book review: Shawl Geometry Series

There are numerous variables for a knit shawl design, whether created from the first stitch or a pattern. It doesn’t matter where one starts in the process–yarn, gauge, or stitch pattern–each one increases the complexity. That is before adding in the most important choice, shape. That’s where Holly Chayes revised Shawl Geometry Series books come to the rescue. Whether you’re interested in knitting a triangle or a 3/4 pi donut the shape is solved for you, without elaborate maths!

I happen to love maths and find Shawl Geometry Series invaluable when I sit to design. In my case, I often fall into a formula rut and knit the same shape repeatedly without meaning to. The ability to spend my swatch time exploring variations without spending hours on the maths is priceless. As a bonus, I can size them for Leah and see how they will look when worn.


While each book explores different topics, Holly has worked to create consistency across the series. You’ll find clear photos of lime green swatches throughout the book. There are diagrams that show the direction and rate of increases. If you prefer bottom (border) up to top down (center out) construction, the instructions are written both ways. There is also an extensive reference section for those wishing to dig even deeper into the shaping of shawls.

Finally, the book is laid out so that it is possible to print small selections without wasting paper on extraneous materials. I found it enjoyable to work from on my tablet, I don’t have to swipe through multiple pages to get at the heart of the instructions for any shawl shape.

My swatch shawls are knit in Lorna’s Laces String Quintet, the Dulcimer colourway collection. Unfortunately, I rushed my bind-offs this morning and they’re too tight, affecting the final shape of Leah’s shawls.

Book one

The first book steps the knitter through three basic traditional shawl shapes. There are multiple ways to knit squares (and rectangles), triangles, and circles–28 shapes in all.

I knit an Octagon Circle with slit.

Book two

This volume includes 45 additional shapes. These branch out beyond the expected variations on squares, rectangles, and triangles! The new shapes include trapezoids, doughnuts, and crescents.

I chose to work up a faroese style shawl swatch, because many of the other shapes were making me hungry.

Book three

Finally, in book three the principles and theory of shawl shaping are explored in greater detail. What effect does the distribution or rate of shaping have to the final shawl shape? How can one combine elements of various shapes to form a new hybrid shape? And the importance of blocking. I’ll echo that last with a public reminder to bind off in your swatch as you might bind off in the larger piece. That will help shape the shawl into the desired dimensions.


I recommend the Shawl Geometry Series for every knitter. It’s valuable whether you are looking to work beyond traditional shawl shapes or wish to focus on the design, not the maths. The author sent me a copy in exchange for a review. The FTC wants you to know.

Learn more and purchase Shawl Geometry Series at

Reader interactions

2 Replies to “book review: Shawl Geometry Series”

  1. Thank you so much for a wonderful review Penny! I’m so glad you enjoyed the updated books, I’ve learned the “don’t bind off/cast on too tightly” lesson the hard way as well 🙂


  2. She has a name now! At first I was like “who’s Leah?” Oh! She’s Leah! Cool!


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