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Jill Draper’s gorgeous farm-to-skein, hand-dyed yarns have been a cornerstone of the MDK shop from the beginning. Jill is an inventive dresser and fearless knitter. When we run into her (often in a booth at a fiber festival), she inevitably is wearing something that we want to find out more about. Today, Jill recounts how she transformed a beloved hap shawl pattern into a swingy cardigan. Her Mohonk Light is perfect for your hap or hapigan! Take a look at Jill’s painterly palette here. And thanks for your purchases. They support everything we do here at MDK.

—Kay and Ann

I’m sorry about the pun in the title; it was irresistible.

I Love You, You’re Perfect; Now Change

When I first saw Gudrun Johnston’s Hansel Hap,  I was in love. It hit all the right notes for me, it was so big and cozy looking, with enough going on to not be boring. The only modification that would make me love this amazing shawl more would be to add sleeves and make it a sweater.

(editors’ note: Mohonk Light would make a great yarn for Gudrun’s pattern and for Jill’s adaptation.)

Of course,  you can change almost any shawl into a sweater.  The original shawl shapes will make for different sweater shapes, and some conversions are easier than others,  but converting a shawl into a sweater consists of two basic mods: one, make armholes and two,  knit sleeves. That’s it! (At this point I’ll mention that I’m giving broad strokes here for a couple reasons, to help you make any shawl you want into a sweater, and to not give away Gudrun’s pattern.)

The diamond shape of the Hansel Hap is among the most complicated to convert, so if you can follow this, you could modify almost any large shawl to be a sweater.  The Hansel hap already has generous proportions, being just over 54 inches from point to point.   I did a gauge swatch with one of my yarns,  Beacon, on US 9 needles, and got a slightly looser gauge than directed, but I liked the fabric. My garment would end up 6 inches wider, which would work out perfectly.

Insert Armholes Here

I looked at the Hansel schematic illustration, and  took some measurements.  I sketched into my schematic where I wanted my armholes to be.  I decided this by measuring the cross back of a well fitting sweater (this is the width from armhole to armhole where your shoulder blades are).  Then, I cast on as directed by the pattern, and followed the instructions until I had reached the length where I wanted to start the armholes.

  • Using my gauge swatch, I calculated how many stitches should be between the armholes by taking the cross back measurement multiplied by stitches per inch, that marks the ‘inner edge’ of the armholes. I made a note of this number.
  • I wanted about an inch of underarm stitches, so I added those. You can be fairly conservative with underarm stitches. I like a close fitting sleeve, but I think most people should not go over 2 inches here.
  • Subtract the number of cross back stitches plus the underarm stitches from the total current stitch count, and divide the remainder by two. This number is how many stitches you should knit before you start your armhole bind off.
  • Work to that stitch, join a new ball of the main color, bind off the first underarm, work across the cross back stitches, join new yarn, bind off the second set of underarm stitches, and work to the end of the row.

You now have 3 balls  of yarn attached for what will become the fronts and back.  You could work each section separately, but I prefer to work all three at once, to ensure that they all end up exactly the same length.  Continue following the directions as written, increasing and then decreasing as instructed, making sure to “count” your missing armhole stitches when checking the stitch count against pattern. Continue working until the armhole measures the length desired.  (You are basically creating two big vertical button holes.)

Not sure what length you desire? Revisit a favorite sweater & measure the length of the armhole or check out a schematic of a sweater you’ve knit and loved. After the armhole has reached the desired length, as you work across use a thumb loop cast on to replace the stitches you bound off at each underarm, breaking the additional balls of yarn. Continue following the pattern for a few more inches.

Forming the Shawl Collar

The number of inches you work after the armholes will determine how generous your shawl collar is.  With Hansel, you knit an edging onto the initial diamond shape, so take that into account. I worked about 5.5 inches after completion of the armholes.

Because Hansel is a diamond, and I didn’t want the top point hanging down the back of my sweater, I bound off here instead of continuing to decrease down to a point as instructed to make the shawl.  For a rectangular or circular shawl, you could just finish the pattern as written.

Binding off before completing the diamond shape left me with a shield shape (think the Superman logo), so I needed to adjust the edging a bit to make this work.

My fix for working the edging around a shield shape versus a diamond was this: I placed markers at the corner points of my shawl, which are 5 now, instead of the 4 in the Hansel pattern as written.  Luckily, since two increases were worked for each of the original four corners, I could split the double increase meant for my now non-existent top point between the two points that will be my collar edges. I chose to make these single increases  “inside” the two corner markers, to give the collar extra width to wrap. That meant I increased after my first marker and before my second marker on the top of the sweater, but on both sides of the other 3 corners, as written.  Use 3 colors of marker, one to mark the beginning of the round, one for the other collar corner, and then three matching markers for the points to be worked exactly as written. Trust me: this will save your sanity. 

Apart from splitting the top corner increase as explained above, I worked the edging exactly as instructed.

Don’t Forget the Sleeves

I blocked my piece before adding the sleeves, because once you add the sleeves, the shape is no longer flat and can be somewhat awkward to block. While the body was blocking,  I knit the sleeves.  You can knit the sleeves in any way that you prefer. You know how many stitches you will need at the bicep as you have the measurement of the hole you made, multiply that by stitch gauge. To decide how wide to make the wrist, go back to that favorite sweater, and measure the wrist diameter and sleeve length.

