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Westward shawl

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I'd like to tell you the story behind this pattern.

Once upon a time, I spent four years as a PhD student in the Netherlands, researching a natural climate phenomenon called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. My Dad, who is an artist, occasionally made paintings inspired by some of the visual representations of the results of my research. In particular he did a painting inspired by one of the major results of my thesis (the observation of westward propagation of temperature anomalies in the subsurface North Atlantic Ocean). When it came time for me to publish my thesis, I used that painting as the cover image.

Fast forward a few years (ok, ok, more like ten years), and I was discussing yarn and thesis covers with Hannah from Circus Tonic Handmade, who dyes a lovely gradient set based on the cover of her own thesis. I sent her a photo of my thesis cover, and she dyed a beautiful pair of yarns based on the colours for her November 2021 sock club.

A few more years on, and I made those yarns into a shawl, using alternating bands of brioche and lace to represent the bands of temperature anomalies traveling westward across the ocean that had been shown in that long ago thesis result.

To me, the Westward shawl represents a journey, or several journeys, rather. My own journey, from student, to scientist, to knitter, to designer. The design's journey, from plot in my thesis, to my Dad's painting, to Hannah's yarn, and finally back to me to be turned into a shawl.

And now I pass the pattern on to you, so that you can become part of its journey, as it also becomes part of your journey, from the reason you decide to knit this pattern, the yarn you choose to knit it with, the people and places the shawl will go to once it is finished. I hope it brings meaning and joy to you along the way.

Now, on to the knitting...

The shawl is a crescent shape with alternating bands of brioche and lace. It uses two colours of fingering or light fingering weight yarn, two skeins of one colour and one of the other. The pattern has both written instructions and charts.

The brioche portions of the pattern are suitable for brioche novices, containing the basic brioche brk and brp stitches as well as a couple of brioche increases. The lace potions are also not too complicated, and instructions are given for all stitches. Switching between brioche and lace sections keeps things interesting throughout the whole shawl.

The original sample of the shawl has a rather large wingspan, but if you prefer a smaller (or even a larger!) shawl then modifications are simple to make. Each brioche/lace section is designed to increase the stitch count by the same amount, so the sections are essentially interchangeable. You can work the brioche stripes any number of times in any order until the shawl is the size you want.

There is a short video on my website where I talk about the shawl and show some details of it's construction.


• Two colours of fingering or light fingering weight yarn, approximately 420m/460yds of the main colour (MC) and 840m/920yds of the contrast colour (CC).

• 3.5mm/US 4 circular needle with an 80cm/32” or longer cable.

• Circular needle one or two sizes larger for the lace sections

• Stitch marker(s)

• Tapestry needle to weave in ends.

Size of finished shawl:

Length 314cm/125.5", depth 85cm/34", relaxed after blocking.


Obtaining gauge is not essential, as long as you are happy with the fabric you are getting. Different gauge will affect the size of the finished object and the amount of yarn used.

The sample shawl had a gauge of 17 stitches and 29 rows of brioche rib in a 10cm x 10cm/4” x 4” square, after blocking.

Stitch abbreviations and chart symbols are based on those developed by Nancy Marchant.

For pattern support, please post in the help thread in my Ravelry group or email me at You may also find me on Instagram as @leelamary. If you would like to hear about future pattern releases, please join my mailing list.

In case of need, this and all my patterns are available through the Fiber Community Fund.

You will get a PDF (18MB) file

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