Adventures in Mathletic Knitting: Calculating the Completion of My Pi Shawl

I’m interrupting my parade of last year’s projects to bring you actual up-to-the-date knitting news!

In November, I began working on a handspun Pi Shawl:

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

I have absolutely adored working on this project. It’s my in-between knitting, the thing I pick up when I have a gap between binding off and casting on for other projects, or for when I need to knit something that requires little attention. It has made for good knitting in the morning when I’m still waking up…

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… and in the afternoons when I’m waiting for my kids to be done with music lessons and rehearsals…

knitting during kids' piano lessons

knitting during kids’ piano lessons

… and in the car on my many-miles holiday journeys…

with coordinated nail polish

with coordinated nail polish

It has become such a good companion, that it’s been with a bid of sad surprise to realize this week that I was nearly out of yarn and so needed to go ahead and finish the shawl.

I did a couple of rounds of faggotting and then tried out a sideways garter border.

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Though this was great fun, I didn’t like how it was looking, so after a few inches, I ripped back and tried a picot crochet cast-off:

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I like this a lot. Love it, actually. It’s so easy and fun and gives the perfect finish to this particular project. However, I am about a third of the way done with the bind-off and it turns out I still have plenty of yarn left. I hoarded one long stripe of purple yarn to save for the end and I would love to use all of it, if possible.

Time for some math! Let’s take this step-by-step.

  1. I weighed the yarn – .2 ounces. I started with 768 yards out of 4 ounces of this yarn. So .2 ounces is roughly 38 yards.
  2. I measured the radius with my measuring tape – 23 inches, stretched but unblocked.
  3. The diameter is the radius doubled – 46 inches (again, unblocked).
  4. I had to look up how to determine the circumference from the diameter, and then I felt a bit sheepish. Circumference is the diameter times pi. Of course it is! This being the Pi Shawl should have been a nice reminder to me of that basic equation. At any rate, Circumference times Pi is 46×3.14=144.44.
  5. A good rule of thumb for figuring out how much yarn you need for the bind-off is 3 times the amount of knitting you have left. Let’s round the circumference up (I always round up in knitting, to safe-side things). 145×3=435. This is how many inches of yarn I need to bind off.
  6. Let’s put it in terms of yards since that’s usually how we think of yarn. So let’s divide the number of inches of yarn required by 36, to give me the number of yards required. 435/36=12.08. Again, let’s round up to be safe. I only need 13 yards of yarn to bind off the shawl.
  7. I have 38 yards of yarn left, but I’ve already bound off about a third of the shawl. Since the circumference of the shawl is roughly 145 inches, let’s divide that by 3 to see how much I’ve bound off: 145/3=48.33. But then we multiply it by 3 to estimate how much yarn I’ve used to bind this much off: 48.33×3=145. But then we divide that by 36 to see how many yards: 145/36=4.02. Add that to the 38 I have left in the ball, and I have roughly 42 yards of yarn left.

In other words: I’m ripping back. I have 29 yards of yarn I can knit with before I need to begin the bind-off.

I’m thinking I could probably do three more rounds of faggotting before doing the bind-off, what do you think? (I’m doing a generous estimate of needing twice as much yarn as the circumference for each round of faggotting, but this could be way off.) Of course, once I’ve added a few more rounds, the circumference will have grown a bit (probably by nearly an inch), but I think I’ve allowed enough cushion in my figures to make this work.

I do so much of my knitting by intuition, but sometimes it just makes sense to sit down and deal with the numbers. In this case, I’m especially glad that I did, even though it means ripping back. I have loved the process of this shawl so much that spending a little more time with it is pure joy.

Have you begun to see the well-known geometric theory behind what you have been doing? If you are a man, you will have spotted it right away. If you are a woman (sorry, lib), you probably expunged such theories from your memory the minute you finish high school, or even college, to make room for more useful stuff. It’s Pi; the geometry of the circle hinging on the mysterious relationship of the circumference of a circle to its radius. A circle will double its circumference in infinitely themselves-doubling distances, or, in knitters’ terms, the distance between the increase rounds, in which you double the number of stitches, goes 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96 round, and so on to 192, 394, 788, 1576 rounds for all I know. Theory is theory, and I have no intention of putting it into practice, as I do not plan to make a lace carpet for a football field.

– Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitter’s Almanac: Projects for Each Month of the Year

 

 

This Just In: I Made Something a Couple of Months Ago

So when I mentioned two weeks ago that I probably wouldn’t get on to talking about crafty plans for 2015 until February or so, I thought I was making an outrageous joke. But I guess I was being serious, because here it is mid-January, and I still have projects from 2014 to show you! My excuses for being so behind are all good. Since I last wrote, I have traveled from Georgia to Alabama to Michigan to Georgia and back to Michigan again. There were some Big Events in there – throwing a 90th birthday party for my mother-in-law, writing my doctoral project proposal (and getting it approved – woohoo!) – as well as just regular stuff like work and mothering and life.

But now, onward! Or actually, backwards! Let’s go back to November, shall we? Yes, we shall.

Butterfly Hat + Mackinac Mitts

Butterfly Hat + Mackinac Mitts

This is the Butterfly Hat (a free pattern) and my Mackinac Mitts design (available for purchase through my Ravelry store).

For such a small project, this effort has quite a length backstory. Last Thanksgiving (in 2013), my Old Man’s daughter asked if I would make her a set like the one I made my niece last year. At the time, I wasn’t able to make her one before mitt+hat weather was over. The smart thing would have been to go ahead and make the set even once the season was up, and then just hang on to it until the next gift-giving opportunity. But that’s not how I do. How I do is to wait until the last minute and then try to knit like the wind.

So in November this year, a few days before her birthday, in the middle of preparing to host Thanksgiving, I cast on for the hat. I banged the hat out pretty fast, and then I got going on the mitts. The first mitt went great, and I began to think I would have both mitts done in time for her actual birthday. But then disaster struck – I ran out of yarn! And I only had one skein of this yarn in this color (Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherd’s Worsted – I have it in lots of other colors, but only this one skein of pink).

This set is supposed to be doable in just one skein. I designed the mitts last year specifically to only use half a skein of the Stonehedge, specifically to go with the Butterfly Hat, which also only requires half a skein of Stonehedge. So why did I not have enough yarn for the second mitt? I finally realized my mistake – I had accidentally knit the hat in needles two sizes up from what I meant to. Whoops! The hat came out fine, but it ate more yarn than I wanted it to. And no matter how fast I knit that second mitt, I couldn’t outknit the yarn!

So I had to give the set only partly finished. And on Thanksgiving night, after the meal was eaten and the dishes were cleared, I sat down to finish the set. I decided to cannabilize yarn from the cuff of the first mitt to make the second mitt, which should have been a fairly straightforward situation. But somehow I dragged it out all night. I ran into some problems – difficulty unpicking the cuff from the cast on, difficulty making the mitts an equal length when i was just knitting by feel at this point (i.e., just trying to fudge the length based on how much yarn I had, without knowing how much yarn each bit of mitt would use), making the thumb from one knit differently than the thumb on the other mitt (I still don’t know how I did that). Bascially, just a bunch of ridiculous issues with a little bit of addle-brained stupidity thrown in for good measure. And I became completely unhinged by this second mitt. I could not let it go, though family members (including the recipient) encouraged me to just wait, get more yarn after Thanksgiving, and finish up later. Apparently, I like to keep my process as wild and edgy as possible, so instead I pushed through. At around 3:00 in the morning, after having cooked and served Thanksgiving dinner a few hours earlier, I finally cast off for the second mitt (as well as for the first, because, as I mentioned, I had to undo the cast-on and take yarn out of it, and then bind it off).

Shortened mitts

Shortened mitts

Have you ever let a project get under your skin like that?

At any rate, I got them done, and the recipient likes them, and all’s well that ends well.

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So there ya go. More than you thought was possible to say about a hat and a pair of mitts.

