A Shrug of Your Own: The Basic Recipe

Drop-Stitch Shrug

So you have a cute little sundress, say, and you’re planning on wearing it out to dinner next week, but it gets chilly in the evening. You don’t want to completely cover up the neckline, because that’s one of the best parts of the dress, but you also don’t want to turn blue with cold before the dessert course. You’ve looked through all the free knitted accessories here, and nothing quite appeals to you. You do, however, have the perfect yarn: a lovely silk/cotton blend that exactly matches the shade of blue in your dress.

The catch: you are not a knitting design genius, and you don’t want to spend hours with calculator and graph paper because, well, because you have one of those Life things.

A shrug isn’t really anything fancy—it can be as complicated as a sweater, only shorter; it can be as simple as a poncho, only with sleeves. It all depends on what you want.

Make your knitting obey you, as Elizabeth Zimmerman was so fond of saying. It’s your shrug, and your yarn; let’s look at some ways to make your knitting obey your personal sense of style.

First, the basic pattern for a basic shrug:

Step 1: CO enough stitches to make a piece twice the depth of your armhole (measure from shoulder bone down to the top of the armhole on a top that fits comfortably and double that measurement).

Step 2: Knit enough rows to make a piece the length of your wingspan (wrist to wrist, arms outstretched).

Step 3: Bind off. (Loosely, loosely; you’ll want your blood to still circulate whilst you are wearing this cute little number.)

Step 4: Sew a seam lengthwise the distance from wrist to shoulder, beginning at one end (cuff) and sewing towards the middle. Repeat the seaming on the other side, leaving the middle part open for your head and body.

Step 5: Put it on and run into the next room to show your roommate/husband/cat.

There’s a bit more to making the perfect shrug, obviously. You can vary the stitch pattern, you can use two yarns held together, you can knit it lengthwise instead of widthwise, you can add belled cuffs or a ribbed edging or hang pom-poms off the back– whatever your little heart desires.

Here’s a few hints on yarn choices to get you started:

  • Choose a yarn you will want to have next to your skin. The skin on the inside of my arms is particularly sensitive; I like to rub a ball of yarn along my inner arm before knitting with it to see if it feels OK there. Too scratchy? Back in the stash it goes, and I try another one.

  • If you are short on time, choose a novelty yarn—one of the furry, flashy yarns that can turn humble garter stitch into red-carpet wear. The yarn will do all the fancy work for you.

  • If you do choose a furry or fluffy yarn, don’t try to knit a lace pattern or anything with too much detail work going on; let the yarn speak for itself. Lace or texture stitches won’t show up well, anyway.

  • If you want to try a lace pattern, think big: try knitting the pattern in a bulky yarn, with larger needles and fewer repeats than usual. Live large, and your shrug will be a big hit.

See? It’s not so hard. Actually, the hardest part will be not making a zillion shrugs once you realize that you need one for every dress in your closet.

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