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Pi to the Fourth Power

My fourth Pi shawl is done, I’m pleased to report, and it even made it just under the wire for Pi Day on Saturday. I cast off around lunchtime and laid it out for blocking that afternoon, and I am well pleased.

(It is also, I should mention, challenging to take full photos of a circular shawl without assistance, so in addition to these I may point out past Pi Shawl posts here and here)

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Having done a few of these, I get a lot of Pi Shawl questions. I thought I would go ahead and answer a few of them in a kind of Pi Shawl FAQ, if you will:

How long does it take to knit a Pi Shawl?

For me personally, it’s taken me between 3 months (this one) and 11 months (last one). I liked having the Pi Day deadline for this because I think it made me work on it a little more regularly than I have for the other Pi Shawls that I’ve done. I’ve done each one with the same yarnover pattern on every 6th round (this is a variation suggested in the Knitter’s Almanac pattern directions), which makes it repetitive enough that it’s really easy to put down and pick up whenever you feel like it without worrying where you are in the pattern. This means that I tend to keep the Pi Shawl on ice for when I need a movie theatre project or a for-when-I’m-waiting-around-somewhere project, and I don’t dedicate myself to it like I usually do for a sweater or other accessories.

At the same time, though, most of the other gals in my group at Rhinebeck this past October also bought yarn to make Pi Shawls, and at least two of them were finished a month later, so clearly your mileage may vary. This is a very versatile project, and pretty easy for a variety of skill levels – no seriously, it is. To me the challenging part of it is just the sheer yardage and commitment involved. Other than that, if you can knit in the round and know how to do yarnovers (or are cool with learing how), you are really really good to go on this.

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Where do I get the pattern?

This is the ‘July shawl’ pattern in Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman. If you’ve never encountered Elizabeth Zimmerman’s knitting patterns before, allow me to give them a big recommendation. Much of her patterns and writing in general pre-date knitting blogs by a few decades, and are written not so much as ironclad instructions but as guidelines that can be altered or adapted depending on the yarn weight you’re using. She’ll remind you to pay attention to gauge, to make swatches, and to decide how you want your fit and size to be, and then give you principles to work with. She has confidence in your knitting brain and in your ability to use it. She’s great. Sometimes I will re-read parts of her books before bed just for fun.

The Knitter’s Almanac is written as twelve chapters each for a month of the year, and a pattern for each month. If you had the mind, you could start with the month you’re at and just knit your way through the whole book. I confess the ‘July shawl’ is the only one I’ve done yet, but i have taken a long look at the knitted pants (long underwear ish) in September during more than one cold winter, and there are some nice mittens in there too.

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How much yarn do you need to knit a Pi Shawl?

Well, it’ll vary based on what kind of yarn you’re using, naturally, but the recommendation is for 3-4 4oz skeins of whatever weight you’re using. For each of the 3 fingering weight ones I’ve knitted, I’ve used between 325g and 375g of yarn. The first one I did was laceweight, but I like the fingering weight (or ‘sock yarn’ weight) as a nice light option that is a little more sturdy. I think more and more that my next Pi ‘Shawl’ will actually be a blanket, since a warm wooly circle would be great for the reading nook, and a bit faster than fingering weight. Naturally, your finished size also influences the yardage, so buy an extra skein if you are nervous.

How do I know how big to make it?

The shawl is constructed from the centre outwards, and then you complete it by working a knitted-on border (rather than binding off from the finished edge). So, it’s hard to visualize the complete size of the shawl while you’re knitting it. What I tend to do is hold the centre of the shawl in one hand and the working edge in the other, and when that length is about as long as half my wingspan (from my chin to wrist, more or less), then I stop and work the border. I’m 5’9″ so my shawl is going to be bigger than someone shorter than me, but it also will fit me proportionally which is what you want. Mind you, for a blanket I might just keep knitting it as long as I feel like it if I want it to be cozy.

But how do you wear a Pi Shawl?

