Intro to Pi Shawls

The Kindly Hosts Knitted Pi Shawl in shades of Blue & Green


Have you ever wanted to dip your toe into designing patterns for yourself or even just be able to substitute one stitch pattern for another? Pi shawls are perfect for this kind of patterning play. They rely on a very simple math formula to easily modify stitch patterns. Results are always stunning, so they’re perfect beginner design projects. Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some info with you so that you can try your hand at designing one for yourself.

Pi shawls are circular shawls that start at the center and are worked in the round with increases placed every few rounds following the mathematical principle of Pi. Worried that you’re not really a numbers person? Don’t be, I’m not either. If you can read a chart and knit lace, you can design your own lacy pi shawl!

(And if lace isn't your thing, but you love mindless tv knitting this is the project for you, too!)

Knitting legend Elizabeth Zimmerman, creator of the Pi Shawl

Origins of the Pi Shawl

The Pi Shawl was "unvented" by Elizabeth Zimmerman who originally published it in her newsletter & her pattern for it can now be found in her book, Knitter's Almanac. The Knitter's Almanac is her version of a knitting calendar with a logical project suggested for each month of the year. She shares the Pi shawl as her recommendation for July knitting because it's "good travel knitting." I feel like January is also a good time for Pi Shawls because after the sometimes-hectic holiday season it's nice to immerse yourself in a new project where you can make it as difficult or care-free as you need.

At it's most basic, her Pi Shawl can simply be a lot of knitting stockinette & making simple eyelets in-the-round. With only 6 increase rows throughout the entire project, even a fingering-weight version (knit up on bigger needles) can be one of the best tv knitting projects you'll find. The beauty of this shawl's shaping is that once you know the simple numbers for each section, you can plug and play with stitch patterns to your heart's content!

Like other non-fitted projects, Pi Shawls also work with whatever yarn weight you want to use. You can make it a light-weight shawl with lace or fingering-weight or you can easily make a blanket by going up to worsted (or even bulky) weight. Just make sure to adjust your needles accordingly.

Elizabeth was fond of finding clever and simple solutions to knitting designs, and the Pi Shawl is still considered to be one of the best connections between the fiber-arts world and the (sometimes scary) world of math. Such a simple way to achieve simply stunning results!

“Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.”

― Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitting Without Tears

I Guess That's Why... Half Pi Shawl Lace Knitting Pattern

Half Pi Shawls

Half Pi Shawls are exactly what they sound like: a Pi Shawl with half the stitches in a half-circle shape. Obviously, because you aren't making a full circle this project can't be worked in-the-round (unless you want to venture into steeking and that's a whole separate thing) so Half Pis are worked flat and generally will include edging (selvedge) stitches. Half Pi Shawls can be a bit more fiddley than a full Pi Shawl because of this, but the overall math formula remains the same so you can still feel free to play around with stitch patterns.

Try It Out!

I'll share another post next week delving into the actual math behind the Pi Shawls and a basic formula that you can use to create one yourself, until then here are a few ways to try your hand at this unique style of shawl:

Stash-Berry Pi Shawl Knit-a-Long

Free / $2.00 USD

During the next few weeks we'll be starting the new year off by working on some stash-busting pi shawls over in the Yumi Yarns KaL Community. Join in the fun clearing stash with other pi shawl knitters & have direct access to me for any questions you might have along the way for just $2 per month. The full pattern will be posted to for free next week, but I encourage you to join the KaL Community to get the most out of this series of posts especially if you're planning on designing your own shawl pattern from scratch.

The Stash-Berry Pi Shawl is perfect for stash-busting & takes about 2.5 skeins of fingering-weight yarn in 3 different colors. Feel free to start picking out your yarns now so that you're ready for cast-on. (The middle color is the one that you'll only need about 1/2 a skein for.) You'll also need US size 7 DPNs, & an assortment of circular needle lengths in a US size 7 as well. I used a 16" & a 40".

Happy Knitting,

Shaina ^_^

It's best to put a new technique into practice right away so that you can remember it in the future. Here are some of my patterns based on the pi-shawl technique, I'm offering them at 50% off from Jan 15 - 21, 2020!

The Kindly Hosts Shawl begins at the center on DPNs with a tutorial for Emily Ocker’s Circular Cast-On. It progresses through 4-5 ever-increasing sections of lace patterns designed and selected to represent some of the elements of nature that were loved by the elves in Tolkien’s novels: flowers, trees, and streams of clear water rushing over pebbles. The shawl finishes with a color-blocked knitted-on edging that creates the illusion of intarsia but is actually just worked with one color at a time.

Kindly Hosts - Full Pi Shawl Pattern

$5.00 USD ($2.50 on sale!)

“And I guess that’s why they call it the blues,  Time on my hands could be time spent with you…”  - Elton John  I’m sure that Elton never thought that this famous line would ever pertain to knitting, but I couldn’t stop thinking of this song while I was dyeing the yarn for the kits & designing this half-pi shawl. It’s a very fun and addictive knit since you’re always changing either patterns or colors or both. Because of this you’re sure to find yourself sneaking in “just a quick row” here and there whenever you find yourself with a little extra time on your hands.  The shawl begins with a garter-tab and progresses through 6 lace & garter sections before ending with an Icelandic Bind-off (my favorite!) to give it a lovely, stretchy finishing edge. The lace sections feature simple through moderately-advanced lace knitting techniques (Eyelets, Vines, & Estonian Snow Flowers to name a few) so if you’re wanting to stretch your legs a bit and learn some new stitches, this is a great pattern to work through!

I Guess That's Why... - Half Pi Shawl Pattern

$5.00 USD ($2.50 on sale!)


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