should put the total number of stitches on your right-hand needle at nine.

Setting up a triangle shawl - LoveKnitting blog

Finally, you get to turn your work! Go ahead and set up your needle so you are ready to knit, needle pointing to the right. All stitches should now be on the left-hand needle, with the working yarn hanging from the back of the closest stitch to the needle tip.

You probably see nine stitches above a pretty convoluted mess, right? This is one of those leaps of faith you just need to take. But perhaps if you know where these stitches are going, you will believe me and take that leap.

Setting up a triangle shawl - LoveKnitting blog

Do not – I repeat – DO NOT take your needle out to see where the stitches lie. I will just explain it.

If you were to take out your working needle (DO NOT, though), you would see that the stitches are oriented in the groups of three that you knitted and picked up, bordering three sides of a rectangle. The first and last three stitches on the needle would face away from each other. They will form the top, longest edge of your triangle shawl. In the end, you will have a point-to-point, three-stitch garter stitch strip along the top.

Those middle three stitches are actually the middle stitches in each panel. In other words, the middle stitch is the “spine” stitch that you will see going straight down the middle of your back (or front, depending on how you wear triangle shawls). The other two stitches will disappear into oblivion in the middle of the shawl, but if you were to follow them with glow-in-the-dark yarn, you would see that those stitches would go straight down the middle of each half of the shawl from the neck base to the middle of each diagonal edge.

I have knitted a few rows on a triangle shawl pattern and then slid the stitches to the middle of the circular cord, so you can see that knitted base. If you look at the cast-on tail, you can see it is just slightly to the left of the centre “spine” stitch. Those three ridges in the middle are the three ridges that prevent the triangle shawl from sagging in the middle, and keeping its rigid line.

Setting up a triangle shawl - LoveKnitting blog

If you knit a triangle shawl from the top-centre to the outer three points, this set-up is just the base needed to hold all of the stitches in place without the middle stitches sagging like a wet sock. Think of that little six-row garter stitch panel as similar to a tripod for a camera, or a stand for a flat-panel television. That crossbar provides the centre stability in the same stitch pattern as the rest of that top, long side. By housing stitches on three out of four sides of that garter-stitch rectangle (the fourth side is the top of the shawl), you are reinforcing the shawl in all three directions.

Pretty neat, right? Oh, and the yarn is the luscious Malabrigo Sock. More on that, soon!

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About the Author

Amy lives in Chicago and can either be found knitting, writing about knitting, designing knitted things, or watching professional hockey while knitting. There is also a necessary cup of coffee nearby at all times, Follow her on Twitter @thefiberfriend for more yarny bits.

Last updated: February 20th, 2015.

9 Responses to Setting up a triangle shawl

  1. Iris says:

    Such good information from Amy. I knit top down shawls with the garter stitch tag, but now I know the reason to have them. It is through such excellent writers as Amy that I am increasing my understanding, and hence enjoyment, of knitting. I am willing to follow a pattern, but oh how much better when I know the reason for a certain technique.

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Miss Iris…Amy here…thanks for the kind words, and wait until you see the finished shawl in the Malabrigo sock review! Delish. 😉

  2. Laura says:

    Dear Amy, this is a very clear tutorial, the pictures are excellent and every step is explained in full. Simply perfect. I used to keep the first three stitches on one needle after a cast-on by winding the yarn under and over two needles. This is easier and fulfills the purpose of having a non-beginning beginning for a setup row. What can I say but thank you for the time and patience to put this tutorial online.


    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Miss Laura…Amy here…thank you so much for the kind words, and I’m so glad I could help!

  3. Denise says:

    Dear Amy, Thank you so much for the beautifully clear tutorial. I am a beginning knitter and a triangle shawl seemed scary until I followed your steps. The photos were brilliant! Thanks again.

  4. LInda says:

    I would like to thank you for showing the knit shawls this is very helpful. I have started several of them and something always seems to get off and I tear it all apart again. I think with your great discriptions I may start again.

  5. Carole Kendall says:

    I have been a knitter for sixty five years now and always enjoy learning something new. This is such a neat way to start a triangular shawl. Thankyou

  6. GLORIA says:

    Hi Amy, I understood how to increase to get to the 9 stitches and was able to do it, however I am stuck as I don’t know what triangle pattern you used. I have only knitted one other shawl. If its not too much of an inconvenience, can you email me the pattern so I can work it and see how it actually looks after knitting a few rows? And if that is not possible can you tell me where I can find the pattern?


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