My current work in progress:

Tawney Sweater,by Jenni Barrett, knit from MadelineTosh Tosh Sock, using 3.25mm and 3.5mm needles.

Archives for August 2010

Time to Swatch

Here’s a pattern for a lace swatch that you can knit to try out your yarn for the Shetland Pi Shawl:

Using the needle size you plan to use for your shawl, loosely cast on 24 stitches. Knit 3 rows. Start the pattern:

Row 1: K 3, [yo, ssk, k1, k2tog, yo, k1] 3 times, k3

Row 2: K3, p 18, k3

Row 3: K3, [k1, yo, sl 1 k2tog, psso, yo, k2] 3 times, k3

Row 4: K3, p 18, k3

Work these 4 rows 5 times, for a total of 20 rows worked. Knit 3 rows, then bind off knitwise.

And for those who like charts, here is a chart of the swatch pattern (remember to work the knit rows as described above before and after working the chart rows):

And here is a list of what the abbreviations mean:

K – knit
K2tog – knit 2 together
P – purl
PSSO – pass slipped stitch over
Sl – slip
SSK – Slip one stitch as if to knit, then slip the next stitch as if to purl. Insert left needle into the front loops of the slipped stitches and knit them together from this position (through the back loops)
YO – yarnover

Okay, so I knit up my swatch for my Shetland Pi Shawl in my yarn of choice. Here it is, pre-blocking:

There is a garter stitch edging all around the swatch. The lace portion of the swatch (not including the garter stitch) is 18 stitches wide by 20 rows high, and it measures 3.75″ across and 2.75″ high.

Now, let’s block it.

I’ve put it in the sink in warm water with a squirt of woolwash added to the water and let it soak for a few minutes.

I then rinsed with clear warm water and gently squeezed the swatch to remove excess water. Then I pinned it out on one of my foam squares.

I’ve stretched it out enough to open the pattern up nicely, as you can see.

I could have stretched it out more, but I like the way it looks now.

Pinned out, my blocked lace now measures almost 5″ wide by 4″ tall (excluding the garter stitch borders).


My row gauge after blocking is 5 rows per inch. There are around 165 rounds in the shawl, give or take a round. Divide that by the number of rows per inch and you get 33″ — and that is approximately half the diameter of the completed shawl. The actual finished size of the shawl will be bigger, because the swatch grew quite a bit in width as well. I’m not sure how much that will affect the final size, but I’ll find out when I finish.

Meanwhile, Lucy is having a stand-off with her fuzzy rat.

Yarn and Needles

I’m so happy to see that a bunch of you are interested in knitting along on my Shetland Pi project. Anyone is welcome to join in at any stage of the knitting — and I’ll be posting the pattern as a freebie when I have my shawl completed so don’t worry that the pattern will “go away” at the end of the Knit-along.

Yesterday I posted a photo of the yarn I am going to use — the Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, which is a single-ply fingering weight yarn. But truthfully, you can knit this shawl in pretty much any weight yarn you please: laceweight, fingering, sport, DK, or even worsted weight. The heavier yarn you use, the bigger your shawl will be. And of course, the larger needles you’ll need to use.

I’m guessing that in fingering weight, my blocked shawl will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 60″ in diameter. Done in laceweight, it will be smaller, done in a heavier yarn, it will be bigger.

And you don’t necessarily have to use all one colorway of a yarn if you don’t have enough in one color — you could use different colorways in different sections of the shawl if you wanted.

The shawl will consist of 5 different stitch patterns, so basically, you have 5 sections. Each of the patterns is a fairly strong vertical motif. The yarn I am using is slightly variegated, and I think it will work well with the design because each of the 5 motifs is strong enough to show in a yarn with a little variegation. You could, of course, use a solid color (or colors), or a heathered yarn.

What needle size? I am knitting my shawl from a fingering weight yarn and I want a nice open-looking lace. I plan to use a U.S. size 7 needle. You can pretty much use whatever size needle you like, depending on how lacy and open you want your finished shawl to be. A rule of thumb:

  • Laceweight — use a U.S. size 4 – 5
  • Fingering weight — use a U.S. size 6 – 7
  • Sport or DK weight — use a U.S. size 8 – 9

Tomorrow I’ll post a pattern for a gauge swatch and a picture of my swatch, so you can get an idea of what I’m going for. If you knit a gauge swatch and block it, you will be able to roughly estimate how big your finished shawl will be when I tell you how many rounds are in the shawl.

How many needles do you need? At a minimum, you need one set of dpns and one circular needle in your size. You need the dpns for the cast-on (which will be 9 stitches). When you have increased enough to be able to transfer your work to a circular needle, you will do so. You could conceivably make this with a set of 8″ dpns and 1 24″ circular. I’ve got lots of needles, so I will likely transfer my work to a 16″ circular as soon as I’m able, and then to a 32″ circular when I’ve increased enough stitches for that. While you can fit the total number of stitches on a 24″ circular, I think a 32″ will be far more comfortable as the stitches won’t be as crowded on the needle.

Current Pi Shawl

On my current shawl, I’ve reached the point where I am starting the edging pattern.

And today is Elizabeth Zimmermann’s 100th birthday. 🙂

Lucy Sez:


I Have an Idea

That’s always a little scary, isn’t it? 😉

Because I am in Pi Shawl mode, I feel like I want to knit another one after I finish the EZ 100th Anniversary Shawl. So I wrote up a design for a fairly easy pi shawl that uses some traditional shetland lace motifs.

