Hi friends and happy … whatever day today is! I’m coming at you jetlagged from a mild, if slightly damp, Melbourne to tell you about my most recent finished object, St Catherines. I cast off, blocked, and photographed it a couple of weeks ago, but couldn’t find the time that this project deserved to write a nice, fulsome post. But now, even if I’m not quite officially done with work ahead of the holidays, things are definitely feeling relaxed, so I thought I’d take a bit of time this afternoon to tell you about this bold and generous a-bit-more-than-a-shrug, but not-quite-a-cardi that I’ve been working on during the last several months.
I fell in love with St Catherines, designed by the inimitable Kate Davies, as soon as I saw the photos of the striped and slightly more oversized version that Kate shared a few days after the pattern’s release in early August. As luck would have it, Northern Yarn Kate had just gotten her brand new Jennett 4-ply back from the mill and had given me a skein to play with, and the Nature Shades-along, run by Louise of KnitBritish, was in full swing. The stars were aligned; all signs seemed to shout: cast on this cardi (well, except for one large, PhD deadline shaped sign, but nevermind, it got done.)
After swatching with the Northern Yarn Jennett and Zwartbles that I had stashed from earlier in the year (it’s long sold out, but another natural black 4-ply could be subbed!), there were a few false starts as I kept making silly mistakes and second guessing which size would give me the slouchy look I wanted. I kept shockingly bad notes at the beginning of the project (see: imminent dissertation submissions). But if memory serves, here’s where I landed. I achieved (stitch) gauge with my chosen yarn with no problem, but found that I liked the fabric at a slightly looser gauge (I think it was 20 sts/4 in) and that, when knitting at that stitch gauge, I was also matching row gauge. To be honest, I’m not positive what needle size I was using–it might have been the US 5 (3.75 mm) suggested by the pattern. I picked the second size, which combined with my looser gauge, achieved a nice oversized fit.
This garment features a really interesting construction: you begin not at the bottom hem, but a bit further up, working rapid increases to make not just the body of the cardi/shrug, but also a good portion of the dolman-esque sleeves. Which meant that, at the beginning, there were long rows that just kept getting longer and — especially when combined with my false starts — it felt like the project grew really slowly. Even though the length of the body wasn’t all that long, by the time I reached the sleeve divide, I felt like I had knit a small blanket!
The combination of clever pattern and lovely, breed specific yarn kept me going though, and I knit on St Catherines in the final weeks of PhD editing, and it came along on my September trip to the US. By the time I was back in the UK and headed to Yarndale, I had the body done and the backs and fronts joined, ready for sleeves, collar, lower back, and edgings to be worked.
Then, poor St Catherines had to sit for the whole month of October while I got the Parkamoor Socks ready to release, finished off my Lotta dress, and taught a Harvest Cardigan class. When I returned to it, I was pleasantly surprised to find how little knitting was in finishing the sleeves off, given the body formed the lion’s share of the sleeve. Picking up stitches for the collar and lower back, though, took some time — I wanted it to look as neat as possible, even from the wrong side, in the hopes that I might be able to have a reversible finished garment. I also ran into a few problems (more on that in a second) figuring out how to handle picking up stitches on the right and wrong side, maintaining my stripes, and not ending up with stray purl bumps of the wrong color along the neck and collar. And then, the whole thing is finished with an icord cast off, and even though this is one of my absolute favorite ways to finish garments, it certainly isn’t speedy. It was ready for the blocking bath on the last day of November (it’s second bath, as I had blocked it when I finished the first sleeve to double check it’s length).
And I have to say, I am pretty in love with the finished result. The design is so clever, and I love the way that the stripes really show off the contours of its construction. There’s just so many gorgeous details … I love all the meetings and intersections of the stripes! I love the drama of the high contrast between the snow-y white Poll Dorset and the deep dark chocolate brown of the Zwartbles. I love that, even though in some ways this would seem like something that’s completely up my alley with its natural shades, I actually feel a little out of my comfort zone (in a good way) wearing it … it feels so bold and graphic and stylish.
And the yarn. Oh the yarn. It’s made a fabric that’s warm and woolly and sproingy — definitely no fears that this is going to stretch out of shape over time. Besides loving the end result of bringing these two special yarns together, I love what the yarns represent. Both yarns come from single farms that range from about 5 to 15 miles from where I live. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Lynn, who keeps the Poll Dorset, and visiting her farm lots of times. And the Zwartbles yarn is from the sheep of Lucy, who took our wedding photos! I’ve seen my good friend Kate buy the fleeces and work to get them processed into yarn. I even got to help hand sort some of the Poll Dorset lambswool that went into Jennett. Knowing the stories behind the yarns has really added to my enjoyment of knitting St Catherines and wearing it.
Aside from working at a larger gauge, I only made a few modifications to the pattern. I worked an extra decrease on the cuff of my sleeve to draw it in a bit more at the wrist. I didn’t go down a needle size for the i-cord bind off. And, in the collar and lower back sections where you work short rows back and forth, incorporating stitches that you pick up as you go, for the stitches to be picked up on the wrong side only, I actually picked up and knit all the stitches I would need before I started the short rows, then incorporated them into the shaping as directed every row (if that makes sense). On my clever friend Jenni’s suggestion, I anticipated the striping that was going to happen, and alternated my yarn while picking up the stitches, picking up and knitting two stitches with the Poll Dorset, then the Zwartbles, until I reached the number I needed.
Overall, I’m so happy with how this turned out. The only thing I will possibly change is the next time I block it, I might pin out the body a touch more — I was very minimal in my blocking because, with such a wide garment, I thought it might start to look sloppy if it got too long. But the woollen spun yarn is so bouncy, and I think could take a slightly more strenuous blocking, which might give me just a bit more length and drape. I’m also still hoping to experiment with making this reversible — when I’m back in the UK and have had a good going over the inside, I might try it inside out (I’ll take pictures if I do!)
A great pattern filled with clever details, knit with beautiful, local-to me yarn — I feel fairly sure this is a garment I’m going to wear and enjoy for a long time to come.
Thanks, as always, for spending a bit of your day here. Where ever you are, I hope your week is off to a good start — and hope to catch up with you here one more time before the holidays!
4 thoughts on “Finished Object: Northern Yarn St Catherines”
Gorgeous FO and post, Katherine. I especially love the connections you have to the yarn; and the sheep and humans who created it. A very special piece of knitting and post on several levels. x
Welcome to Melbourne! *waves from 90 minutes up the highway*
That is such a fabulous cardie. I love the way you’ve enjoyed the sheepiness of your yarns – I get the same pleasure from spinning my own. This would be a great pattern for showing off undyed handspun.
I really love this on you! The graphic black and white looks so fresh! Great job.
This is a fun piece, Katherine. I can see you wearing that with skirts, dresses, and high-waisted pants also. Plus it’d be fun to wear with colorful prints as it’s a neutral one.