Cat Knits by Marna Gilligan of 'an caitin beag' (she of sinister cat fame!) is a book of 16 knit designs all featuring Marna's signature kitties on a mixture of garments and accessories. It's a wide-ranging book actually - it feels like there's more than 16 items in there. Each chapter covers a different yarn weight, so there's a 4ply section, and DK section, an Aran section, and a Chunky section. Each section has a garment AND matching accessories included, and they range from nice simple textures, to stranded colourwork (like sinister cats), to intarsia. Intarsia! I swear that this is the ONLY thing that will ever get me to try it again. 🤣
How this came about...
We received an email from Marna early in 2019 asking if we would be interested in providing yarn support for an upcoming project that she had lined up. Laura and I were already familiar with an caitin beag (pronounced On Cat-een BeUG) and the Sinister Catdigan which was EVERYWHERE at that point and so after some discussion about the scope of the project and what would be involved we decided to offer to support the whole book. (It wasn't a long discussion if I am honest 🤣). When we started to see sketches, swatches and bits of the designs we were thrilled. The excitement has been building and building for so long that I can hardly believe we are within touching distance of the release.
We received an advance copy of the book and have been cooing over it ever since, deciding on some extra bits and bobs we could have made, discussing alternative colour combinations and working with Marna to put together a plan for the launch activities. Those plans changed many times in the run up but on the day Marna, Laura and I went live on Instagram. None of us are particularly extroverted and there were a few teething issues but it was a lot of fun and hopefully some of you caught it either at the time or in the following 24 hours. We talked through each of the designs, the yarns required and other items that have been produced to accompany this fantastic book.
After the live and before I cleared the yarn out of the office I thought it would be an ideal time to film a similar video for our YouTube channel (yep, we have a YouTube channel! 🤣). This is only the second video but I might try to add some more over the coming months. You can see the video HERE.
If YouTube isn't really your thing I have also included pretty much all of what was said here so that you can pick it up and put it down as often as you like.
In both the live with Marna and the YouTube video we went through the book chapter by chapter but before I get stuck in to that I just want to say the book itself is gorgeous, lovely bright colours, clean layout, it all feels really lovely AND it smells lovely! I'm sure I am not the only person who enjoy the smell of a fresh book!
The first chapter is Fat Cats which is a great introduction to the cat motif that you will find throughout the book. The Fat Cats chapter uses Pendle Chunky in Silver Birch which is our 100% superwash merino yarn. The colour is a lovely soft silver with a touch of blue/green depending on the light. Chunky knits work up really quickly which is incredibly satisfying and these designs rely on simple stitch combinations to give the textured effect.
Chunky Cat Cowl
This cowl is an ideal knit for a beginner. It uses fake cables, textured stitches and shadow ribbing. It uses two skeins of Pendle Chunky to create a lovely large cowl to really cover the neck.
Cuddly Cat Hat
The hat uses the same simple techniques as the cowl to make another really quick and easy project knit in the round. With the hat you also have the fun of adding a pom pom which you can find instructions for in the book. Without the pom pom this would be a single skein project but we love the look with it included and so the yarn pack has two skeins in it. You can of course buy a single skein if you would prefer to make it without; or... how about using a second colour for the pom pom? That would look great!
Squishy Cat Shawl
Have you worn a chunky shawl before? If not it is like a wonderfully comforting hug and is perfect for keeping you warm in the colder months. The Squishy Cat Shawl is crescent shaped and consists mostly of garter stitch with increases. The yarn makes it squishy, soft and a joy to knit. You will need six skeins of chunky yarn for this project but the subtle detailing of cats along the bottom edge makes this a piece that can easily fit into your daily wardrobe.
Cosy Cat Sweater
This is a lovely winter jumper that will keep the cold out. Being knit using chunky yarn it works up really quickly and so is not as intimidating as other sweater projects can be. The design is very flexible offering a wide range of sizes. It works really well both as a fitted jumper with little positive ease and as an oversized baggy jumper. It would also be fairly easy to add additional shaping around the waist should you wish to do so.