I wore one of my other Pi Shawls last October at Rhinebeck, bundled all around my neck and shoulders, since it was a cooler weekend than originally forecast. I can’t tell you how many people stopped and asked me what pattern it was, it was awesome. The other fun part was how many people thought it was some kind of cowl or modern wrap, and then I got to pull it off and reveal that it was in fact a big circle – really this got to be pretty neat. Not bad uptake at all for a pattern that’s four decades old.

This was also neat because I can’t tell you how many people take one look at the Pi Shawl as a big circular shawl and ask “but how would you ever wear that without looking like frumpy and weird?” (I may be paraphrasing a bit there) And the answer dear knitter friends is that you just wear it. Make it in a colour you like that you know you will want to reach for as an accessory, and then wear it however it pleases you to do so: Folded in half over your shoulders; wrapped around your neck like a big muffler; draped whole as a single elegant layer over a fancy dress; a-symmetrically over one shoulder; pinned with a shawl pin. Or, depending on what kind of yarn you’re using, it could turn into a veil (laceweight, with some fun charted lace patterns used in the different sections perhaps?) or a lap blanket (break out the worsted weight wool).

I like browsing the finished Pi Shawl projects on Ravelry every so often, because everyone who does manage to get a “wearing it” shot always looks so happy with it. Finishing one of these is good for the soul.

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There you have it, knitter friends, possibly a lot more about Pi Shawls than you wanted to know, but they are pretty darned neat and it’s hard to resist evangelizing about them just a little. I’ll take a pause before my next Pi thingie (really thinking hard about the blanket option next), but ahhh there will be a next one for sure.

Happy knitting this fine Monday!

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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

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The Dress

My knitter friends who live in the internet, I’m pleased to report back with full real photos of The Knitted Dress. And that I am in fact still wearing it now and it is so comfortable that while I won’t be casting on another knitted dress right this second, it is a nice enough thing to be wearing that I definitely would do another one at a future date.

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This is the Ossel dress, pattern from Twist Collective by Allison Green. I bought the pattern a little over a year ago when we were coming through a serious Game of Thrones winter and the very idea of being covered in wool from shoulder to knee seemed like a really really really great idea. But buying a pattern is just so much easier and faster than actually knitting a pattern, so it took me several more months to actually get around to knitting it. I chose this for my Christmas Day cast on (I like starting a new project as a present to myself).

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The pattern is neatly written and has just enough challenge with the cables on the sleeves and front that the hardest part was the back – all moss stitch – and actually only took a couple more skeins than I would normally use to knit a sweater of similar fit. It turns out the epic endless grey moss stitch was, uh, a bit of hyberbole. That, you know, happens sometimes when you decide to knit a grey mostly moss stitch dress.

I would say the biggest challenges are very similar to the kinds of challenges a knitter has when making a sweater – deciding what kind of fit you want (negative ease, zero ease, or positive ease), knowing your measurements, choosing a pattern size, choosing what modifications you want to make. The main difference, besides the bare fact of having to knit more fabric, is knowing the length and being aware of your full hip measurement and how you want things to fit over your legs. If you’ve knitted a skirt before you’ve had to make all of those decisions already, but if you’ve only done sweaters, that’s new territory.

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In retrospect I wish I’d made it maybe an inch or two shorter, but otherwise I’m pretty pleased. I like the saddle shoulder construction and the i-cord bind off for the neckline, and it’s a simple enough style that modifying in order to add or subtract width, or combine sizes for upper body & lower body, would be pretty reasonable. My only gripe is that this pattern does not indicate length measurements in inches, but in pattern rows, nor does the pattern schematic indicate a length measurement for the skirt section. Somebody who is 5’2 is going to make a waaaayyyy different dress from me even if they have the same bust size, so information like that is super useful. (You can also dive into pattern details to find this out by taking the number of rows and dividing by row gauge, then getting inches as a result, this is also true and is what I did.)

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All in all though, this is a nice comfy dress and I’m glad I knitted the pattern. It’s the first time I’ve knitted something that was basically a fully formed outfit, and I even grabbed some accessories from the mall sale racks to dress it up a bit and treat it nice. Accessorizing knitted things just like regular grownups do with regular clothes! Amazing, I will do this more often.

