A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Starting a Shawl (or Two)

First, I want to give you a link to study in photos how to do Emily Ocher's circular cast-on, as it is the beginning of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Pi Shawl. I can never hope to adequately explain such a wonderful, stretchy way to cast on a circular garment from the very middle, but truly admire the knitting genius of a mind (Emily's) that "unvented" it, as well as the brilliant EZ, who put this cast on together with the Pi principle, to come up with a shawl that is complex, easy, and a teaching tool all at the same time.

Elaine Harvey, who hosts the EZAsPi list on Yahoo, wrote a lovely encouragement last week to a novice shawl knitter, explaining that through this expanse of yardage (it takes about 1,000 to 2,000 yards to make a shawl, depending on weight of yarn and finished size), the knitter learns something new, then builds on it, then learns something a bit harder, but then has a greater expanse to practice it in, and so forth, till coming to the wonderful edging, picked up sideways along the circle of the mostly-completed shawl (well, actually, one thinks the shawl is completed until starting the edging and comprehending how much additional time this is going to take!), which is the crowning achievement. There is no rigid cast-on edge and no unyielding bound-off one either, making this a very soft and stretchy garment, great as a blanket when trying to catch some sleep on a train or plane, and glamorous when wanting to vamp it up a bit.

All of which is why I decided to join the Anniversary Pi knitalong coming up in January. Not that I really expect to get a whole shawl done in a month or so, not unless I were able to quit work for the month and simply knit on it! I have successfully made this shawl before, but realized that not only would I enjoy feeling the beautiful Iris-colored alpaca laceweight I selected slide through my fingers, and later enjoy wearing a lighter-weight version of the shawl, but that I would also learn/re-learn much about knitting as well.

The Anniversary portion is the first anniversary of the Pi list, so the event will begin on January 22, 2006. You have plenty of time yet to search out stitch patterns, beg or borrow a copy of EZ's Knitters Almanac, with the basic "recipe", and order some scrumpious yarn, if Santa didn't bring it.

Alternatively, you could also decide to make a PiR2 shawl, which is circular to start, then has "wings" which drape over your shoulders much like the Andean ruana... this might be my final choice, since it wears so easily and doesn't slide off, but I could also happily use a shawl pin to hold whichever one I make in place. The PiR2 shawl pattern is in EZ's book Knitting Around, which I don't actually have, but could easily get in time .... decisions, decisions.

I started a second (well, really, first in order of construction, although not in order of intention) shawl on Christmas Day, a smaller "shawlette" that I am happily knitting away on... it is easy to be deceived while steadily increasing on a triangular shawl, and say to oneself, "Oh, goodie, I already have 1/3 of the stitches I need..." without dwelling on how much longer those last rows will be from the initial ones, LOL. I am also looking forward to the construction of the ruffled edging, which uses short-row shaping to make each point, but that will be awhile. It is getting almost large enough to be worthy of a photo...

Shawls are very comforting winter knitting, requiring enough concentration to overlook the pounding rain and hail outside, and providing enough motivation to get yet another bit done that I don't miss the daylight as much. Eventually, I will also have a warm, knitted pile in my lap, adding to the cozy factor, and I even aspire to have both shawls done in time to wear them before the weather gets too warm (a far-off prospect at this point). If you are knitting a shawl too, let me know and we can share the process.


Blogger Carole said...

I'm probably going to start a shawl on Sunday, January 1. Either Flower Basket or Diamond Fantasy - I haven't decided yet!

7:40 PM  
Blogger margene said...

There is something very relaxing and enjoyable about knitting lace. My thought is to always have a piece of lace at hand. It's the ultimate process knitting.
Happy New Year to you, Birdsong.

11:49 AM  

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