Catkin. It’s finished at last, and I am tremendously pleased with the result.
I’m going to a wedding at the end of this month, and I wanted an eye catching shawl to go over my rather plain dress. I’ve had my eye on the Catkin pattern for years, and it fit the bill perfectly.
It’s a relatively complicated pattern, with a few tricky stitches, but it’s very well written. I mean, it seems very complicated when you’re reading it, but when actually working the shawl, everything slots into place nicely. The fact that the bottom portion of the shawl is charted in three separate charts used all at the same time is really a lot less complicated than it appears.
The designer also offers help on her Ravelry group and has a few video tutorials to help with the complicated stitches.
Still, I wouldn’t recommend this pattern for beginners, or for anyone who is not familiar with the use of charts. It’s certainly for the advanced knitter, but it is an absolute joy to knit.
Catkin can be bought on Ravelry.
For this shawl I used Malabrigo Sock, one skein each of the Ochre and the Fresco y Seco colourways.
Malabrigo Sock is a favourite of mine. It’s lovely soft merino wool in fantastic colours. Many of the colourways are slightly variegated, but I felt that Catkin called for relatively solid colours. The green and deep yellow really popped out to me in my LYS when I was shopping for yarn, and seemed just perfect for a Spring wedding.
The pattern takes a good bit of yarn, and I had very little left of the two skeins, especially of the Ochre one.
Don’t you think the yarn shows the texture in the pattern just brilliantly though?
Normally, with a shawl, searching isn’t crucial (though always recommended). For Catkin, I think it’s absolutely crucial that you swatch. The designer gives a pattern for a little swatch that very cleverly incorporates all the different types of stitches used in the shawl. Making the swatch not only allows you to check gauge, it also gives you a change to see if the colours really do work together (and in what order) and lets you practice the various stitches. There’s really no excuse not to knit it up.
The first section of the shawl is the easy bit, stockinette in green with the odd garter stripe in yellow. I flew through this part, the shawl growing at a rapid and admittedly somewhat alarming pace.
This is where the fun begins. All knit in one solid colours, the pattern creates a clever textured pattern of carefully placed knits, purls, and slipped stitches. I thought this was the hardest part of the pattern, as it can be tricky to keep track of where you are in the pattern.
My advice would be to use significantly more stitch markers than the designer suggests. Place the ones suggested, but also put one to mark every single 20 stitch pattern repeat. Keeping an eye on the slipped stitches also really helps; these stay in the same place throughout.
In section three you’re once again working with two colours. Despite what the end result looks like, you’re only ever knitting with one colour a time. Thank goodness for that too, as I am no good with stranded colour work! The two colour portion is basically two rows of each colour alternating. The fancy pattern is created by clever use of slipped and crossed stitches.
The trickiest bits of the shawl are in this portion. The mirrored double increase took a bit of figuring out, not in the least where to place it in the first place. The key is that it sits directly over the column of slipped stitches in section two. As for how to do it, the designer very helpfully offers a video tutorial.
The next challenge is the groups of slipped stitches, up to seven in a row. It’s crucial to make sure that the floats (aka the yarn connecting the knitted stitches on the wrong side) are nice and loose. I noticed in my swatch that the whole thing was a bit too tight, so I took extra care to keep them loose. With the longest one, I knitted across the slipped stitches with a finger held behind the float, then pulled the stitches apart to make sure it stayed as loose. It may seem excessive, but in blocking the extra space really did come into it’s own.
Finally, the double decrease was a bit of a difficult one, even with the instructions given by the designer. In the end, I worked it out by considering how it was supposed to look; the key is to hold the yarn in the back.
The shawl requires a stretchy cast off, as most shawls do, and the pattern suggests a method of doing it. I followed suit, but in the end the cast off is the part I’m least happy with about my Catkin. I think it ended up a bit too loose, as a result of which the edges look a bit crumply. Still, it’s better than too tight, so I’m not complaining.
Blocking this shawl is absolutely essential. Blocking wires make it quite easy, as most of the edges are nice and straight.
So we went from this:
What a difference a bit of blocking makes!
Catkin is a shawl with buttons. The pattern includes seven buttonholes, but in the end I sewed on only five and decided it was enough. That’s a matter of personal preference though. I went for wood, barrel type buttons, but that also depends on your yarn and colours of choice. I’ve seen some very different options working very well.
Now my Catkin is hanging in my wardrobe with my dress, and I can’t wait to wear it. It’s rare that I am this pleased with a knitting project. I really and thoroughly enjoyed knitting it as well.