 

One More Baby Knit for 2014 (Easy Baby Cardi)

I did a very poor job in the second half of this year blogging my finished knits. Which is why, in these last days of December, you are suddenly reading about things I made in July and August. I still have a few more projects to show you from 2014 before I can move forward into 2015. I have exciting plans for the new year, and at this rate, I will be telling you about them in the spring!

For now, though, I have another baby knit to show. In 2010, I had the great joy of officiating at the wedding of one of my online knitting friends, Elspeth aka Wry Punster. Since that time, we have enjoyed such shenanigans as dressing alike at Rhinebeck…

Double Allegheny

Double Allegheny (photo credit: Kirsten Kapur)

… and eating all the fried things while there.

This fall, neither of us were able to make it to Rhinebeck. My excuse was lack of funds and time. Her excuse was much better than that. She was busy having a baby. (The baby didn’t arrive on Rhinebeck weekend, but very close to it!).

If the Yoked Cardigan is my favorite girl baby knit (and it is), the Easy Baby Cardigan is my preferred knit for a baby boy. It had been three years since I’d made it, and I’d almost forgotten how fast and fun it is.

Easy Baby Cardi

Easy Baby Cardi

I usually make it in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport, which is a superwash wool, making it easy for new moms unaccustomed to handwashing their knits. But I knew Elspeth could handle a little handwashing, so I made this sweater in my favorite commercially available yarn – Stonehedge Mills Shepherd’s Wool, Worsted (a Michigan-made yarn), in lime-green.

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I always make this sweater without the hood – I just prefer the look of that dapper little collar instead. I also opted this time for seed stitch (instead of garter) for the collar, the button band, and the wrists/waist. I just love the look of seed stitch, and I think it gives it a slightly more polished look than the garter.

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Instead of the ties the pattern calls for, I always crochet a little button tab and add one big button. I just think that is such a fun look, and again, slightly more polished. I thought this matte white button looked pretty sweet with the lime green (though the colors didn’t show up quite right in this photo).

If you’ve never knit with Stonehedge, do yourself a favor and get your hands on some. It is so soft and buttery, and comes in such a gorgeous range of colors. Every shade has so much depth and richness. It also comes in a very generous skein of 250 yards! I first discovered this yarn in my local yarn shop (sadly no longer in existence) years ago, and I think it is finally starting to gain wider notice. With good reason.

I also highly, highly recommend this pattern. It is quick and fun and looks super-cute on both boys and girls. The pattern is graded from newborn to 18 months, so you can make one for any of the babies or toddlers in your life.

raveled

Something Else for Our Princess (Handspun Little Sister Dress)

Back in June, our niece had a baby. Back in July, I made her a sweater. Back in August, I got to meet her.

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And for the occasion, I made her a dress, out of handspun.

Handspun Little Sister Dress

Handspun Little Sister Dress

I’d had my eye on this pattern for awhile. It seemed such a perfect use of handspun – mostly stockinette with a great little A-line shape and a sweet garter neckline. It was a fun, fast knit, which was good because I had to knit it twice – the first time I made it, I’m pretty sure it would’ve fit a three year-old.

neckline

neckline, modified to use just a single button

If I recall, I kind of winged things a little, using the pattern as a suggestion and just working with the gauge I had and the amount of yarn I had. The neckline is clearly a bit modified, and I ended up only needing one button instead of two.

I made the dress using some leftover handspun (Hello Yarn Polwarth in “Troll”), the same yarn I used to make a hat last Christmas for my mother-in-law:

Troll Hat

Troll Hat

I thought it would be special for her and her first great-granddaughter to have something made from the same yarn. Coincidentally, I also had to knit my MIL’s hat twice, since I also made it too big the first time. Apparently, this is how I roll.

At any rate, I could not have been happier with how the dress turned out. And then I got to see the little princess in it, and I almost died.

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ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THE CUTE? Sorry to shout, but COME ON. This just kills me. I mean, this is seriously every knitter’s dream, to have a handmade gift look so perfectly adorable on its recipient. And the fact that my niece chose this dress as one of the outfits for her baby’s 3-month portraits just kicked it all up a notch.

