On a Tuesday

So It turns out that when you knit a Pi Shawl and then post photos about it on the internet, not only do you get the finished shawl but you also get lots of interest and curiosity. Many of you had more questions about how to do the Pi Shawl or similar projects, so here I’ll try to follow up on some of them!

1. “But what kind of pattern are you using for the pattern? And where are all the increases?

So, the thing about Elizabeth Zimmerman’s patterns is that she does a lot of conversational “you-can-do-this-because-you’re-a-knitter-with-a-brain” kind of instructions mixed with “knitting-is-also-my-life-story-here-let-me-tell-you-parts-of-it”, especially in the Knitter’s Almanac. But then she always follows it with a quick-and-dirty (or ‘pithy’ as she calls it) instructions for the project, which you are usually free to customize however you want. It’s an entirely different style of pattern writing than what many of us have become used to in the current moment of knitting pattern writing. And it makes for good bathtub reading. You know, if you, uh, are the sort of person who would want to do that sort of thing.

However, the advantage here (along with ultimately making you a more confident knitter – which is the goal, always) is that there are usually a few variations for every pattern. The Pi Shawl, straight up, is written as a circular shawl in the round, where increase rounds are done as [k1, yo] repeated all the way around. The increase round always double the stitches on the round. So, you’re going to have yarnover rounds anyway when you do the increases. The variation does this the same way AND installs a yarnover round every 6th round also, in the form of [k2tog, yo]. This is both visually appealing as a pattern AND is intended to camouflage the yarnover increase rounds by making them part of a repeating pattern, essentially.


2. “How does blocking work? I want to know more about that.”

Blocking is a pretty magical thing. You’re most likely to encounter blocking as a part of sweater projects and lace shawl project. In either case, blocking is part of the final stage of the project where you pin out the finished item or its constituent parts (many knitters prefer to block the finished individual sweater pieces and then do the seaming and finishing, others prefer to seam first and then block the final garment)  to the intended size and shape. Most often this also involves adding some moisture to the fabric so that the fibres relax and allow themselves to be pinned out into the desired shape. (This is especially the case with wool, by the way – it’s nice and elastic).

Below is a shot of my Peacock Feathers shawl – in Tanis Fiber Arts mulberry silk in ‘velvet’ – which I knitted 3 years ago and finished while I was attending Sock Summit. (I really wanted to wear it on my birthday, which fell during that trip). Because I knew I was going to be finishing it on the trip, I brought my blocking pins – I use T-pins like what quilters use – with me in my suitcase (you know, as one does) and pinned it out for blocking on the hotel bed in the middle of the afternoon. (It was all fine. If housekeeping noticed, they didn’t say anything). This is actually a desirable spot to use for blocking in general, albeit usually it’s your own bed not a hotel bed, since it’s a large flat space that is amenable to pinning out a large object. Alternately, you can use a patch of carpet, or a bunch of foam interlocking mats laid out on the floor.


You can also acquire blocking wires which are designed to be threaded through the little lacy tips of finished shawls, and are a bit nicer to use than pinning out individual little pins all the way around the edge – particularly for large shawls. I don’t actually own a set of my own so still tend to use the pins, but i’ve borrowed them before and definitely recommend them if you’re looking for birthday gift requests.

In conclusion: blocking, it’s pretty great.

Also, just as a bonus, here is a (distant) photo of Nathan Fillion, who I saw on Sunday at the Toronto Fan Expo convention. Which actually has very little to do with knitting or shawls, except for the fact that the smattering of Jayne hats (which Firefly fans knit and wear happily in homage to one episode) in the audience did make me wonder why I haven’t actually gone and knitted myself a Jayne hat yet, since I darned well could. One of these days, I will totally get around to that. And in any case, Nathan Fillion is delightful.


Have a great Tuesday!




  1. Glad I’m not alone in reading EZ in the bath!

  2. Serenova · ·

    I love the Almanac.

