Recipe for Wedding Pi


(I couldn’t resist; this photo looks like a slice of pie!)

Well, this post is more about coming up with the ‘recipe’, followed by the ‘big picture’ version of the pattern. I suppose I’d better write down what I did while I still sort of remember. . . .

If there is interest, I will write up the Wedding Pi pattern with charts and complete instructions after the holidays (it’ll take some time to format the charts, and I need to reknit the center to figure out for sure how I did it). Thanks, Lorette, for paying me the compliment of saying you’d pay for it! I’d probably set it up with a link for a voluntary, optional donation to charity, though. So, y’all, let me know in the comments if you would be interested in the whole kit and caboodle (after you read the CliffsNotes version below).


The basic outlines for Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Pi Shawl are in abbreviated form in her Knitter’s Workshop and written out in more detail with a specific pattern (see Wendy’s knitted example) in Knitter’s Almanac. The basic idea is mathematically elegant. (Here’s some interesting musing on the pattern construction.) But in a nutshell, you start at the center with a circular cast-on, then increase by doubling the stitch count at increasing intervals; in this case, increasing by doing a row of yarnovers (without corresponding decreases).

I’ve wanted to knit a Pi shawl for some time, and my friend’s wedding was the perfect reason. But I wanted to personalize the shawl (and keep it interesting). So the part that took the longest (other than playing with the yarn) was designing it by selecting the lace patterns I was going to put in between the increase rows. Though I pulled out every stitch dictionary and lace knitting book I had (well into the double digits, certainly), it so happened that when all was said and done, every stitch pattern I used (other than the small part I unvented) came from this:


A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, by Barbara Walker, published by Schoolhouse Press. It can be ordered directly from Meg Swansen & helpers at Schoolhouse Press, here in my adoptive home state, or through many other venues. If you don’t have them, I highly recommend the Walker Treasuries. I find myself using the 1st and 2nd most often, but right now am knitting a scarf incorporating a pattern from the 3rd Treasury (charted patterns, a boon!). The 4th is a wonderful smorgasbord of all sorts of different patterns, tips, musings — rather different from the other 3. Check them out!

So I leafed through my books looking for patterns that had a stitch count that could fit approximately within the stitch numbers of the rounds and the row numbers as well; that harmonized well with each other but didn’t look too similar; that had some significance to me or the bride; and, of course, I had to like them! Having a plain ‘purl back’ row was a bonus tiebreaker, as I was converting these patterns from written instructions to a chart knitted in the round, and a plain round every other row simplified life considerably.

Then — because this was a circle shawl which would be seen from all directions, but the patterns would be largely upside down — I went back through the books Upside Down. Very interesting!

To help me decide, especially as far as harmonizing patterns, I photocopied all the patterns I was considering and played with them.



Then I turned them upside down. virtual-swatches-upside-down.jpg

After making final decisions, I converted the written directions into charts. For one pattern that was confusing to convert to a chart due to changing stitch counts and shifting starting points and decreases, I even <gasp!> swatched with worsted weight!

swatch.jpg On straight needles! needle-details.jpg What is the world coming to? Heavens to Betsy!

Then (finally!) I started knitting.

But I didn’t like the first center I made. shawl-mark-i.jpg The pattern repeats were too shallow to look like anything much.

So I frogged it and started again with something I made up. shawl-as-dreamcatcher.jpg

(I will have to knit the center again to figure out what I did; I wasn’t anticipating people asking for the pattern, nor was I planning to knit this particular pattern exactly again! I do need to get in the habit of jotting notes down when I do things like this. I’m knitting a scarf I’m designing right now, which will have two halves united by grafting, so it was essential to keep track as I did the first half so I could reproduce it exactly. Thus, I actually did take notes the second time — after I frogged the first iteration.)

