Lace and Genius

Filed in Industry Insight, Skill Building by on February 8, 2016 3 Comments

I’m pretty open about the fact that I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Zimmerman. Do you know her? If not, you might find her approach interesting. You might not, and that’s okay. About Elizabeth Zimmerman being influential and unique in her approach, Gwen agrees, but she doesn’t have the same fangirl response to EZ’s words or her designs as I do. Strength in diversity: may it ever be so.

One of her most well-known designs is more of a recipe than an actual design, and the genius of this idea is manifest to me in all the ways that knitters have come to understand and use the instructions. It is of course, the iconic Pi Shawl. I first found the instructions in Knitter’s Almanac, in which there is a chapter for each month of the year, with appropriate patterns for that month. The Pi Shawl is in the chapter for July, and was recommended for family road trips because of its simplicity. Over the years, however, knitters have taken the kernel of mathematical cleverness that EZ articulated and just run with it. Every so often I do a google image search for “Pi Shawl” and am amazed all over again at the variety and beauty of all the iterations.

The reason it is so easy to create variation is because the increases are simplified if you want them to be, with the number of stitches doubling after doubling the number of rounds since the last increase. 1 round–double the number of stitches. 2 rounds–double again. 4 rounds–double again. 8 rounds, 16 rounds, 32 rounds, double after each segment until it’s the size you want, or as EZ might say, you’re just sick of it (the number of stitches becomes quite large). Between increase rounds, the number of stitches doesn’t change, making it easy to work a band of lace in that section, then change to another lace pattern in the next section, etc.. As you can see in the image search photo, you can make it plain or fancy, and some versions look so complex and magical they almost defy description, but all that magic was worked one band at a time.

For my current design, I’m taking the Pi Shawl idea and adapting it to a skirt. So far, it’s working well, and I’m just working out the stitch multiples to size it up and down for all the knitters. It will be a straight skirt with a flounce created in the manner of a pi shawl, for a sort of flamenco look. Look for it next month in our Ravelry shop!

In the meantime, if you’re in need something to refresh your knitting curiosity, learn from the Queen of Clever Knitting, get the Pi pattern and give it a go, even for something small, just to get the idea (small Pi swatches work well as washcloths). I think you’ll enjoy it.


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