Whether you knit the sleeves top down or bottom up, you will need to transition between the wrist count to the bicep count or vice versa. My ideal wrist was 10 inches, my bicep 17 inches, and I wanted my sleeves  to be 18 inches long, so over those 18 inches I needed to increase 7 inches.  I multiplied this by my stitch gauge to figure out how many stitches I needed to add as I went from wrist to bicep; if you’re knitting the sleeves from the top down, you’ll need to decrease by that amount. You probably want a few straight inches at the top and bottom of the sleeve, so account for that in your calculations.

Block your sleeves and attach them to the armholes.  I prefer to knit sleeves separately and sew them on, because with such a generous sweater it can be quite awkward to manipulate the entire sweater while knitting sleeves.

That is it! I now have a lovely garment I’ve been calling a Hapigan. Every time I wear it, someone stops to ask where I bought it, which really is the best compliment, isn’t it?

About The Author

A graduate of the Pratt Institute with a BFA in fashion design, Jill Draper loves yarn and color so much that she started her own company, Jill Draper Makes Stuff. When it comes to farm-to-skein yarns, JDMS yarns are the genuine article, with all fibers locally sourced and all yarns designed by Jill in collaboration with East Coast mills.


  • Seriously, Jill, you are brilliant! I love your conversion.

    • Thanks but no brilliance needed, just a simple change :))

  • Wow! It’s stunning! I love it.

    • Thank you!

      • Hi Jill. Thanks for going the extra step. Farm to feel good. Keep sharing creativity.

  • This is cool! I wonder if you could also make a shield shaped shawl first, and then carefully snip a few stitches and pick up to make afterthought sleeves.

    • You could with a different construction, doing that here would give you horizontal armholes vs vertical. It would also mean garter in the round & I think this garment needs the seams for structure but that’s just my two cents & worth exactly what you paid for it 😉

  • It looks like a knitted version of Molly Weasley’s sweater ! ! !

  • THIS IS EVERYTHING! I could never do this! But I WANT THAT! Oh no! I may have to figure this out!

  • I have been pinning large rectangular shawls with sleeves. I need to try this, as well as with the hap shawl. Thanks.

  • Fascinating from beginning to end.

  • I totally love this! I love the way I look, and I love and admire the improvisational effort that went into it. I will dream about this for a while, and ultimately, I lnow that i will have to try it. Will there ever, perhaps, be a schematic?

    • There is a schematic in the original Hansel pattern, I just sketched over that & you could too w the numbers above. 🙂

      • If you and Gudrun could collaborate, I think this would be a really popular full pattern release!

  • That is stunning!!

  • I have made three Hansels. This may be the fourth version. Brilliant and beautiful.

  • I made two Hansel shawls last year. Now I need a beautiful hansel sweater too. Thank you for sharing.

  • Love it! Gorgeous! While I often think I should do mods like this, or design my own sweater, this article explains exactly why I shawl-al continue to buy sweater patterns. Now, if I could just get myself to knit them! I’m stuck in shawlette/shawl-land. It’s not a bad place to be stuck.

  • Beautiful, and so very clever! I also love color detail in the sleeves!

  • This question has befuddled me for ages & since I’ve never seen them IRL together… can someone explain the difference between Lopi yarn and Jamieson’s Shetland? (Also, if you think this belongs in the Lounge instead of here, just let me know. I keep forgetting to ask in there).

    • lopi is single ply from Iceland, Jamieson’s is plied from Ireland

  • Brava !!!!

  • As the kids say – asdfghjkl!! Which I’m pretty sure translates into ‘I must have knit want.’

  • Easy for u to say! It’s fab

  • love it!

  • WOWZA, this is amazing work of art. I want to buy a kit and make one just like yours, Jill

  • Sheer genius, thank you so much! I have the Hansel pattern and a completely beyond SABLE J&S jumperweight collection (they’re precious jewels, not “stash”) I just need to get a creative buzz on, but this maybe my Woolfest finery this year. You guys in the US have Rhinebeck at the best time of year, but trust me when I say that Woolfest in late June over here in the Lake District can be either melt-your-bum (you would say “ass”) hot under the tin roof or freeze your *insert your own expletive* off. The tin roof also makes conversation a tad trying with hailstones the size of babies heads, but hey, it’s a Woolfest and it’s real and original. Anyone planning a trip this year from MDK villa, perhaps we could meet up? It’s on Friday 23rd and Sat 24th June near Wordsworth land at Cockermouth.

  • First of all, as a math teacher, I love how you have inspired others to just design and produce. Second I love the colors. And third, this is a definite Rhinebeck Sweater! I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time! I’ll come by and visit on Sunday at MS&W.

  • Please, join venture with Gudrun and bring us a written pattern for this!! It’s lovely!!!

    • Gudrun & I have talked about it & this is what we decided on 🙂 All you need to do is follow the step by step.

  • Absolutely brilliant.

  • Wow, that’s all I can say! Amazing result.

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