The Sontag Shawl {History and Patterns}


In this post, you will learn all about the Sontag shawl.

Sontag shawls were first worn during the Victorian era, with many women seen wearing them from the 1860s.

Worn across the body and tied behind the waist, this shawl was a popular choice for wearing over a dress for extra warmth.

What Is A Sontag Shawl? 

A Sontag shawl is a knitted or crocheted shawl that crosses in front of your body and typically ties behind your back.

Made from wool this knitted shawl was seen as a shallow shawl with long ends that crosses over the body in the front (also known as a ‘bosom friend‘), sometimes with lace edge designs or made in simple garter stitch.

These popular shawl patterns were often seen in women’s magazines with free patterns and various styles given.

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The history of the Sontag shawl 

Sontag shawls are named after Henriette Sontag an operatic soprano of the 19th century who is rumored to have loved to wear them and introduced them to the fashionable ladies of that time.

Another name for the Sontag was a bosom friend as the shawl wraps around you and keeps your chest warm. 

Sontag shawl pin

Who was Henriette Sontag? 

Henriette Sontag(nne Cornez) was a German operatic soprano born in January of 1806.

She made her debut at age six and was an instant success.

She was an extremely successful singer all over Europe including France, Germany, and Britain.

Henriette Sontag
Image Source – Threading Through Time

Sontag shawls in the 19th Century 

The Sontag shawl was worn a lot in the 1800s and can be seen in many photos worn by many women in America. 

The biggest proof of the Sontag shawl’s existence in the 19th Century is the knitting patterns published in women’s magazines. 

In January’s 1860s issue of Godey’s Lady Book and Magazine you can find a knitting pattern for a Sontag or a “habit shirt”.

Seen in Women’s Magazines From the 1800s

Godey’s Lady Book or Godey’s Magazine and Lady Book was published in Philadelphia from 1830-1878.

It contained short stories, illustrations, and measurements of garments to be sewn at home, knitting patterns, and music sheets for the piano.

You can download the book here for free.

Also in May’s 1862 issue of Peterson’s Magazine, you can find a pattern for A Knitted Sontag.

You can download the book here for free.

Sontag shawls are seen in the movie Little Women

In Little Women, for example, set in the 1860s in New England around the time these shawls were very popular, you can see Beth and Amy wearing them.

If you’re interested in making your own Little Women Sontag grab the pattern here – Beth’s Shawl by fiber workshop.

The Sontag Shawl and Outlander 

In many period movies and TV shows set in the 1800s, you can see a lot of Sontag shawls worn by the leading ladies.

If you are an Outlander fan, there is no way you haven’t noticed the amazing costumes, especially the knitwear worn by the protagonists and all the cast. 

What is the shawl that Claire Wears in Outlander?

Claire wears the well-known Rent shawl and Carolina shawl, plus other Sontag shawls throughout the series.

And while they are not very historically accurate as Outlander is set in the 1740s they fit the series perfectly and complete all the costumes.

Moreover, they have inspired thousands of makers to recreate them and bring them into the 21st century.

Shawl patterns from the Outlander series

There are many notable Sontag shawls seen worn on the Outlander series, here are a few that I have created to share with you knitters…

(All Images of the cast from Outlander are copyrighted to

1. Claire’s Rent Shawl

Claire’s Rent Shawl worn by Claire in Season 1 episode 5 Rent is worn over a tartan dress when Claire attends the wounds of clan MacKenzie.

You can view the knitting pattern here – Claire’s Rent Shawl Knitting Pattern

Outlander Rent shawl

2. Claire’s Carolina Shawl

Claire’s Carolina Shawl which you can see in Season 4 Episode 1 of Outlander America the Beautiful and in many others after that.

You view the knitting pattern here. – Outlander Carolina Shawl Pattern

Outlander Claire shawl

3. Fraser’s Ridge Outlander Shawl

Fraser’s Ridge Outlander Shawl which you can see at the beginning of season 5 and in various episodes after that.

A big forest green that wraps around your body with a colored striped border edge in the design.

You can view the pattern here – Fraser’s Ridge Outlander Shawl Pattern

Frasers ridge shawl

4. Journeycake Outlander Shawl

Journeycake Sontag, you can see in Season 5 Episode 8 Famous Last Words and in episode 11 Journeycake.

It’s a long triangle scarf with a scalloped/shell crochet border that makes it more delicate and unique.

You can view the knitting pattern here – Journeycake Sontag Shawl Knitting Pattern

Outlander Journeycake shawl

5. Jenny’s Shawl

Jenny’s shawl is worn by Jenny Murray loaned to Mary McNab when she visits Jamie in the cave and later seen worn by Janet, Jenny’s daughter.

It’s a beautiful triangle scarf with a ruffle edge.

You can view the knitting pattern here. – Jenny’s Shawl Knitting Pattern (Outlander Knit)

Outlander Jenny Shawl

6. Claire’s Sontag shawl from season 4

This Outlander shawl pattern will allow you to create a large triangle shawl.

Inspired by the crossover shawl Claire is wearing in Outlander season 4, episode 6 ‘Blood of my blood’.

You can view the knitting pattern here. – Outlander Shawl Pattern (Clare Fraser Shawl)

Sontag shawl Outlander

7. More Outlander Patterns

You can view all of my Outlander shawl knitting patterns here – Shawls + Scarves + Wraps

And you can purchase the printable PDFs here.

You can also see all of the Outlander knitting patterns and check out all the Outlander patterns and ebooks in my shop here.

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  1. Hello Ms. Bollanos,
    This is a great article. Very informative. I love all these shawls. I have a question. There is a Sontag type shawl in the new Willow series and I was wondering if you have seen it. It seems to be very popular with everyone. I would love to see a pattern created for it by you. All your patterns are so nice, easy to follow and work up beautifully. Looking forward to seeing your new creations.
    Kindest regards.
    Lynn Zindler

    1. Hello Lynn,
      I haven’t seen that show…
      I’m glad you like the shawls, I hope you find a pattern you want to make!