Because they use only a yard or two of fabric and trim, elegant shawls made of velvet, brocade, satin or chiffon are relatively inexpensive to make. Choose chiffon for a light gauzy shawl that drapes nicely or taffeta for a crisper look. Velvet is soft, warm and pleasant to the touch. Light wool crepe or a wool and silk blend also drape easily and are a good choice for cool evenings. Choose a colour and texture that compliment your evening wear and embellish your shawl with ribbon, fringe or beaded or sequinned trim.
Fold your fabric in half lengthwise and cut along the fold to produce two 18-inch pieces, each 1 to 1.5 yards in length. Pin the two pieces together, end to end, wrong sides together and sew them together at one end. Trim the seam to 1/8 inch wide.
Open the fabric and lay it on the ironing board right side up. Press the seam width to one side all along the length of the seam. Fold the shawl with right sides together, folded at the seam, and press the seam again. Sew another line of stitches 1/4 inch from the first seam, to make a French seam that encloses the raw edge entirely.
Put the rolled-hem foot on your sewing machine and follow the instructions that come with your machine to sew a rolled hem on all four sides of the scarf. If you don't have the correct foot, you can fold in each edge 1/4 inch two times and press the folds with your iron. Sew the hem flat with your sewing machine, on all four sides.
Embellish your scarf. Instead of a hem on all four sides, you might choose to bind all four edges with wide satin or velvet ribbon. Another choice is to sew a silky or feathery fringe to each of the short ends of the shawl. Add interest and texture by sewing stripes of wide brocade ribbon a few inches in from the hem on each end.
Line soft velvet or wool crepe fabric with a matching satin fabric. Cut the satin the same size as the velvet or wool. Sew two lining pieces together at the centre with a French seam, just as you did with the outside of the shawl. Pin the shawl and lining together with right sides in. Sew a seam 1/2 inch from the edge on all four sides except for about six inches that you will leave open. Trim the edges and corners and turn the shawl right side out. Press all four edges and stitch the opening shut by hand.
If you don't have the time to make French seams, just sew regular seams with the right sides of the fabric together. Pink the edges with pinking shears and press the seams with your iron.
Read the end of the bolt of fabric before you buy it to find out whether the fabric is washable. Some fabrics suitable for evening wear must be dry-cleaned or hand-washed. If you add a fringe or other decoration that isn't washable, sew it in place by hand so that you can easily remove the decoration before washing the shawl.