Tag Archives: Wedding Pi shawl

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! 😉

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.)

I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll


My friend, the bride, Melinda, with the Gothlet.  (And with The Shawl.)

She still does rock and roll, actually.


Too much dancing to actually wear the shawl much, but she loved it.





Friday Eye Candy, Wedding Pi Edition


Pi candy Eye candy especially for knitters.

The shawl came off the blocking mats beautifully. I ran home at lunch to wrap it up and take it to its lovely recipient, and tried to take an indoor photo:


Cool, but not enough detail for her Tserenity the Tsarina of Tsocks.

So, out to the porch:

porch-shot.jpg Nah, not going to work. Did I mention it’s a currently gray cold November day here in Wisconsin, and it snowed a little this morning (didn’t stick, and the ground is dry again)? So here we go on the front walk:


Some details for the detail-oriented (you know who you are!):

half-a-shawl.jpg center-detail.jpg

(Click to embiggen.)

And, as I took a photos of the edge beading — some new beads appeared on the shawl.


Ack! It’s snowing again! End of photography for this session.

But I’ll leave you with one more eye candy shot:


I will be seeing it on the bride very soon! Happy Wedding Day, Melinda and Greg!

That Old Block Magic

Apologies to the pun-averse. (N.b., you’re probably reading the wrong blog, if you are.)

Wedding Pi Shawl pre-blocking:


The usual lumpy mess. This is on four foam squares, each about 24 inches.

After blocking:


Now on three by three foam mats. (Note to self — yellow squares work well for photography!



I’ll try for a couple daylight pictures tomorrow before wrapping it up for the bride.

Shawling Away

I have been absent from the blogosphere, other than leaving an odd comment or two (some odder than others, no doubt); since I have been busy knitting away on this:


And so far, despite a talent for multitasking, I have not been able to type and knit simultaneously.  (I need that voice recognition software for my birthday, obviously.)

But today is blocking day, so tonight or tomorrow I’ll have something to show you!

The Gordian Knot

Besides the “Cat P—” treatment, I have learned something else from my adventures with the Suri Lace yarn. I had read on the Mystery Stole 3 forum, that some yarns don’t take to center-pull balls well. I have had good luck with center-pull balls, even in laceweight, even slippery yarns (when confined in a yarn bra, anyway), but these lovely long Suri fibers and the beautiful halo that arose after washing and reskeining, result in the yarn inside the center-pull ball hanging on to itself for dear life. (Picture Red Rover* in a yarn version. ) The first three tangles I untangled with increasing difficulty. The fourth tangle — was not a pretty picture.


I’m pretty good with knots, but there was no end to this one. There kept being 3 strands going from the knot to the inside of the ball, and I could never get it down to one even as I took more and more yarn out of the center of the ball. So I stuffed it back into the center of the ball to be dealt with later, and spit-spliced the yarn from the outside of the ball to my WIP, and now am happily knitting away.

In fact, yesterday I graduated from a snood to a hairnet. The Gothlet is ready to be a Cafeteria Lady for Halloween!


(Or an Alien warrior, perhaps) alien-toy-downscaled.jpg

Yes, I’ll have to deal with the knot sometime, but if it does truly end up being a Gordian knot, I think I have plenty more yarn, at least, and won’t make the same mistake again! Sorry I doubted you, Mystery Stole 3 laceweight knitters!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am currently battling a nasty virus that ambushed me on the way back from a yarn shop Monday night (I guess my defenses were down….)   I promise an account of the visit to the new LYS soon! Plus an FO (or a pair), some local color and so much more. Sigh. I wish I had more energy (and less mucus). At least blogging doesn’t require me to talk (right now I sound like 50 years of whiskey in smoky bars).

In the meantime, here’s a flower picture to tide you over:


*The wiki entry for Red Rover says this childhood playground game was popular “into the 1970s”. Guess that dates me. . . .

Peppermint to Autumn


The Transformation of the Suri Alpaca Laceweight.

So I bought this yarn on eBay. . . .

Some stories that don’t end well, start this way. This is not one of those stories. Although it is not without its own drama.

Some Cherry Tree Hill Suri Lace mill ends were up for auction on eBay, about the time I was on a roll buying yarn on eBay (it can be addictive). Suri alpaca is the rarer form of alpaca, though becoming more common as this breed is increasingly being raised in the United States and elsewhere. Suri fiber is longer and more lustrous than the more common huacaya alpaca fiber. This particular Cherry Tree Hill yarn normally comes in 50g hanks, 440 yards for about $26. These mill ends were naturally less than full yardage, being mill ends, but respectable lengths, and totalled, if I remember correctly, about 7 oz (almost 200g!). They were, however, ‘potluck’ dyed in red and pink. Not perhaps the most alluring; therefore, I bought them for a relative song. I thought the colors might grow on me, or when I dared, I might try dyeing the yarn (I was a dyeing neophyte then).

Well, the colors did NOT grow on me. All I could see when I looked at the yarn was melted Peppermint. And I was not in the mood for Melted Peppermint Lace at that point. So, after some initial Kool-Aid dyeing successes, I dared to overdye the alpaca laceweight with fairly concentrated orange Kool-Aid. It turned out intense, but improved, to my way of thinking. Sorry, no picture, this was pre-blogging.

