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!