How to Pick a Shawl Project: 3 Approaches

By Caitlin Johnson

Our Shawl Knit-Along starts on March 29th 2024, so we're buzzing with ideas about what we're going to cast on! Our Knit-Alongs usually center around a particular type of knitted or crocheted item - shawls, sweaters, accessories, socks.... Within the general type of project, you have a lot of options!

What a wonderful problem to have in an age where there's no shortage of inspiring patterns.

Our free Knit-Along sign up is open! Join us here!

To be prize-eligible for our Shawl Knit-Along, we do ask that your project include at least 80% of yarns that we carry at The Woolly Thistle. But otherwise there's so much to consider when finding the perfect knit!

This page will help you start thinking about what approaches to take when choosing a project, and how TWT can help you narrow down the choices to find the perfect knit for you. This applies to more than just Shawl KAL projects! You can use these ideas any time you find your needles are empty and hungry for a new project! 

*This post includes some links to pages on Ravelry.

1. Find a pattern that uses the yarn you love!


Sunshine on the Path Hal by Patricia Fortune in Rauma Finullgarn, knitted by Corinne

Pictured: Half Hansel Hap in J&S 2ply, and Sunshine on the Path Hap in Finullgarn

This is a great place to start when you have a favorite go-to yarn from TWT. Corinne likes to call it a desert island yarn — the yarn you'd need to have to survive (for her, it's Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumper weight or Rauma Finullgarn)! Or, maybe there's a yarn you've been wanting to try and have been waiting for that perfect pattern.

Yarn and pattern match-making is a fun pastime. Do you have a pattern wish list on Ravelry? Or a collection of earmarked knitting books and magazines? Browse your list and find a few shawl contenders that call for a similar weight of yarn as the one you want to use. Also, take a look at our pattern bundles on Ravelry to see if something catches your eye! 

Our Shawl KAL landing page has some of our favorite yarns listed along with a few suggestions of what you could make for the KAL. The Woolly Thistle Guide to Shawls PDF also gives some great advice - receive this download free when you sign up for the KAL! Give these a read for more ideas!

2. Find a great yarn for your must-make pattern!


Conversely, you may already have the pattern in hand and you need a yarn to match! Look at what yarn the pattern calls for, and whether The Woolly Thistle carries that yarn if you want to stick to the pattern. You can use the search bar on TWT's website or browse by brand to find the yarn you're looking for.

If your must-knit pattern doesn't call for a TWT yarn, you have other options! We love substituting yarns to reach the knitting or crochet experience we want. We're also a little biased since we tend to use TWT's website as our own yarn stash of sorts - do you do that too? We can always find a yarn in our shop that suits our latest needs!

We love to browse TWT's yarns by yarn weight or fiber content. This can open up a greater number of yarn choices you may have forgotten about! Do that from the BY WEIGHT AND FIBER tab at the top of the website. For the best results, choose a yarn from TWT that matches a similar weight as the yarn in your pattern.

One of the nice things about knitting a shawl is, if your yarn weight varies a bit from the pattern, it's not a big deal, Just be sure you have plenty of yarn!

Here's an example:

Let's say you really want to make the popular On the Spice Market shawl by Melanie Berg. It calls for 7 colors of fingering weight yarn in varying amounts (107g for the main color and less than 50g for each of the contrast colors). Search TWT's website for fingering weight yarns from the BY WEIGHT AND FIBER tab. Sock yarns also tend to fit into the fingering weight category too.

One fun idea is to stick with one type of yarn. For instance, Jamieson & Smith 2ply is a great option because there are over 100 colors available, meaning you can have lots of fun playing and building a color palette.

If you want some help, take a look at one of the Wirsit Inspo books, which pair J&S colors with photos depicting life in Shetland.

Struggle with too many options? Marie Wallin's British Breeds has a more curated color palette of 26 lovely options. We love Marie Wallin's colors because they play and coordinate so well with each other. 

The On the Spice Market shawl is also a great opportunity to sample yarns you've wanted to try! Go with a favorite yarn for the main color, and choose a different yarn for each contrast color. A skein of Rambler, one of Finullgarn, one of John Arbon Devonia, one of Wensleydale 4ply, one of Biches et Buches Le Petit Lambswool, and one of Tukuwool Fingering!

There are endless combinations!

We also have a blog post with ideas on how to choose a yarn specifically for drape - you can read that here!

3. Start with a technique you'd like to try!


A knit-along is a great time to conduct a little exploration into a knitting or crochet technique you've been wanting to try. You'll find a great community to ask questions, and lots of other crafters on their own KAL journey to keep you company!

You can search Ravelry patterns for a particular technique by doing an advanced search. Here is how:

  1. Click the Advanced Search tab
  2. Narrow down the results by filtering on the left hand side, choosing Category > Accessories > Neck/Torso > Shawl.
  3. Look at the Attributes filters where you'll find things like Colorwork (stranded, mosaic, etc), crochet techniques (tunisian, broomstick, etc), Regional or Ethnic styles, shapes, and more!

Here are a few techniques you might like to consider and a few pattern suggestions to get you started!

Stranded, Mosaic, Intarsia Colorwork:

Yvonne MT shawl by Natasja Hornby  Rauma Hood in Finullgarn

Natasja Hornby does stunning mosaic shawls - we have her Artus Shawl and Yvonne MT shawls available as yarn sets!

Pressed Flowers shawl by Amy Christoffers uses the mosaic technique.

Scout Shawl by Florence Spurling mixes Fair Isle and intarsia for a patchwork effect.

We have a Rauma kit available for a stunning stranded colorwork hood!

Shetland Hap:

Hansel half hap by Gudrun Johnston

Take the ultimate knit-along journey with our Hap Exploration Course! Those who sign up for the KAL will receive a discount code for 20% off the course.

Gudrun Johnston's Hansel Hap and Half Hansel Hap make these traditional shawls accessible and fun! We have yarn sets for both in many color combos!

We also have a Ravelry Bundle specifically for hap-inspired patterns. A great place to start!


Corinne's Halligarth shawl and Rambler yarn

Corinne's Halligarth shawl by Gudrun Johnston was knitted in our Rambler yarn, which shines in an all-over lace pattern!

Carolyn Holbrook's Highland Thistle Shawl in Tukuwool Fingering (find our yarn sets here) as well as her Highland Journey Shawl.


Shetland Lace:

Houlland Hap by Donna Smith

Donna Smith's Houlland Hap - available in yarn sets here!

Elizabeth Johnston's Da Skelberry Shawl from Shetland Wool Week Annual 2023 in J&S Shetland Supreme Lace


Portia Shawl by Natasja Hornby

Our new yarn set for Natasja Hornby's Portia Shawl includes some cables and some garter, knitted with fingering weight and mohair for some fluff!


Virus Shawl by Julia Marquardt

Did you know the most crocheted shawl on Ravelry is the Virus Shawl by Julia Marquardt? We have a blog post with some crocheted shawl suggestions here!

Other Techniques:

Aeria shawl by Linnea Ornstein

Here are a few other techniques you can browse for:


And the list goes on!

If you need further help narrowing down the options, feel free to post your questions and plans in our Facebook or Ravelry Groups. Or let us know by email at!

Don't forget to let us know you're participating! Sign up for the Shawl KAL here!

Happy Shawl Planning and Knitting!

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