The long tea time of the soul

The Pi Shawl has started to be more or less an annual knit for me. I finished my first one four years ago, and now I’m nearing the end of my fourth one. Eventually I’ll have to start giving them away, or else find a way to integrate them into my decor, or (gasp) stop knitting them, but I confess I don’t plan to stop knitting them any time soon. There’s something appealing about how easy they are to get started, and how simple they are to execute. I finish one, feel relief that I got to the end of it, then a few months later start asking myself what colour I want the next one to be, and then here we are.

Iย love wearing them wrapped all around my neck and shoulders like a loose cowl, and they’re great transitional accessories in spring and fall for that very reason. The pattern guidelines from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s book are general enough that you can use virtually any weight of yarn as long as it’s at a loose gauge, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered doing a blanket version in worsted weight wool. These suckers are awesome.


The only downside of the circular shawlย is right about where I am now. I’m on the outer section that is about 600 stitches around (the Pi Shawl construction works on the principle of doubling the stitches every time you double the rounds, so every time the stitch count increases so does the amount of time you are spending knitting that section). It takes me about 45 minutes to knit one round at this point, and I’ve got about 24 rounds left before I can start the knitted-on garter stitch border. It’s the long dark tea-time of the soul, the part of every knitting project where you’re convinced it’s never going to get done but then you look deeply inside yourself and realize that you can keep going and make it after all.


This particular Pi Shawl (so named because of its circular structure) got started about a month after Rhinebeck last fall, when I wore one of my other Pi Shawls around all weekend and the other gals in my group all decided to cast one on too. We gave ourselves Pi Day – March 14th – as a loose deadline and I am pretty sure that I am now the last one to finish. (At least two others in the group have finished their first as well as a second, which….damn. Give it up.)

I like the idea of Pi Shawls on Pi Day because every year when Pi Day rolls around, people exclaim about it on the internet and I wish belatedly that I’d planned to make a pie that day because why wouldn’t you want a pie on Pi Day? Or a Pi Shawl for that matter? And really, it’s all an excuse to geek out about numbers, especially this year, since we’ll get not just 3.14 but the first 4 decimal places 3.1415 (March 14th, 2015, heh), and if you make a note to check your watch at 9:26 am or pm, you’ll get the first seven decimals at 3.1415926. (I swear if we had done math this way in school I’d have had a way more fun time with it. Was Pi Day a thing in the 90s?)

The long and the short of it is that now I have 1 week to finish and block this sucker, and it’s going to be a photo finish I can tell. Nothing like sticking to a self-imposed deadline to make you get something done!

Catch you next week knitter friends, and I hope your weekend has some awesome knitting in it.


Pattern: Pi Shawl (“July shawl”, instructions with many variations in Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman)
Yarn: Miss Babs Kathadin, colourway ‘holy moly’
Needles: 4.5mm/US #7 circulars





  1. Love EZ’s Pi shawl – I was lucky enough to see one of the originals, knit by Elizabeth, at Knit Camp my first year. That was one of the highlights of Knitting Camp – to sit there surrounded by original knitting by Elizabeth and Meg.

  2. Keep knitting! Years ago a coworker gifted me some acrylic that I always thought would be good for a first Pi Blanket, and after reading this post I finally cast on!

  3. I love the pi shawl, too. I have one smallish one that I wear quite a bit, and then another one that would fall into your blanket category – I knit it with a heavier yarn, and decided to just keep going until I ran out of yarn. My yarn lasted longer than I expected. It is wonderfully warm and comforting, but not handy to wear anywhere if I have to move. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I love it. You are making me think of doing another… and I have a solution for you for next year – START on Pi day, then take as long as you need. ๐Ÿ™‚ For me, the endless part is the garter stitch bind off. That could take me a year…

  4. Best blog yet! Love PI concept and have read much on it’s theory so when I came across EZ’s pattern 20 years ago I thought yes! Brilliant! If I had followed your thinking I would have had 20 done by now but instead I’ll start my first one 3.1415926. Perhaps that is what I was waiting for. ..and your inspired blog. Thank you. I’ll let you know how it fares. (P.S. I often fall asleep thinking of prime numbers so I’m pretty excited by actually doing the shawl.) ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I definitely remember my brother entering a Pi Day pi-digit-memorization contest at some point when we were both in high school, which would have been in the late 90s. He’s the math geek sibling, so he might know how far Pi Day predates that, but I’m the word nerd sibling, so I have no idea.

  6. hawknitr13 · ·

    my birthday is on Pi Day… And Friday the 13th!!! Wish me luck!!!

  7. Tiffanie · ·

    EZ Pi shawls are amazing and addictive. I have a friend who habitually knits “Pi blankies” as gifts for babies and kids. Mindless but interesting knitting in worsted weight yarn makes for seemingly instant blankie gratification.