I would like to add a point here about knitting jumpers with superwash chunky yarn as I know some people will be reticent to do so. Having knit quite a few jumpers in chunky yarn, I can honestly say that Pendle Chunky does not stretch in the way some expect it to. The yarn has a good amount of bounce to it and although it does expand while wet, as long as you lay it flat to dry it does bounce back. You can check this for yourself by washing a swatch and hanging it with a weight to see how far it will stretch. This amount of yarn can feel heavy on the needles but once you are wearing it you really won't notice the weight, only the lovely soft warmth!
Sizes: [1,2,3,4] [5,6,7,8]
To fit bust: [90, 100, 110, 120] [130, 140, 150, 160]cm / [35½ , 39½, 43¼, 47¼] [51¼, 55¼, 59, 63] inches
Choose a size with 10-20cm (4-8 inches) positive ease for a relaxed knit or a size nearer your own chest for a snug fit.
You will need [8, 8, 9, 9] [10, 11, 11, 12] skeins of Pendle Chunky in Silver Birch
You could use any chunky yarn for the projects in this chapter. There are a number of alternative colourways of Pendle Chunky available on the website some of which are shown below.
You could also substitute in our Whitfell Chunky which is 100% baby alpaca and so gives all the softness of merino but is suitable for those with sensitivity to wool. Whitfell Chunky is a slightly finer chunky yarn and so we would advise checking your gauge before starting a project to ensure you are happy with the fabric it creates.
The second chapter, Dainty Cats uses Milburn 4ply™ in a soft pastel palette to produce a lovely selection of feminine items. Milburn 4ply™ is our signature blend of bluefaced leicester with silk and was our first mill-produced yarn. It comes in large dyelots meaning that the colours are uniform and you need not worry too much about not being able to get enough of a colour in one go. The colours used in this chapter are Thyme, a soft sagey green, Tea Rose, a peachy orange with just the right amount of zing, Natural, the soft creamy colour of natural fleece, Catmint, a soft tealy blue-green.
Pretty Pawsome Cat Cowl
This delicate cowl is an ideal project for those new to colourwork as there is only a small section of Catmint kitties. It also uses straightforward lace techniques. There is a picot bind off but we agree with Marna that it is totally worth it to add the frilled effect to the cowl edging. For the cowl you need one 50g ball in each of the four colours.
Purfect Cat Cuffs
During the live launch party Marna described these as 80s goth style gauntlets in pastel colours. I can't get that description out of my head now so that is what you are getting! They will be really quick to work up and look oh so pretty. For the mitts you need one 50g ball each of Tea Rose, Natural and Catmint but you could easily play around with colours
Toebeans and Tails Shawl
If you can do the cowl, you will have no problem with the shawl. It uses all the same techniques and motifs but you will do more of them and with the changing sections it will keep your interest! Once you have the pattern repeat down it won't take that much concentration. For the shawl you will need the following quantities (all are 50g balls):
Thyme x 2 balls
Natural x 3 balls
Tea Rose x 2 balls
Catmint x 1 ball
Tiny Cats Cardigan
Yes, it is a 4ply cardigan. This is not going to be a quick knit and you will be stranded on sleeve island for quite some time. However.. I am sure you will agree that the toebean lace motif and the row of sinister cats give this cardigan enough detail to be a summer wardrobe staple similar to the Sinister Catdigan that came before it.
Sizes: [1,2,3,4] [5,6,7,8] [9,10,11,12] [13,14,15,16]
To fit bust: [75, 80, 85, 90] [95, 100, 105, 110] [115, 120, 125, 130] [135, 140, 145, 150]cm / [29½, 31½, 33½, 35½] [37½, 39½, 41½, 43¼] [45¼, 47¼, 49¼, 51¼] [53¼, 55¼, 57, 59] inches
You will need Milburn 4ply™ in the following colours and quantities:
Thyme [5, 5, 5, 5] [5, 6, 6, 6] [6, 6, 6, 6] [6, 7, 7, 7] balls
Natural [2, 2, 2, 2] [2, 2, 2, 2] [2, 2, 3, 3] [3, 3, 3, 3] balls
Tea Rose [1, 1, 1, 2] [2, 2, 2, 2] [2, 2, 2, 3] [3, 3, 3, 3] balls
Catmint 1 ball
If these colours are not quite to your liking we have a couple of alternative combination suggestions that you might prefer. On the left we have a stonewashed effect using Rain, Wicker, Autumn Fields and Black Tulip. Autumn Fields has been discontinued but for the time being there is still quite a bit of stock left. On the right we have a vibrant effect using Fern, Steel, Charcoal and Bramble.