    Thanks for letting us in on the secret of the k2tog, yo every 6 rows! Your shawl is simply stunning because of such a simple thing. Gotta love it!

  3. Too bad hubby didn’t know Nathan Fillion was in TO, he would have been in attendance for sure. we are big fans

  4. he really is ruggedly handsome, isn’t he? and also probably the best man on the planet. top 5, at least. 🙂

  5. Pi, blocking, and Nathan Fillion, all in one post?

  6. I have to agree with pdxknitterati — this post was kind of a perfect storm of awesome! 😀 I am sure I will get to a pi shawl eventually; the construction is so simple and elegant, with so many ways to personalize it. I particularly like the version on the cover of Knitter’s Almanac — it looks like a big sun flower.

  7. I’ll read anything in the bathtub, but what is a “Jayne hat” ?

  8. I have never read any of EZ’s work but now that you’ve described it I am intrigued… Must check that out

  9. He is delightful and I must make a Jayne hat too, except mine should be greens.
    Love your Pi shawl!!

  10. I thought everybody read EZ in the bath…

  11. The Pi shawl is just beautiful. But how does one wear such a thing?

  12. A Jayne hat..I’ll have to look into that for my Firefly friends. I knitted my husband a Wash sweater (also based on clothing worn on Firefly). And I also knitted him your Viper Pilot socks. I don’t even like Sci-fi and here I am supporting the obsessions of others. Here’s the link to the Wash Sweater…

  13. yarn and Nathan fillion…….You have acquired the perfect post!

  14. Just bought your “High Street”pattern from Twist Collective and am wondering if the stated needle size is correct – 18 sts to 4 inches on a 4mm needle with an Aran weight yarn? Thank you!

  15. Hi Ann

    Yes indeed, the gauge as printed is the gauge I achieved for that combination of yarn and pattern, so this is the gauge you should try for when swatching. However I find that Briggs & Little Regal actually performs more like a worsted than a truly heavier Aran weight, in my experience. If you’re not sure about gauge it’s always best to swatch with the yarn you’d like to work with and see what needle size works best for you!

    Hope that helps, and happy knitting, Glenna

  16. I’ve never had the confidence to knit anything by EZ – even though I love her and have all her books! Why, you may ask? Her “pithy” directions – I always feel the need for more! Thanks for your help with the Pi shawl!

  17. I think every time I’ve read the Knitter’s Almanac I’ve started it in the bathtub.

  18. Beautiful knitting and beautiful Nathan Fillion… *swoon* All the good things in life.

  19. I love the green!!!!! Blocking is magic I agree wholeheartedly!

  20. Loving your Pi Shawl! It is on my “must knit” list! Cheers

  21. I’m old enough that I cut my knitting teeth on EZ’s patterns and learned so much. Back then, if I had a question, I’d pick up the phone and call Schoolhouse press and Meg would answer and offer help. I still prefer to follow “recipe” style patterns, and only wish I could get away with writing them myself. Alas, this type of writing is no longer in style.

  22. I would like to do a pi shawl with concentric circles, too. However, I have a VERY basic question for you: In selecting yarn, how big is each color run in the yarn? The variation in tone is beautiful on yours, and is very well balanced. There is no obvious difference in size between color runs in the center and on the edge. Any suggestions?

  23. Oh my goodness! How beautiful that is. I’ve heard of the Pi Shawl, but never thought to look it up. This sounds like a doll gypsy skirt I designed once for my daughters many years ago, which was a lot of knitting but beautifully full when finished.

    Now I’m all excited to try a Pi Shawl for myself. Though I don’t have a lot of lace weight yarn. Maybe I’ll make a Pi Blanket. However, I’m not sure I have enough of any one yarn to make one that is big enough for me. Oh darn. Must go get more yarn. lol

  24. […] my blog feeder this morning, I’m conflicted. One of the bloggers I follow just finished her EZ Pi Shawl and posted pictures. It is so gorgeous that I can’t help wanting to make my new sparkling […]

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