And that neckline I loved so much?

sweetness

sweetness

Well, it looks pretty smashing with those baby blues, amiright? Though honestly, I’m so enchanted with her eyes, it’s hard to even glance at the sweater at all.

This is a great little baby knit, with growing room so that it can convert from dress to tunic. I am so, SO pleased with how it turned out, and with how it looks on this little darling. Perhaps I should hang up the knitting needles now, because I know it will basically never get any better than this.

raveled

My Current Favorite Baby Knit, for My Current Favorite Baby

In June, our niece gave birth to the first baby girl born into our family in 32 years. That would have been exciting enough, but baby girl decided to arrive with high drama – she was born in the car on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. My niece caught her herself, as her husband was running to her side of the car; their 5 year-old and 2 year-old were in the backseat. Basically, our niece is amazing. So is her baby girl.

little princess

little princess

We are all in total love with her.

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I mean, COME ON with the cute.

 

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And after 8 boys born in 8 years, it was pretty exciting to get to knit for a little girl.

 

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So I went with something pink and cute. This is the Yoked Cardigan. I’ve made this pattern once before, a few years ago, and remembered it as a quick knit. And y’all. It is So. Quick.

Yoked Cardigan

Yoked Cardigan

I made it with Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport Solid, in “Whisper,” (about half a skein) and some fun flower buttons from Joann’s.
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Along with some self-promotional propaganda.

 

But Sometimes a Sweater Happens Like This (Autumn Reis)

Sometimes, you plan a sweater for a long time. You figure out what you need, you buy the yarn, you make the plan, you finish up other projects, and then, at the right time, you cast on.

But sometimes, a sweater happens like this: you see a picture, you get obsessed, you drop everything, and you just start making it.

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Sometimes, you spend a lot of time and money acquiring the yarn you need for a particular project. You stalk updates for your favorite indie dyer, you make your PayPal cry, you try to be home to intercept yarn deliveries.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: all the yarn you want is already in your stash, and you are just now realizing it wants needs to be this sweater.

reis 1

Sometimes, you swatch and block, swatch and block, until you get the gauge exactly right. Because you know that with a sweater, this is really important. And you know that, with colorwork, your tension is going to be different than it is with plain knitting. And you know that, when you’re using your precious Plucky Knitter yarn, you really need the project to come out right.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: you pseudo-swatch and skip the blocking. Your gauge never once matches the gauge of the pattern. You do some calculations and make your own numbers. You knit by intuition.

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Sometimes, you knit with confidence, knowing that you’ve chosen the right colors, the right style, and the fit is going to be perfect. You have no worries about how things will turn out, because you’ve laid all the groundwork with your swatting and blocking. You have no concerns about whether the style of the sweater is suitable for you.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: you second-guess yourself the whole time, you worry that the sweater will grow to an unwearable size in blocking, you aren’t certain that, even if it fits, it will be flattering on you. And then you try it on and you cannot believe how much you love it.

reis 2

 

Sometimes a sweater is well within your skill set – a mindless knit, something not unlike the dozens of other projects you’ve made. You enjoy the knit because it’s an escape from everything else on your mind, and it doesn’t challenge you to think too much.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: you push beyond your comfort zone, you play with color, you learn new things about your tension and your technique. You don’t even know what color you are going to put where until you do it. You surprise yourself. You learn from yourself. You learn from your craft.
Sweater yoke in progress, blogged. #knitting #reis #westknits

 

Sometimes (but not usually) you get the sweater done exactly when you meant to, or close to it.

But sometimes, a sweater happens like this: other things get in the way, everything takes longer than you think it will, you question why you chose to knit a fingering-weight colorwork sweater, you despair of ever finishing. And then one day, four months after you began and two months after you meant to be done, you finish.

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And it is everything you’d hoped it would be.

If I had it to do over, there are things I might do slightly differently – mostly, I might arrange some of the colors in the yoke in a slightly different order. I would also try to find a brown from The Plucky Knitter instead of the Lorna’s Laces “Chocolate” I used. All the other yarns except the variegated in the body are TPK, and I can tell a difference between the rich, saturated, semisolids of TPK and the less-nuanced chocolate brown.