Anyone wanna knit it along with me?

I thought I would post the pattern here, in pieces, as I knit, and talk at length about each section as I knit it. Anyone who wants to play along at home is welcome to do so, and can post progress reports and and ask questions, etc. in the comments.

I already have my yarn picked out:

This is Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light. I got it from The Loopy Ewe recently. Here’s the listing.

(My yarn is the “filigree” colorway, which is currently out of stock, btw.)

This is a fingering weight yarn and has 440 yards per skein. I knew I wanted to do something relatively big with it, so I bought 4 skeins. So I have 1760 yards total, which is more than enough for the pi shawl I am planning. I’m estimating 1300 — 1400 yards for my shawl.

This will be my first time using this yarn and I can’t wait! It looks really really yummy!

I’m thinking I’ll post the first piece of the pattern next Sunday, a week from today.

And tomorrow I’ll talk about yarn choices.

Back to the pi at hand, I made some very good progress on my shawl this weekend.

Barring any problems, I should be able to finish it before next Sunday.

Knitcircus Giveaway

Thank you so much, all of you who offered suggestions for future topics for my KnitCircus column. The Random Number Generator has chosen the winners for my giveaway.

CandyceI, Billi Cummings, Susan (HandKnitsbySusan), Olive, and Valeria have each won a free copy of the pattern collection from the current issue.

Wanda and Nancy N have each won a free 1-year subscription to KnitCircus.

I have emailed the winners, so if you think one of them might be you, check your email!

Lucy Sez:

“It’s past time for my midday nap — I’m behind schedule!”


This has nothing to do with anything here, but do yourself a favor and go checkout this archive of color photographs: America in Color from 1939-1943. They are reproductions from color slides and are amazing. Another great collection is American Cities Pre-1950 (though not in color).

Thanks for all the article suggestions you have submitted so far via the comments. Keep ’em coming! You have until noon on Sunday to be entered in the drawing for Knitcircus freebies. (See yesterday’s blog post for details.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am knitting along on my pi shawl. The colorway is not as bright as it appears — I had to use the flash because we are in the middle of a huge thunderstorm and it’s really dark right now.

Yeah, it doesn’t look like too much progress. It takes a long time to knit one round of 576 stitches!

Lucy sez:

“I don’t like the flash!”

KnitCircus Giveaway!

The Fall issue of KnitCircus went live today!

The magazine is free to read online. Subscribers have access to the full pattern collection and extra articles for each issue. You can also elect to purchase a single pattern collection for an issue. Both the one-year subscription and single pattern collection prices are very reasonable — check out the information on subscribing here.  You can preview the patterns in the free online version.

If you turn to page 31, you will find an article written by yours truly. 😀

I am now a regular contributor to KnitCircus — you will find an article by me in every issue.

Which leads me to a question for you all:

Are there any topics you would like me to write about in upcoming issues?

If you have any ideas for article topics, please leave them in the comments. To sweeten the deal, I am authorized by KnitCircus to give away 2 free one-year subscriptions and 5 free pattern collections from the Fall 2010 issue. I’ll have the Random Number Generator choose the winners from among the comments with article suggestions left on this post. The winners will be chosen by noon Eastern time on Sunday, August 8, so get your comments in before then, please.


Thanks for weighing in on the Great Button Dilemma. I had actually chosen which buttons to use before posting the choices yesterday, but was interested to see what you all thought. I didn’t keep a running count, but it looked like more of you preferred the Celtic buttons to the Sheep buttons. Be that as it may, the Sheep buttons, which I purchased from The Rams Horn Studio, will be going on the sweater. I’ll save the Celtic buttons, which I purchased from The Millinery, for another sweater.


In Pi shawl news, I have completed the “increase to 576 stitches” round, so things are slowing down considerably.

According to the pattern, this design takes just over 1300 yards. A skein of Wollmeise lacegarn (the yarn I am using) has over 1700 yards, so I could make this a little bigger. I’ll see what I think when I get a little further along.

In yesterday’s comments, Andi asked:

Can you offer up an easy way to start circular shawls.  It seems as I have 12 fingers on each hand when I try to get started and then my frustration level rises to the “throwing of the object” level.  Any suggestions?

This shawl starts with 9 stitches, so what I usually do is cast on 3 stitches on each of 3 dpns, using a longtail cast-on. At this point I will usually simply join and start knitting in the round.

But for whatever reason, the start of this shawl was very fiddly. So I cast on 9 stitches on 1 dpn and knit one row plain across. Then I divided the stitches over three needles, joined, and started knitting in the round.

By doing this, I had the stability of one knitted row already on the needles when I joined in the round. After joining, I started knitting what would be the wrong-side (if I were knitting back and forth) as my right side, but I rather like the look of the tiny circle with the purl bumps for the center of the shawl. If it bothered you, you could purl across your cast-on stitches so that what becomes the right side is knit.

Some tips — a circular cast-on is much easier on short dpns. If you have the little 4-inch long glove needles by all means, use them! You will also find it easier to execute on wood needles than metal needles, because the surface of the wood has more grab to it and will help to keep the stitches from sliding off.

While I have 4″ wooden needles in some sizes, the only dpns I have in the size I am using for this shawl (U.S. 6) are 8″ metal ones, so my start was extra-fiddly. Hence the knitting straight of the first row.

Lucy Sez:

“Cross-eyed? Who’s cross-eyed?”