The Making of the Spill Crochet Shawl

The Spill crochet shawl is a crescent shape with a pattern worked in rows. It uses simple stitches: single crochet, double crochet, slip stitch. The pattern incorporates short rows on one side of the shawl so that the color shifts of the yarn (or stripes, if using multiple yarns) are off-center. Even though the design is simple, you can yield some dramatic results when you pair it with a showcasing yarn.

I’ve had some people wondering about the specifics on how the shawl is constructed and how I came up with the stitch counts in the pattern. There was a lot of trial and error to get the overall shape just right (I won’t tell you how many times I got halfway through, then changed techniques and started over). If you’d like to delve into the design in a bit more detail, then keep reading. This is extraneous information that you don’t actually need in order to make a shawl of your own, but I rarely discuss my design process and I thought some readers would find it interesting.

Looking for the free crochet pattern? You can download it here.

Curious about the specifics on how the Spill crochet shawl is constructed and stitch counts configured? Here I share the details of my design process.

Want to change the size of the shawl by adding rows, while keeping a consistent pattern of increases? Just curious where the final numbers came from? I’m happy to share my process here with you.

The Yarn

Using these basic stitches allows your yarn to take center stage. I used my own handspun yarn in the sample. Starting with a 4-ounce braid of merino wool that was dyed in a long color run, I spun the entire length of fiber from end to end to keep the colors in the same order. I spun as fine as I could manage so I could maximize my yardage: when you chain-ply, as I did to keep the color shifts in the yarn, you end up with less than a third of your original yardage from the single you spun. The final yarn ended up being somewhere between 850 and 900 yards. It took forever to spin, but it’s my favorite yarn I’ve ever spun.

This handspun lace weight merino yarn used for the Spill shawl has long color runs with gradual shifts in hue.

The Shape

The overall shape of the shawl is not a perfectly symmetrical crescent, but it’s pretty close. When working out the shaping, I was more concerned with maintaining a smooth edge and keeping the short-row side from getting lumpy. This is the reason for the complicated “work in this stitch and this one, don’t work into this stitch” notes when working over a short row: we’re trying to get the end of that short row to lay flat and blend as well as possible.

The Stitch Counts

Each even-numbered row is simply single crochet along the wrong side of the work. All increases, which determine the shawl’s shaping, are done on the odd-numbered rows. The first four rows can be considered foundation/setup rows: they give us a semicircle to start with.

After the first four rows, the rest of the pattern repeats the same sequence every 10 rows:

  • Row 5 (15, 25, etc.) is a short row with increases
  • Row 7 (17, 27…) is worked across with increases
  • Row 9 (19, 29…) is a short row with increases
  • Row 11 (21, 31…) is worked across with increases
  • Row 13 (23, 33…) is worked across without increasing

The rows that are worked across with increases always begin and end in an increase. The rate of increase rises steadily as the shawl grows, which would be pretty straightforward if it weren’t for the short rows. To account for the extra increases that these short rows add to the total stitch count, I often had to add extra stitches to a row. This is why these rows start with an increase, then a seemingly random number of stitches before the repeat multiple.

Each pair of short rows in a sequence is longer than the pair in the previous sequence. However, the second short row in each pair is shorter than the first short row. (For example, Row 55 has 92 stitches and Row 59 has 85 stitches. This is more than Rows 45 and 49 (which have 78 and 73 stitches), but the first short row is longer than the second.)

I came to this configuration through trial and error. It seems to be a good balance between increasing at a steady rate and maintaining a smooth overall shape.

Enlarging the Shawl

To carry the same sequence of increases further, notice the rates of increase for both the rows worked all the way across and the short rows. In the rows worked across:

  • Row 37 has an increase every 8 stitches, worked 16 times (with a few extra stitches, as explained above)
  • Row 41 has an increase every 9 stitches, worked 17 times
  • Row 47 has an increase every 10 stitches, worked 17 times
  • Row 51 has an increase every 11 stitches, worked 18 times

The short rows have a general pattern as well, but the rate of increase slows as the shawl grows.

  • Row 35 has an increase every 8 stitches, worked 6 times
  • Row 39 has an increase every 9 stitches, worked 5 times
  • Row 45 has an increase every 10 stitches, worked 7 times
  • Row 49 has an increase every 11 stitches, worked 6 times
  • Row 55 has an increase every 12 stitches, worked 7 times
  • Row 59 has an increase every 13 stitches, worked 6 times

Incorporating these patterns of increases into the 10-row sequence described, enlarging the shawl beyond Row 104 is simply a matter of math. Don’t forget to add stitches at the beginning of your increase rows to account for the extra stitches from the short rows! Alternately, you can eliminate the short rows after Row 99 and simply increase at an even rate similar to described above. Your shawl will still have that asymmetrical, “spilled” kind of look.

I’m so pleased with the positive responses I’ve received on this design! You readers are very kind. I hope some of you found all of this extra information interesting or useful for crocheting your own Spill shawls. Have any questions or comments about my process for this design? Please post your comments below!

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