I used a circular cast-on somewhat different from Emily Ocker’s circular cast-on, which was used by EZ. Emily Ocker’s requires a crochet hook and makes a little rosette bump in the middle. ‘Sokay, but there’s one that’s bumpless. Here’s a very detailed exposition from the Techknitter; it was almost a little too detailed for my simple-minded brain, and it took a minute for me to figure out that the needle motion was identical to a provisional cast-on many of you have probably used, called invisible cast-on (or the Twisty-Wrap by Meg Swansen); Cat Bordhi used this in her earlier books, before the last. Here are photos and a nice explanation from Eunny Jang’s old blog (scroll down to the bottom of the post).
I discovered by necessity that when one decides to frog and restart with this circular cast-on, but one is not at home with all one’s stuff including dpn’s — that the oxymoronic Jumbo Chibi works very well to cast on with!

For the early rounds, though I used two circs as is my wont, I think next time I’d use dpns, as with the yarnovers and laciness, I couldn’t help but get wider yarnovers at the two transition points. Granted, it was better after blocking, but it offended me.

So once I got the shawl onto one circular needle, it was just knit, knit, knit, and knit some more. Until a few weeks later, it looked like this, then this! Look at this picture, half-a-shawl.jpg (click for big) and you can see the yarnover increase rows pretty clearly.

I used laceweight yarn (Cherry Tree Hill Suri Laceweight alpaca) and size 4 needles; two circs initially, then a 16″ KnitPicks Harmony circular needle, then 24″ and 32″ Addi Lace Needles. I’m not sure of the yardage, unfortunately; I’d guess about 1200 yards. (The yarn was mill ends, so a little hard to tell.) I guess I’ll have to knit it again to check! πŸ˜‰

So here (FINALLY! you all are thinking!) is the quick and dirty version:

Cathy-Cate’s Wedding Pi

  • Cast on 9 stitches with the circular cast-on method (look at Eunny’s demo for an odd # of stitches; the Techknitter’s tutorial shows the technique for an even #, though she explains at the end how to do odd also).
  • Knit one row.
  • *k1, yo* around for one round. 18 stitches.
  • K 3 rounds (I think I did *yo, K2 tog* around in the middle row, not sure, but knitting plain will work well too).
  • *K1, yo* around for one round. 36 stitches.
  • k 6 rounds (again, I did something slightly fancier, which I don’t want to write down wrongly. I’ll figure it out and put it in when time allows).
  • *K1, yo* around for one round. 72 stitches.
  • K 1 round.
  • Snowflake Eyelet, 2nd Treasury of Knitting Stitches (BWT2), page 248, for one pattern repeat (12 rounds).
  • *K1, yo* around for one round. 144 stitches.
  • K 2 rounds.
  • Little Arrow Lace, BWT2, page 274, for two repeats (20 rounds total).
  • K 2 rounds.
  • *K1, yo* around for one round. 288 stitches (?).
  • K 1 round, increasing 12 stitches roughly evenly spaced to 300 stitches total.
  • Candle of Glory, BWT2, page 256, for two vertical repeats (48 rounds).
  • K 1 round.
  • *K1, yo* around for one round. 600 stitches.
  • K1 round, increasing 12 stitches roughly evenly spaced, for 612 stitches total.
  • Bell Lace, BWT2, page 291, for 56 rounds, two vertical repeats.** I put beads in the last repeat.
  • K2 rounds. Increase four stitches in last round somewhat evenly. Break yarn, leaving a long tail and leaving shawl on needles.
  • Provisionally cast on 13 stitches and start Wave Edging (BWT2, page 367), purling the last stitch of each row together with one shawl stitch for a knitted-on bind-off — flexible and pretty. I put one bead in each pattern repeat. 88 repeats, more rows than you probably care to know about. (1232 to be exact. No, I didn’t think you wanted to know that.) Weave edging together when all shawl rows are cast off.

**Note: my friend is not tall, and time was also a bit of a factor. If I were making this for me, who is of average height and likes a longer shawl, I would probably consider 3 or 3 1/2 vertical repeats, 3 1/2 repeats giving you the full # of 96 rounds in the mathematical progression. However, if you go beyond 3 1/2 repeats, you would need to put in another increase row to keep the shawl circular (thereby creating an unholy number of stitches in a round, also); or alternatively you would need to accept that the shawl won’t be circular, but more bell-shaped at the bottom. This is fine for fit, in fact some may prefer it, but will complicate blocking. What I would do if I wanted to enlarge the shawl would probably be to put on a wider edging, as the edging has a lot of ease.