I hope you’ve got some finished projects (or soon to be finished projects) to celebrate as well. Happy knitting!

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Thank you, Needlework, for letting me snap some photos while visiting your shop today! It was the perfect background.

Pattern: Ossel, by Allison Green for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #8401 Silver Grey

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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.

I 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.

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The only downside of the circular shawl 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.

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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.

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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

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Almost as good as hitting the mall

I’m pleased to report, knitter friends, that the knitted dress is finished! As per usual, once I actually sat down and worked on the seaming, it got done pretty quickly (as compared to just looking at the finished pieces and hoping they seamed up themselves). I even tried it on right when I finished and confirmed that it does indeed fit and I can sleep well at night knowing that I did manage to successfully execute my first knitted dress. Sure, it’s a lot of similar decisions to knitting a sweater (deciding fit, measurements, picking size, modifications, etc), but the first of any project is always a new frontier.

I’ll definitely get some proper modelled shots of this as well (maybe even get some nice bright tights or accessories to go with it – goodness knows the stores at the mall want us to do that sort of thing as though it’s almost spring or something), but for now my dress form can stand in. And now I have a knitted dress in my wardrobe.

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There are a couple of other projects on the needles that I should be attending to (including the Pi Shawl I started in the late fall and has a theoretical finishing deadline of Pi Day, which is in 10 days), but just to take the edge off of finishing a big grey project I decided to quickly cast on something in a colour, any colour.

I pulled some long-stashed skeins of Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label (I’ve had them for so long they are in her ‘original’ colour composition for the garnet colourway, which is different from her current one), and cast on a Duke Street Shawl for myself. It’ll be a pretty quick and cozy knit and might be just the ticket for a late winter/hopeful spring accessory. I might even make it a bit larger than the original pattern and extend the lace edging a bit, we’ll see how much the yardage wants to go for.

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It’s a whole new world after finishing a big project – it’s entirely likely a case of Start-itis is going to befall me, and I might not mind in the slightest if it does. New knits on the needles, huzzah!

Until next time!

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Pattern: Ossel, by Allison Green for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #8401 Silver Grey

Pattern: Duke Street Shawl
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label, ‘garnet’ colourway

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You get there eventually

Just about every conversation I’ve had this week has included some version of, “February, am I right?” It’s the shortest month on the calendar but feels like the longest, especially if you happen to be experiencing one of the coldest Februaries on record for the past century like us poor slobs in Ontario. And we’ve got at least another month of cold (sweater season is not over by a long shot and I am having a wool renaissance of poring through my yarn stash), so even though we’re closer to spring than fall it’s a month that seems like forever. The west coast on the other hand are practically wearing bikinis because their winter has been so mild, and when I see photos of crocuses and green grass my brain actually does not know how to deal with this information. Wait…somewhere out there has green things?

Bridget and I were commiserating about this earlier this week when I went up to her shop for sweater photos, because it’s also the stage of winter when all of your unfinished projects seem like they won’t end. But then I realized that, wait a minute, not only is February almost over but so is that grey moss stitch thing I’ve had on the needles since Christmas. It didn’t feel real until I was actually just a couple of inches away from finishing the last piece, but you know, eventually grey moss stitch islands get done too.

Knitters, my Ossel dress has finally reached the blocking board.

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I will, of course, have quite a bit of finishing (mostly seams, long ones at that) still to do, but this is about 1750 yards of done-ness. I won’t lie that I am slightly nervous to confirm the fit once I put it on (I did all my measurements and so forth, but the proof is always in the final on-putting), but it’s pretty great to have the pieces done.

Getting photos of the finished thing will also be fun – guys, it might just be a rumour, but I heard the temperature’s going up to -2C next week. Break out the pina coladas and patio umbrellas!

I hope you’re getting some nice knitting time in this weekend – and a refreshing beverage (or two) of your choice. Happy Saturday!