You could also substitute most of our 4ply yarns in place of Milburn, just remember that you will need half the number of skeins to the number of balls (4 x 50g balls = 2 x 100g skeins).
In the Big Cats chapter, Marna used Bowland Aran in what we think of as a quintessential ECY palette of dusky muted colours. Bark and Rambling Rose are two of our most popular colours no matter what base they are on. Pairing them with Echinops, a soft bluey-grey, as a neutral works so well and the small touches of Charcoal really help to add character to the large cat motif used in this chapter. Bowland Aran is 100% bluefaced leicester, the natural fleece of which as previously mentioned is quite a creamy yellow. This gives a slightly different dimension to the colours in comparison with its merino counterparts.
Creepy Catty Capelet
Why don't we see more capelets? They give you all the fun of a sweater yoke without the boring bits of the body and the sleeves! If you are new to Intarsia this is a great way to get started. You may end up in a bit of a tangle but embrace it and enjoy!!
Neckline: [52, 59, 66]cm / [20½, 23¼, 26] inches
You will need the following quantities of Bowland Aran the following colours and quantities as per each size in the pattern:
Echinops [2, 3, 3] skeins
Rambling Rose [1, 2, 2] skeins
Bark [1, 2, 2] skeins
Charcoal 1 skein
Peeky Pompom Cat Hat
This is a lovely quick knit with just a tiny bit of detail so would be good if you aren't as confident with intarsia but wouldn't be too overwhelming. For this design you need one skein each of Echinops, Bark and Rambling Rose plus a 10g Charcoal Yarnling™ for the cat eyes! The yarnlings are listed separately on the site HERE so that you can use them with any other colour combination should you wish to do so. The pattern has two size options, small and medium, to fit head circumference 47-53cm / 18½ -21in and 54-60cm / 21¼ - 23¾in respectively. The hat is designed to be worn with at least 2.5cm / 1in stretch at the brim.
Flippy Kitten Mittens
What is not to love about these mittens? The cat design features on both the fingerless mitts and the optional flippy cats to keep your fingers warm. The pattern has two size options, small and medium, to fit palm circumference 18-20cm / 7-8in and 21-23cm / 8¼ - 9in respectively. These also require a single skein of each main colour and a Charcoal yarnling although you may find you have enough for both the mitts and the hat from a single yarnling.
Big Cat Cardigan
The Big Cat Cardigan is definitely not a travelling project but that makes it perfect for working on in isolation. It will take a lot of concentration and has many ends to weave in at the end but I am sure you will agree the finished product will be so worth it. The simple detailing around the lower part of the cardigan includes cats of different personalities with the pattern including charts for each size option. A big cardigan needs big buttons and if you are looking for similar ones to those Marna has used you can get the Big Cat Button embroidery kit on her website HERE.
To fit bust: [80, 100, 120, 140, 160]cm / [31½, 39½, 47¼, 55¼, 63]inches
This cardigan is designed to be worn with a bit of positive ease, so choose a size 10-30cm (4-12 inches) larger than your chest measurement, depending on how loose you'd like the fit.
You will need Bowland Aran in the following colours and quantities as per each size in the pattern:
Echinops: [6, 7, 8, 9, 10] skeins
Rambling Rose: [2, 2, 3, 3, 3] skeins
Bark: [2, 2, 3, 3, 3] skeins
Charcoal: 1 skein
We have three aran weight yarns available on the website. Bowland Aran and Pendle Aran are interchangeable and work really well together. Both are pure superwash yarns with Pendle being merino and Bowland Aran being bluefaced leicester. Askham Aran is baby alpaca with silk and so is slightly finer but with a gorgeous softness.
The above colour combinations all keep Bowland Aran in Echinops as the main colour. The contrast colours from left to right are Cedar and Oak on Pendle Aran, Clematis and Thunder on Pendle Aran, Bog Myrtle and Thunder on Pendle Aran.