As knit, and after blocking the h*ll out of it (well, my friend *is* a pastor, I didn’t want any h*ll left in it! and I refrained from swearing while knitting it too!): final dimensions were 57″ (145 cm) across. A general rule of thumb for a nice full-sized shawl is “wingtip to wingtip” (fingertip to fingertip with arms outstretched); my friend is taller than 57 inches (4 foot 9 inches), believe me! This comes to the wrist when she wears it folded in half; but the shawl fits with more fullness and shows off the pattern more when worn as in the photo, shawl-back.jpg with perhaps a quarter of it folded back across the neck/upper back. It stays put reasonably well in this configuration, given the light weight, even without pinning. (There’s a great little pictorial about how to wear different-shaped shawls in various ways in “Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls” by Martha Waterman, BTW.)

  • So the patterns I ended up with were:
  • Snowflake Eyelet
  • Small Arrow Lace
  • Candle of Glory
  • Bell Lace
  • Wave Edging

The shawl and its patterns therefore incorporated:

  • The seasons of the earth (winter snowflakes, spring and summer flowers, autumnal yarn) and also the seasons of life;
  • The four elements (flowers arising from earth, arrows through air, fire colors and Candle flames, waves of water);
  • A number of references to weddings and love (wedding Bells, the Candles (which also, upside down, look exactly like hearts surrounded by a glow), the Arrow Lace which I suppose could be Cupid’s Arrows, but upside down reminded me of steeples and of praying hands;
  • And surrounding and enfolding it all, the wave edging; emblematic to me of time and of love, which are both ever-changing but continuous, without end, carrying us on our journey.

(And you thought I just picked those patterns out randomly.)

13 responses to “Recipe for Wedding Pi

  1. What a beautiful gift. You really put your heart and soul into it!

  2. Great Job! The shawl is beautiful.

  3. What an incredible amount of thought! I too would be willing to pay πŸ™‚ You have actually inspired me to see what I can do about trying my hand at designing something incredibly personal and special for the shawl for my mom πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  4. Pingback: The Tsarina Tsays… » Blog Archive » Sometimes It Pays

  5. Wow, gorgeous! Nice work on the design.

  6. I knew it was more work than “oh let’s just pick some patterns and start knitting”! I’d still pay for it!

  7. Wandered here from ravelry, and yes, add me to those willing to pay for a full pattern (or at least the “what I did in the center’ bit, as I followed the quick and dirty just fine–but that center is really nice.)

  8. I do not want to pay for it … but I would still like to have the pattern. And I thank you for all your work to compose it.

    I’ve only knit lace once before – in the Knitting Olympics – and as I recall, I didn’t like it because there was no “mindlessness” to it.
    But I’d be willing to try lace again with this. It is sooo pretty.

    janeyknitting AT yahoo DOT ca

  9. Janey doesn’t want to pay for the pattern…*shaking my head*
    Hey, I guess she did say, Thank you, shame on me , that sounded a little sarcastic! It’s one thing if you want to share a pattern it is another when you are expected to…

    congratulations, your work is beautiful!

  10. I just blocked my second lace project this afternoon. For some days the red lace weight I have in my stash has been calling my name and letting me know it wants to be knit in the round. How lucky to find myself here! Your shawl is beautiful. Very inspiring. I would like to try combining patterns in this way. Hopefully it isn’t too grand a scheme fo my third lace adventure! Thanks for sharing your creativity.

  11. I followed you here from Type-K’s blog, you had commented on attempting to dye the yarn she’d been testing for the Forest Path Stole. (I’ve been attempting to find that particular pattern…) I’m so glad I clicked your link and followed you on this adventure, what you created is absolutely stunning! What an unbelievable gift!!! Count me among those that’d pay for this beautiful pattern. Congratulations to you, and your friends, I hope you all had a wonderful time at the wedding.

  12. The shawl is beautiful. What a wonderful friend you are! I found the shawl in my search for knitted wedding items. I want to knit a shawl for my wedding and have considered using the Lily of the Valley pattern. Your pattern seems more engaging…what type of undertaking was it?

  13. Pingback: A Month Of Saturdays « Hither and Yarn

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