I put the red-orange yarn away, waiting for the right project. I did have my red-headed friend who loves orange in the back of my head. I did not love orange in the past, necessarily, but I really liked this deep orange interspersed with warm red. Is it that when you dye something, it’s kind of like your child and you can’t regard it objectively? Although I certainly am aware of those areas where my children may be less than perfect. And I would certainly hope if I dyed something truly fugly, I would be cognizant. I think so. But be that as it may, although the orange/red-orange thing may not be to all people’s tastes, or even always to mine, the yarn pleased me more than peppermint blotches.

When I found out about my friend’s engagement, I did think of this yarn immediately, as the suri is a special fiber and would be worthy of a wedding gift. But I also had started the Mystery Stole 3 in an off-white laceweight with pearly gold-centered beads, which would make a lovely wedding stole. And I didn’t know if she had a wrap already in mind/bought/on hand.

So first I asked if I could make her something of the sort for her November wedding.


Then I asked if she wanted a stole — a narrower, more dressy wrap to go over her shoulders — or a larger shawl.

She would love a larger shawl, to cozily wrap up with in the future, so that it wasn’t a one-time only dressy sort of thing.

OK. White or off-white — or color?

In colors like the wedding colors — her favorite — would be awesome! Fall colors of orange/red/gold/brown.

I had already been plotting a Pi shawl in the recesses of my brain, so this clinched it — a large circular shawl in the Suri Lace, which I had plenty of, was destined to be. But as I thought about a wedding shawl, the colors seemed a little too brightly intense; and I didn’t trust the Kool-Aid not to fade or transfer.

So, now having dabbled in acid dyes, I decided to overdye the orange/red with a little subtle brown. I had Jacquard Acid Dye in Chestnut. I put what seemed like a small amount in my newly-designated dyeing kettle, along with lots of water and some vinegar, and plopped in the hanks.

Whoa! It started to turn significantly brown a little faster than I anticipated! It was in the dye bath all of about 60 seconds before I whipped that puppy out of there. It looked pretty good, maybe; hard to tell wet. Because it hadn’t had the simmering time to set, I microwaved the yarn a few times to heat set the yarn.

Then I rinsed the yarn. And rinsed the yarn. And rinsed the yarn. And rinsed the yarn. It kept bleeding color every rinse — hard to tell if it was red or orange (didn’t look chestnut). I microwaved a little more. And rinsed the yarn. And rinsed the yarn. I used up the brown dye bath on some KnitPicks Bare worsted, and filled the dye pot with clean water with vinegar and simmered for 30 min. And rinsed the yarn. And rinsed the yarn. Seriously, I must have rinsed 15 to 20 times. And every time, there was still red/?orange coming from the yarn. Was this Kool-Aid? Though typically, after microwaving, I had not had any color leakage. Was this the Cherry Tree Hill red, red being notoriously not colorfast? And — HORROR — those lovely long suri fibers were starting to mat together — the Yarn Was Starting to FELT!


(There’s the drama. Okay, I know it’s not what some would think of as drama. But imagine if you have almost 2000 yards of the perfect yarn for your friend’s wedding shawl and it all felts and can never be truly recreated — I can tell you, my heart rate went up!)

So I stopped rinsing and pressing, let it cool and hung it up. And brooded. Did I take the chance that the yarn might not be colorfast? The rinse water was a lot less red by the 20th rinse. But on top of a white wedding dress; maybe a little bit of perspiration bridal glow after dancing; can you imagine if my shawl turned the wedding gown orange?? What to do??

Well, not long thereafter, I had a passing correspondence (about yarn I had ordered) with Jennifer of VanCalcar Acres. I knew she had been so kind as to help Astrid with a dyeing question. So I ventured (a little reluctantly, I hate to presume on people’s kindness and professional time) to ask if she would be willing to give me any advice. She was and she did!

Give the yarn a bath with ammonia added to the water to flush out the excess dye; repeat if necessary; then rinse gently followed by a short soak with vinegar to neutralize the residual ammonia. (What Jennifer refers to as the “Cat P—” part of the dyeing process.) She also suggested re-skeining the yarn to separate the fibers that were starting to think about felting.

Ooh, just doing that (and I wouldn’t have done that on my own, I don’t think), allowed me to see how lovely the yarn was looking. The process was slightly involved and intrigued the cat greatly; first, winding from the swift,


to the ball winder,


then back to the swift.


Before re-skeining, again: yarn-after-kool-aid-dyeing.jpg close-up-preskeining.jpg

After re-skeining.


This is pre-ammonia, so a little redder than it turned out in the end.

Now the ammonia bath. Look at all this color coming out!


I did need to repeat the ammonia treatment, but eventually the rinse water was clear, Clear, CLEAR!


Hooray! I’m not going to ruin the bride’s dress after all!

Now, I could finally get designing and then knitting. And, as I said yesterday, this yarn is heaven to work with. It’s subtly lustrous, almost as though it has silk blended in (now I realize that that’s the long, lustrous suri fiber); soft, and resilient. And the colors make me so happy; rich, deep, toned down a bit by the variegated Chestnut, and blending beautifully as they knit up.

Autumn on my lap.