A Pi Shawl Recipe & Free Pattern


Today I'd like to share with you the basic recipe used to create Full Pi Shawls. We'll also delve into the slightly more complicated aspects of creating Half- & Partial-Pi Shawls. I've also released the simple, free, stash-buster pattern for my Stash-Berry Pi Shawl to my pattern shop so that you can see how simple it can be to play around with your stash & this design concept.

In case you need even more inspiration, I'm currently hosting a Knit-a-Long/Design-a-Long for Pi Shawls over in the Yumi Yarns KaL Community, we'd love to see you there & watch your creations emerge!

If you're interested in learning a bit more about Pi Shawls themselves & their origins, please take a look at the first blog post that I did in this series: Intro to Pi Shawls. And if you're curious about adding in lace & other patterned stitches don't worry, I'll be sharing more detailed information on designing with those in next week's post. ^_-

Now, onto the good stuff...

Knitting legend Elizabeth Zimmerman, creator of the Pi Shawl

Easy as Pi(e)

Pi shawls are circular shawls based the mathematical principle of Pi. They start at the center and are worked in the round with increases placed every few rounds. At it's most basic, a Pi Shawl can simply be a lot of stockinette & eyelets in-the-round. Or you can take it the other direction & create the most ethereal lace shawl of your dreams. The beauty of this shawl's shaping is that once you know it's rhythm, you can plug and play with stitch patterns to your heart's content!

Like most other shawls, Pi Shawls will work with whatever yarn weight you want to use. You can make it a light-weight shawl with lace or fingering-weight yarn or you can easily make a blanket by going up to worsted (or even bulky) weight yarn. Just make sure to adjust your needles accordingly and plan to go up a few sizes (about 3-5 sizes) from what you would normally use for your chosen yarn weight.

For example, with fingering-weight Pi Shawls I usually use a US size 7 (4.5mm) needle which seems completely ridiculous at first when you consider that I'm generally a very loose knitter & knit other fingering-weight shawls on US 3's (3.25mm) or 4's (3.5mm). Going this much bigger in your needle size will give you the stretch and drape that this style of shawl requires. Believe me, using your "normal" fingering-weight needles will not work. (Ask me how I know...) Until you block it out, even a stockinette pi shawl will look a bit like a saggy mess & that's ok.

In this Schematic: A = Cast-On/Set-Up Rounds; B-D = the first 3 Non-Increase Sections (each section has twice as many rounds as the section before); E-H = the first 4 Increase Rounds (each round has twice as many stitches as the round before).

A Basic Pi Shawl Recipe

(Please see notes on yarn and needle selection above.)



  • This is a very basic recipe and is shared with the intention of giving you a blank canvas to create your own designs. You will notice that I haven't given set yarn quantities or needle sizes, I have provided selection tips above but this really is a choose-your-own-adventure type of recipe. If you would rather just follow a written pattern, I have some available for download in my shop.

  • There are a few specific techniques & numbers that I've included since they are part of the bare-bones of this concept, but if you're feeling adventurous don't be afraid to try altering them to see what happens. You may find a method that works even better than what I have listed here.

  • The term, "increase", means just that; you can insert any type of increase that you like at that point in the pattern as long as the ending stitch count for the increase row is double what it was in the row before.

  • The term, "in-pattern", refers to whatever stitch pattern you have selected for that section. The Non-Increase Section is where you can easily plug & play with different stitch patterns because there are no changes to your stitch counts. You just need to pick out a stitch pattern that is a multiple of your total number of stitches for that section. For example: if you are doing a basic stockinette shawl, "in-pattern" will mean that you just knit all the stitches in that section. If you are doing a lace pattern that repeats 3 times, "in-pattern" will mean that you work that lace pattern for 3 repeats. This is where you can make this project as simple or challenging as you like.

  • Just like a cooking recipe, it can be helpful to read through this recipe in it's entirety before jumping in. An ounce of prevention and all... ^_-


Step 1: Cast-On

Using DPNs & Emily Ocker's Circular Cast-On, cast-on 9 stitches, join to work in-the-round. Place marker at beginning of round.

Step 2: Set-Up

Knit all stitches in 1 round.

Step 3: Increase Round

Work 1 increase round: *Knit 1, increase 1; repeat from * around to double your stitch count.

Step 4: Non-Increase Section

Work stitches in-pattern for 3 rounds.

Note: Each time you repeat this section, you will be taking the number of rounds worked in this section previously and doubling them. So, the next time you work this section you will work it for 6 rounds, make an increase round, then work this section again for 12 rounds, followed by another increase round. Continue in this manner of increasing for the duration of the project. See schematic above for visuals.

Step 5: Repeat

Continue repeating Steps 3 & 4 until the shawl is as big as you like or, if you are using a different skein for your bind-off/edging, until you run out of yarn.

Essentially, you are alternating between doubling the stitch count (Increase Rounds) and the row count (Non-Increase Section). This is how you end up with a circular shawl instead of an oversized pouch.

Step 6: Bind-Off/Border

Loosely bind-off all stitches (an Icelandic BO is perfect) or add a knitted-on border to finish your shawl. (I'll be sharing a tutorial for knitted-on borders on Feb 5, 2020.)

Step 7: Finishing

Wash & wet-block your shawl. Once dry, enjoy tossing it around your shoulders as a beautifully light layer or pack it into your travel bag as Pi Shawls make perfect light-weight blankets for in the car or on a plane.

I Just Want a Slice...

Creating Less than a Full Pi Shawl

Half and Partial Pi Shawls use the same basic principles as Full Pi Shawls do, you start in the center and alternate doubling your rows and rounds until you achieve the size/look you're after. The only caveat here is that you aren't working in-the-round, you're working the piece flat so you'll want to remember to add edging (selvedge) stitches.

Normally this would just mean adding 3 stitches in garter-stitch to both the beginning and end of every row. (Again, here you can get fancy with i-cord or an alternate stitch that lays flat if you want but for this example I'm just going to keep things simple.) Since we're starting out in the middle of the straight line that cuts the pi shawl circle in half, you'll want to work something like a garter-tab as your actual cast-on so that your edging runs smoothly from one side to the other when laid flat.

Try It Out!

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.

Stash-Berry Pi Shawl


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

“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

I'll share another post next week discussing how easy it is to add various stitch patterns to your Pi Shawl & will even include a selection of stitch patterns for you to play around with. If you haven't already, be sure to sign-up to receive my emails so that you'll get notified every week when a new blog post goes up or a pattern is released. Have a great week!

Happy Knitting,

Shaina ^_^

Full Disclosure: Links shared in this post may be affiliate links. They don't cost you any extra money, but if you use my links when you make a purchase I'll earn a small percentage of the sale & you'll be helping to support more posts like this in the future. Thank you!


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