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Pattern: Ossel, by Allison Green for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #8401 Silver Grey

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New Pattern: Catherine Pullover

Greetings, knitter friends! At long last I’m pleased to announce a new sweater pattern, the very same one I’ve been working on this cold cold winter. I was able to grab some photos earlier this week on a day trip up to Peterborough where Bridget was happy to oblige me with both modelling as well as a knit-friendly visit.

This is my Catherine pullover, and is available on Ravelry already and on Patternfish for any non-Ravelry knitters or anyone from EU countries.

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Cabled sweaters are my favourite thing to knit as well as design – which should be a surprise to absolutely no one who’s been reading this blog! My goal with this pullover was to make something a little bit elegant and structured while still keeping it practical to wear, perhaps a wear-to-work or wear-wherever kind of sweater. If you’re going to put in all the trouble to knit a cabled thing, it’s nice when it makes a strong visual statement.

I used Julie Asselin Leizu Worsted in ‘moussaillon’, and if you visit Julie’s Etsy shop she has handily made up kit quantities of the yarn to go with the pattern – they’ll be there until the end of March. What I liked about this yarn is the little bit of silk quantity, it gives the superwash wool an extra boost in smooth feel and sheen, and silk content always boosts the warmth a little bit as well! I’m sure I’ll be knitting with this yarn again in the future.

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Around the same time as I started this sweater I was also reading a biography of Catherine the Great, and the name stayed in my mind in association with the sweater, so ta-da! Catherine pullover. I think she would approve though, these cable panels have elegance covered. And as much as I love the swirly cables in the centre panel on this one, I think my favourite feature is actually the cuffs. I’ve been enjoying using longer cuffs in my sweaters lately, and the way the cables flow out of the cuffs makes me smile. I’m not going to lie when I say I would even consider knitting this a second time.

This is written in eight sizes measuring 33(35.75, 39, 42.5, 45, 47.75, 51, 54.5)ins around at the bust, and includes a schematic and fully charted cable patterns. It is worked from the bottom up in pieces and then seamed, and features set-in sleeves and waist shaping for modern fit.
The instructions have also been fully tech edited and I do my best to ensure clear formatting. Still, if you should encounter something that isn’t as clear or might be an error, do let me know and I’m happy to correct it.

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Happy knitting, friends! And I hope you have a good project to keep you company this week.

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Pattern: Catherine pullover, by me
Yarn: Julie Asselin Leizu Worsted, in ‘moussaillon’ grey/purple

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Practically the same thing as being done

Things are ticking along here at Knitting to Stay Sane. My purple-grey cabled sweater cabled sweater project is just awaiting some photographs and then its hopeful pattern release before the end of the month, and even though it doesn’t quite seem believeable…I am almost finished the Ossel dress.

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Yesterday I reached the armhole decreases for the front, and now that I compare it to the back and see how little knitting I actually have left before I start sewing it up, it’s pretty amazing. Knitted grey dress here we come! Winter isn’t going to be done with us any time soon as it turns out, so the whole idea of covering myself in wool from the knees up is alllll going to come together. My evil plan is working.

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The front, mercifully enough, has a cable panel running all down the front (as do the sleeves), which makes for interest but also more structure and stability. The back panel on the other hand (above), is all worked in moss stitch and has reminded me that all-moss-stitch knitting tends to bias and turn out all slanty and weird. It’ll all come out even once I block the snot out of it, of course, but I don’t actually know why moss stitch does that except to say that, well, moss stitch does that and it’s normal and don’t worry because that *%#!’ll block right now. It’s back-and-forth not in the round and each row includes both knit and purl, so there should be the same amount of tension in each row, and the wool is plied not single-spun. Does anybody know why moss stitch does this? My Google-Fu failed me on this one.

Anyway, I’m almost done dress which in my mind is practically the same thing as actually being done, so my goal is to get this done by the end of the month as well so as to not give myself time to falter right before the finish line. New projects await!

Happy knitting this Thursday, knitter friends!

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Pattern: Ossel, by Allison Green for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #8401 Silver Grey

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