Reader Request: Styling Shawls and Scarves

styling shawls

Images courtesy Un-Fancy

Reader Isabel had this question:

I love to knit and am always trying new techniques/patterns and am slowly building a collection of knitted garments. Styling toques (I’m Canadian after all) and sweaters is pretty straight forward: it’s cold, so wear a toque or sweater. My challenge is primarily with shawls and scarves: how do I incorporate these into my wardrobe of jeans and t-shirts that works for a mother of a young kid and someone who is kind of lazy in the fashion department? (I’d rather knit a few extra minutes, or spend the time outside or with my family than fuss over clothing that same amount of time). In other words, how can I make my hand knits er, hip, instead of dowdy?

With blanket scarves and ponchos in high demand, this is actually a great time to work those hand-knits into your daily outfits. And I think jeans and tees are the perfect balance to shawls and scarves that may be a bit on the bulky side. As always, balancing volume (the handknits) with fitted-ness is wise, so go for slim-fitting jeans, tops that skim your curves, and figure-hugging jackets. In addition to the two above from Un-Fancy – both of which will work well with large scarves or shawls – here are a few other ideas:


Image source

This works best with a large rectangle, but you might be able to finagle a similar look from a triangular shawl. The key here is asymmetry: One half of the shawl hangs straight down from the shoulder and over the arm, the other is thrown across the body at a diagonal. This looks fabulous with a simple dress – add tights and boots for winter wear – but could also work with skinny jeans and a thin sweater.


Image source

This is the tie I see used most often for blanket scarves, but you fold them into a triangle before tying so it’ll work great with triangular shawls. Since wearing a scarf or shawl this way places a ton of fabric right near your face and neck, I’d recommend wearing your hair up and doing fitted clothes all over if you can.

blanket scarf 1

Image source

Yep, belting giant scarves is a thing right now. The addition of a duster or long blazer makes this look feel less overwhelming. Also make sure to use a medium or thin belt – wide belts tend to look odd over huge scarves. I’ve seen belted scarves over maxi dresses, but personally prefer the look with jeans as shown here.


Image source

OK fine, this is a ruana. But consider the other elements – heeled ankle boots, slim boyfriend jeans, fitted top – and swap in a large shawl.


Image source – tutorial there, too

This is some pretty advanced scarf-wearing, but I think it might look a little less funky with two scarves of the same color. Or even in the same color range. Click the link above for a tutorial on the tie. This is cute with the jacket and button-front, but could also work with a sweater dress and boots or a simple sweater and jeans.

Hopefully some of these will work for both hand-knit scarves and shawls! Need more ideas? For a cornucopia of scarf-tying inspiration, check Mai Tai’s Picture Book.

Originally posted 2016-01-25 06:17:59.

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4 Responses to “Reader Request: Styling Shawls and Scarves”

  1. Linda B

    Great ideas for wearing scarves, Sally! I have a few thoughts on this myself, as a long-time knitter (and mother of now grown children.) Handknits are bulkier by nature, because working with very fine yarn means lots of tiny stitches that take forever! I would say Isabel’s best bet is to knit something like a clapotis (a free Knitty pattern that many people have made, including me)–it’s a big rectangle. The way it is made gives it a bit of airiness, and less bulk. Then she can use some of your ideas. But. . . a mom can’t have things that are going to slide around–she just has to bend and reach and carry too much of the time. So another thought is to knit one of the lacy sorts of patterns for scarves or even shawls made with finer yarn, and then wind into a cowl and tuck the ends securely in. That works really well. Or–just knit a cowl, or an infinity scarf! The trouble with lace knitting however is that it’s hard to do with distractions. . .such as dear children! I am sure the right solution will present itself to Isabel!

    • tracy

      Right! These are lovely examples, but not really close to how knitted shawls look or behave. I love the styling (and photography) at and at and A “shawlette” can be worn like a bandana or cowl or even think of it as a necklace. These I can handle. The larger ones…I have trouble wearing unless bunched up, though belting could be an option. There are just so many shapes – faroese shawls can often be crossed over in front and tied in back. But on me…too frumpy. But letting it hang…too dangerous to the knitting with me around. Successful shawl people are owning that shawl – I made this, it’s gorgeous, I’m gorgeous. Often worn with a column of color…all a neutral base (skinny black jeans, black turtleneck kind of thing) to let the shawl stand out.

  2. Jessica M.

    As a young mom, I limit my knitting to sweaters and hats for this exact reason. I do often wear woven scarves and pashminas, always tied somewhere (can’t just drape, they WILL fall off) and just tuck the ends in when I need to cook or give a child a bath. I will have to give knitted cowls and belting a try now!