This chapter will probably seem most familiar to fans of Marna's work as the lines of colourwork cats are very reminiscent of those found on the Sinister Catdigan. Using Milburn DK in Charcoal with combinations of Catmint, Rain, Steel and Thyme this chapter is our favourite here at ECY Shedquarters.
Covered in Cats Cowl
If you want to get started with colourwork this is a great place to start. The tension of your floats can be a bit tight or loose and as long as you can still get the cowl over your head it won't matter! Plus, the cowl is knit as a long tube and then folded over and the stitches from the start and end grafted together. This means all the floats are hidden away. This cowl is onesize and uses the following colours and quantities of Milburn DK:
Charcoal x 2 balls
Thyme x 1 balls
Catmint x 1 balls
Slouchy Cat Hat
This is a lovely quick project and with the neutral colours will go with most things in your wardrobe. The simple colourwork cats give you a great mix of plain knitting for a few rounds and then the interest of the colour change. It is so much fun seeing each row of cats appear before your eyes.
Sizes: [Small, Medium]
To fit head circumference: [47-53, 54-60]cm / [18½-21, 21¼-23¾] inches
This hat is designed to be worn with at least 2.5cm (1 inch) stretch at the brim.
You will need Milburn DK in the following colours and quantities to make the hat in each size as per the pattern:
Charcoal [1, 2] balls
Steel 1 ball
Rain 1 ball
Using the same colours as the hat these would make a great set to gift to a fellow cat lover. They are super quick to make with just enough cat rows to keep you interested!
Sizes: [Small, Medium]
To fit palm circumference: [18-21, 22-25]cm / [7-8¼, 8¾-10] inches
You will need Milburn DK in the following colours and quantities to make the mittens as per the pattern:
Charcoal x 2 balls
Steel x 1 balls
Rain x 1 balls
Fairly unintentionally I have left my favourite til last. This is a big project but it is easily broken down into smaller sections. You start with the colourwork rows of the body for which you can either follow the colour suggestions in the pattern or play around with other ideas, but more about that later. Once that part is done you have two (or three I suppose) distinct sections, the cowl neck and the sleeves. The design sits slightly off the shoulders and can be adapted to the amount of positive ease that suits you.
One thing that I must stress to you is the importance of practicing your steek. Marna has very detailed information in the book to guide you through the process but please please please make a swatch up first rather than going straight in on your sweater!!! You would be devastated if anything went wrong after you have spent so long working on the body.
Sizes: [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
To fit bust: [100, 120, 140, 160, 180]cm / [39½, 47¼, 55¼, 63, 70¾] inches
This sweater is designed to be worn with 20-50cm (8-20 inches) positive ease.
You will need Milburn DK in the following colours and quantities as per each size in the pattern:
Charcoal: [9, 10, 11, 12, 13] balls
Steel: 2 balls
Rain: 2 balls
Catmint: 2 balls
The colours in this section are so versatile but there is definitely a lot of scope to personalise the effect. Milburn is ideal for this as the colours in the palette work so well in many combinations. Our first three suggestions give you a gradient effect in pinks, greens and browns. For all our suggestions we have kept Charcoal as the main colour but of course you could go for another neutral like Steel or Wicker and adjust your contrast colours to suit.
The pink gradient uses Wicker, Althaea and Bramble. The green gradient uses Thyme, Fern and Moss. The brown gradient uses Wicker, Autumn Fields and Rust.
If you prefer bold colours you could go for what we are calling a steampunk combination using Harvest Gold, Autumn Fields and Rust. For a zingy effect you could use Harvest Gold, Fern and Bramble. Or even better you could mix it up and have each stripe as a different colour, shown here with Harvest Gold, Autumn Fields, Thyme, Fern, Althaea and Bramble. You could even go for a rainbow effect, the world truly is your oyster.
You could also substitute most of our DK yarns in place of Milburn, just remember that you will need half the number of skeins to the number of balls (4 x 50g balls = 2 x 100g skeins). How fantastic would this look with a couple of rows of cats using a variegated skein or two?
Hopefully you stayed with me right to the end and I have given you some inspiration for your Cat Knits projects. We would love to see your makes on Instagram and so please do tag us in your posts. Marna is running an Epic Cat-a-long on Instagram so do check out her profile for the full list of hashtags to get involved in.
Keep Calm and Cat Knit on!