    De-lurking to say how much I enjoy your knitterly thoughts and super designs. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Wow. You have some major hours in front of you to finish that baby up. But what would you rather be doing? Exactly.

  9. I have two Pi’s going on at the moment. I have Celestarium (a pi based shawl) & a straight pi shawl. I think I am crazy, lol.

  10. Am embarking on my first pi shawl…though I’m not likely to get through with it by Pi Day itself. Love the reference to long dark teatime of the soul…one of my favorite books, and the perfect way to describe these long, long rounds!

  11. Beth Aalberts · ·

    Wow, I’m intrigued by this shawl. I looked in my book stash and totally forgot I have this book. It looks a little daunting to me though. Is it hard?

  12. I keep queueing the Pi shawl in my list and then it gets bumped by gifts and such! However, I’m not determined to at least cast on during March and maybe it will be finished by March 2016!!!! xx

  13. I’ve also got a Pi shawl on the go and I must confess it’s taking ages to complete and maybe that’s because I have so many other projects on the go too. I’m just over half way through my Wavy Leaves and Butterflies shawl which at the moment has just over 600 stitches on the needle so I can sympathise with you about how long it takes to complete a row and some of my rows contain beads!!

  14. I love knitting Pi shawls too. I’ve only done two. Oh! And I found this: Pi Day celebrations was founded by Larry Shaw and it was first held at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988.

  15. Your various posts on pi shawls inspired me to cast one on myself a few months back. Still slowly working on it (mostly on lunch breaks at work). I am getting slightly nervous about the edging that EZ details as her succinct way of explaining things doesn’t always get through to me. You should consider a tutorial on how to get the garter edge going…or maybe you can link to one when you get to that point?

  16. Frankie · ·

    I love my Pi shawl too. Your beautiful green on was the inspiration I needed to knit my own. Since then, I HAD to knit a Pi blanket and that was a supremely satisfying knit. And now, dangit, I feel the need to go stash diving and cast on another Pi shawl. ๐Ÿ˜€

  17. beautiful!! a blanket version would be amazing !!

  18. Another thing that has always intrigued me:

    Sent from my iPad


  19. Mary Beth · ·

    The color of that yarn makes me swoon! Gorgeous!

  20. I’ve never done EZ’s Pi shawl but want to try one definitely. I love Miss Bab’s yarns–just finished her Yowza shawlette pattern and it came out wonderfully soft. hugs, Julierose

  21. I am going to have to order the book so I can make myself one

  22. Your knitting is very beautiful. Very!

  23. I can’t believe I’ve never made a pi shawl….maybe this pi day I should begin one!!!

  24. I admire your staying power, I like your philosophy – to just know that if you keep going, you can get it done! I will remember this while pollyfilling, sanding and painting the (seemingly) endless walls and skirting boards in my house and know that I will, very soon (if I keep at it) get it done. I’ll repeat it to myself while joining the hundreds of squares of the three different blankets I’m currently working on, and remember to enjoy the process as much as looking forward to the finish! Hopefully by the time I emerge from it all, it will be spring and I will be starting my long planned re-knit jumper project (in the garden, in the sunshine, of course). This is when I will need your mantra the most! It’s going to be a long and repetitive knit, but I’ll be thinking of your lovely pi shawl for inspiration to get it done:)

  25. you certainly sell the shawl very highly, i am going to have to look it up myself! the colour is beautiful and I wish you the best of luck in finishing by your deadline ๐Ÿ™‚ i’m really impressed that you’ve made it so many times already, and a blanket version sounds deliciously cosy ๐Ÿ™‚ jenny xx

  26. Linda A · ·

    So how much yarn do you need for that puppy … or, er, Pi?
    Looking forward to the modeling pics of this and that gorgeous
    dress you made!

  27. · ·

    Well, I am still knitting (or storing) my Pi shawl that I started in commemoration of EZ’s 100th birthday. But this gives me an idea of what I may be buying this weekend at the knitting retreat I am attending…

    And yes, Pi Day was a big thing in the ’90’s. My son was born in 1991, and we were doing Pi Day activities at his school before he really understood the concept of Pi!

    I personally do much better in algebra and similar higher mathematics if I can relate it to something practical. I had a VP from the local utility teaching one of my college classes…and we learned one set of equations as calculating mortar fire!

  28. Another really gorgeous Pi shawl. You are the principal instigator in me catching this affliction as well. Just today I saw a “not quite Pi shawl” that is square. “Peppermint Bay” may be the next project just to shake things up a bit. Thanks for sharing yours with us as you do them. Each more gorgeous than the last.

  29. CityofLeedsRose · ·

    Reblogged this on cityofleedsrose and commented:
    One day I will knit a Pi shawl. Till then I will admire other people’s work. ๐Ÿ™‚

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