But really, who cares? Because I am thrilled with this sweater. I loved making it and I love wearing it. The fit is fantastic. The feel is perfect (my first fingering-weight sweater). The colors are so rich and luscious.  This was my first Westknits design, and it was such a fun and inventive knit. It was also a very freeing experience to just follow my muse when it came to color. Given how long it took me to make this sweater, would you believe I could actually see myself knitting the same pattern again? I love it that much.

Autumn Reis

Autumn Reis

But you can’t blame me, right?

raveled – Reis, by the inimitable Stephen West

 

Oh, wait, it’s Advent again?

So Advent has snuck up on me, y’all. Which is kind of hilarious and kind of ridiculous, given my line of work. At work, I’ve been seeing Advent coming for awhile, but at home, I’ve been focused on Thanksgiving preparations (it was such a good holiday this year! I hope yours was, too!) and somehow overlooked the fact that I needed to get our Advent calendar up. Like, tonight.

I started a tradition when my kids were in kindergarten, of an Advent Activity Calendar – each day of the calendar held a slip of paper with a family activity for that day. It was a sweet idea, and the kids loved it. But let me tell you, the expectations have ramped up each year – the boys expect new activities. They like to be surprised. In other words, I can’t keep rehashing the same old ideas. But I am tired, y’all, and I don’t have any new ideas. I barely even have the energy to do the old ideas. Also, older elementary school kids have a lot more going on than kindergarteners do, and it’s a lot harder to fit special family activities in. But Tiny Dancer got out of bed tonight to ask me why the Advent calendar wasn’t up yet, and I realized that yeah, I need to get to work.

All of this reminds me to make sure you know that I have documented (somewhat) my previous attempts at this activity, so if you are tired and out of ideas, you can see what I’ve done in the past. And hey, if you have any great ideas of things I haven’t done, shoot them to me, okay? Because I have to fill 24 little mittens with ideas, and right now I have approximately two.

Smitten Advent Garland

Smitten Advent Garland

Craft Friday

I love Thanksgiving and always have. I love the simple focus on family and food. I love that there are no gift-giving expectations. I love the reminder that I actually already have everything I need – and a whole lot of what I want.

Given that I actually need nothing more than what I have, I am very happy to decline the frenzy of shopping on Black Friday. I choose instead for this to be a gentle, quiet day at home, with my family. As I pick up my needles and yarn, as I put my feet on my spinning wheel, as I practice ancient arts passed down through generations, as I use tools provided by the earth and the animals, I will do so with ongoing gratitude. I am mindful of what a great freedom it is to opt out of consumerist compulsion, and what a great privilege it is to create.

So I’m joining the Craft Friday Party!

A few things I’ll be working on:

handspun colorwork mittens

handspun colorwork mittens


A test-knit for Kirsten, which I had to set aside for a quick gift knit that I finished up in the wee hours last night (pictures and story of that soon).

handspun pi shawl

handspun pi shawl


Of course!

Hello Yarn Romney, "Tideline"

Hello Yarn Romney, “Tideline”


After a few weeks of no spinning, my stash finally told me what needed to go on the wheel next.

cross-stitch!

cross-stitch!


Yep! I started this on Craft Friday four years ago – ’bout time I picked it back up!

So those are a few things I’ll be working on today. How about you?

Happy Thanksgiving! (and a trifle) (and a sweater)

Just a quick note to say Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear readers. I’m grateful for you!

I’m also grateful to report that, after blocking, my sweater fits perfectly! Full modeled shots soon, but here’s a peek:

Reis + Trifle

Reis + Trifle

I’m beyond thrilled with it!

And I’m super-excited to be digging into this trifle later today. This is the second year I’ve made it. It’s the Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle from the Browneyed Baker. Trust me: it is very, very worth it to make everything from scratch. The gingerbread is so dark and rich and molasses-y. And of course real whipped cream is the only thing that should ever go into a trifle, in my ever-so-humble opinion. (This isn’t Paleo, obviously!)

To my American friends, I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving! To my friends elsewhere, I hope you have a great Thursday!